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10 Most Romantic Gestures Of All Time


These gifts from the heart were so extravagant—or original—that we had to salute the people who came up with them. Let them inspire you to new heights of sweetness.

by Dan Bova

1. Richard Burton's Rock for Elizabeth Taylor
Sure their relationship was a roller-coaster—they married and divorced each other twice—but wouldn't you be somewhat forgiving of a guy who liked to shower you with expensive jewelry like, say, a 69.42-carat diamond? Burton bid on this Harry Winston wonder at an auction in 1969, but lost out
After the couple parted ways, Liz sold the gem in 1979 for a whopping $5 million.
to business tycoon Robert Kenmore, who coughed up just over a million bucks for the beauty. Burton didn't take the auctioneer's hammer for an answer, though, and after some heated haggling on the phone, Kenmore sold the gem to Burton for an undisclosed sum. The Taylor-Burton diamond, as it's called, ended up being a gift that kept on giving: After the couple parted ways, Liz sold the gem in 1979 for a whopping $5 million.

2. The Taj Mahal
India's most popular tourist attraction is actually a tomb, created for emperor Shah Jahan's wife Mumtaz Mahal, who died while giving birth to their 14th child in 1631. Heartbroken, the Shah commanded 20,000 workmen to spend 22 years building this marble-and-jewel-studded effigy. As if that weren't enough blood, sweat and tears spent, rumor has it that upon its completion, the Shah ordered that the right hand of the chief mason get chopped off so the building could remain truly one of a kind. Let's just say that when an emperor's in pain, his subjects feel it, and how.

3. Posh Spice's Cologne for Beckham
What do you get for a toned, tan, highly-swooned-over metrosexual millionaire who has everything? If you are Posh Spice, you get your husband—soccer superstar David Beckham the world's most exclusive cologne. The one-of-a-kind, $50,000 bottle of Clive Christian No. 1 fragrance took six months to produce, and came encased in a crystal bottle shaped like—what else?—a soccer shoe.

4. DiMaggio's Flowers for Marilyn
Marilyn Monroe may have dated some pretty powerful guys, but no man showed her more TLC than her husband of nine months, baseball player Joe DiMaggio. After Marilyn's death in 1962, Joe placed a 20-year standing order with a local flower shop to have long-stemmed roses placed on her grave three times a week. Talk about touching.

5. O. Henry's Gift of the Magi
This author crafted what many consider to be the most generous—albeit cheapest—romantic gesture ever. In this short story, a poor-in-pocket but rich-in-love couple secretly makes huge sacrifices in order to buy each other Christmas gifts: He sells his grandfather's gold watch to buy his wife a set of tortoise-shell combs for her beautiful hair; she cuts off that beautiful hair and sells it to a wig-maker to buy her hubby a platinum chain for his watch. When they realize what's happened, they're wise enough to just be thankful that they have each other.

6. Eric clapton's Love Song Layla
Talk about annoying neighbors: When guitarist Eric Clapton moved into best friend George Harrison's neighborhood, he fell in love with Harrison's wife, fashion model Pattie Boyd.
Jennifer is my princess and she deserves only the best—even when it comes to toilets.
Clapton pleaded for her to leave her Beatle, but Pattie tuned out his requests. Despondent, he began recording a song, fueled by the words of the ancient Persian love poem, The Story of Layla and Majnun. The resulting tune, Layla—which included the lyric "Please don't say, we'll never find a way, and tell me all my love's in vain"—was a hit in more ways than one. Pattie soon left her husband and got hitched to Clapton. Even though they divorced nine years later, the popularity of "their song" will probably last forever.

7. Ben's Sweet Toilet Seat for J. Lo
During their much-publicized courtship, Ben Affleck took it upon himself to pamper J. Lo's most prized attribute: Her butt. That's right, he bought her a $105,000 gem-encrusted toilet seat. "Jennifer is my princess and she deserves only the best—even when it comes to toilets," was Ben's explanation. And J. Lo's reaction? "I never thought I'd say this about a toilet seat, but it's beautiful—almost like a piece of art," she said. Sitting on a john bedazzled with rubies, sapphires, and diamonds might not sound comfortable, but don't worry, Ben thought of everything. Explained an anonymous pal, "The stones are set inside plastic, so Jennifer's behind won't get scratched."

8. Wagner's Symphony to His Wife
Some lovers bring their ladies breakfast in bed; others, like Richard Wagner, bring them symphonies. To celebrate his wife Cosima's 33rd birthday, the famed composer had written Siegfried Idyll for her—and, to boot, hired a fifteen-piece orchestra to play the tune on their staircase as he conducted them. Recalled Cosima in her diary: "When I woke up I heard a sound. What music!" Wagner kept this intimate ditty private until 1877, when financial strains forced him to publish. Their loss, our gain.

9. Carole Lombard's Car for Clark Gable
Hollywood hunk Clark Gable loved fancy cars, and screen siren Carole Lombard could afford to buy him the best. Ain't it quaint, then, that on their first official date in 1936, she bought him a beat-up Model T Ford for just fifteen bucks? Quainter still that she had it painted white with red hearts all over it, delivered with a note saying, "You're driving me crazy"? Thoroughly swept off his feet, Gable got to return the favor to his future wife that evening when he picked her up in his newest set of wheels to go dancing at the legendary Trocadero Ballroom.

10. The Garbage Disposal
Architect and inventor John Hammes wanted to bestow a nice birthday gift on his wife—who, we imagine, had a sink full of dirty dishes and a disinclination to scrape the leftovers into the trash. Thus was born the world's first garbage disposal in 1927. Called the In-Sink-Erator, it soon swept households across the country. Might not sound as romantic as a dozen roses, but what says "I love you" better than an invention that cuts down on crappy housework?


Dan Bova is deputy editor at Stuff magazine. The best gift his wife has ever given him is their son, Henry.
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