Elvis Presley's Passion for Jewelry

"It was like he came along and whispered a dream in everybody’s ear and then we dreamed it." Bruce Springsteen on Elvis Presley

The most memorable personality in American music was born January 8, 1935 in a two-room plank shack in East Tupelo, Mississippi; on the wrong side of the tracks. He won his first prize for singing at the age of 10. By 19, he had made his first record and become a worldwide sensation as a rock and roll singer. Extraordinary entertainer, enigmatic myth, Elvis Presley lives on as legend more than three decades after his death. Today, he is more popular than ever — thousands of fans flock yearly to his Graceland mansion — sales of his albums top one billion. In the South, they talk about Elvis and Jesus in the same breath.

Everything about Elvis was larger than life. He grew up dirt poor, but when he achieved International stardom, success allowed him to realize his childhood dream of an opulent lifestyle. Elvis had an all-consuming passion for everything money could buy. He collected, and regularly gave away -- cars, motorcycles, clothes and jewelry -- his extravagant gift-giving is legendary.

In the 1970s, Elvis -- known as the King of Rock and Roll -- ruled the Las Vegas strip. In concert, he wore lavish diamond pendants hung on gold chains; huge gold rings and bracelets studded with rubies, sapphires and emeralds; and jewel-encrusted belts around the waist of stunning one-piece suits; an homage to Liberace, one of his favorite entertainers.

Elvis designed much of his own jewelry with the help of Lowell Hayes, his personal jeweler. His most famous jewelry designs are the series of Taking Care of Business (TCB) and Tender Loving Care (TLC) necklaces and rings that feature a lightening bolt customized with diamonds, sapphires and emeralds. Elvis gave the TLC necklaces to just about every woman he ever met. He gave the TCB necklaces only to close members of his entourage, special friends, executives at RCA and his jeweler.

In "Elvis", biographer Dave Marsh says, “Elvis Presley was an explorer of vast new landscapes of dream and illusion. He was a man who refused to be told that the best of his dreams would not come true, who refused to be defined by anyone else’s conceptions."

Article copyright © 2007 by Susan Dorling. All rights reserved.

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