Elvis Presley’s musical style and stage presence made him “The King of Rock and Roll,” but it was his glittering, rhinestone-encrusted costumes that made him a style icon. While his clothing was decked out in rhinestones; his fingers, wrists, and neck were layered in the real deal: natural diamonds and gold. No one knows this better than those close to him. I sat down with Mordechai Yerushalmi, owner of The Jewelers Inc. in Las Vegas, the jeweler behind Elvis’ diamonds in the last years of his life.
Elvis performed at the Las Vegas Hilton in the early 1970s, the location of Mordechai’s jewelry store where they first met. According to Mordechai, Elvis would walk around the casino disguised as a rabbi. A sight I would love to see. Elvis bought countless pieces of diamond jewelry over the years and was so generous that he often gave pieces away right off his fingers. Mordechai guesses many employees of the Las Vegas Hilton at the time were given pieces by The King. This fact is evident in the many pieces attributed to Elvis’s’ collection that have come to auction in the last few decades. One of Elvis’ “TCB” (taking care of business) diamond rings came to auction a few years ago: a gift to a backup singer.
Another diamond bracelet and ring came to auction in 2012 and were also gifts from Elvis. Elvis’ diamond and one-of-a-king gold Ebel watch is currently up for auction and was a gift to the singer J.D. Sumner.
When Elvis performed in Las Vegas, it was common for Mordechai to bring a vast selection of jewelry for him to choose from for his shows. Mordechai’s most memorable moment, however, occurred in the middle of the night in December 1976, on his last ever trip to Vegas. Elvis called him to bring a selection of diamond rings to his suite at the Las Vegas Hilton. Mordechai copied the check Elvis wrote him that night and it remains a treasured memento. His relationship with Elvis was so treasured that the jeweler celebrated his 60th birthday in that very suite in the Las Vegas Hilton, now renamed the Westgate.
Even though he wasn’t an April baby, Elvis believed his birthstone was a black diamond, a stone he felt cosmically connected to. Elvis had been hunting for a large pure black diamond with no white spots for years. After searching and searching, Mordechai found an approximately 8-carat black diamond that he thought perfect. This was after Elvis had played his last show in Las Vegas, so Mordechai reached out to him in San Francisco. Elvis was returning home and asked Mordechai to fly to Memphis with the diamond a few days later. Tragically, only a couple of days later Elvis passed away and never got to see the diamond.
Elvis’ Diamonds and Style Hit the Big Screen
The King will be further immortalized in Baz Luhrmann’s upcoming film Elvis, set to be released in late June. Austin Butler, the rising star who plays Elvis in the movie, is sure to give the performance of a lifetime. Having lived two years in character while making the movie, Butler has famously had a hard time shaking his “Elvis voice.” His voice and good looks aren’t the only things he shares with the late King. Butler is also a fan of diamonds. This is evident in his red-carpet style and recent announcement as the new ambassador for the French diamond house Cartier.
While nothing could ever replace the King and his famous style, talent, and generosity, from the look of things, Butler is going to do a hell of a job trying.