We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give, so said Winston Churchill. Some of the finest items in the world were originally conceived of as gifts for loved ones, friends and family. We take a look here at some of the most valuable, fascinating and unique gifts ever given.
The Taj Mahal
It would be a stretch to state that the Taj Mahal is a gift that keeps on giving as it stuns the 8 million visitors that flock to it each year to witness what may be the most beautiful building on earth. Located on the banks of the river Yamuna in the city of Agra, it sits at the center of a 42 acre complex of paradise gardens and reflecting pools. It was constructed as a mausoleum by Shah Jahan, a Mughal emperor, to house the tomb of his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal.
Work began on the structure in 1632 and was completed in 1653 with the help of 20,000 skilled workers. Accounting for inflation, the structure would have cost almost $1 billion in today’s money to build.
One lucky son of an anonymous billionaire was given a most opulent present for their birthday. Diamonds truly are forever in this one-of-a-kind table game, as in the online and live version, Roulette is played on a 37-pocket wheel, but this one is also encrusted with $5 million worth of diamonds and tiled in over 35,000 24-karat gold tiles.
The product of a collaboration between designers and artists Debbie Wingham and David Arnott, the piece also included a life-size cake of the recipient standing at the table ready to play and a casino chip encrusted in $1.3 million of diamonds. The piece, constructed out of its mosaic tiles, was then glued together with a poly-filler blended with diamond dust.
Statue of Liberty
It’s not just individuals that can give or receive gifts, in some rare circumstances even entire nations can participate. That’s exactly what happened in the late 19th century when the French people gifted the United States the Statue of Liberty in commemoration of their alliance during the American Revolutionary War that saw the burgeoning nation throw off the yoke of the British empire and declare independence.
France, who had undergone its own revolutionary process previously, presented the statue to the United States in recognition of their shared values. The statue, known officially as Liberty Enlightening the World, depicts the Roman goddess Libertas holding aloft a flaming torch. It was designed and constructed in France by sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi and civil engineer Gustave Eiffel (of Eiffel Tower fame) and shipped across the Atlantic in containers. Over a century later, the statue still stands on Liberty Island in New York Harbor.
The super-rich are regularly tasked with the gargantuan feat of attempting to think of something to buy for their equally wealthy friends and loved ones. In 2008 it fell to Anil Dhirubhai Ambani, the Indian stockbroker and business magnate, to answer this question ahead of his beloved wife Tina’s birthday. His options would presumably fall within one of two categories, either gift of priceless sentimental value, or something of tremendous opulence.
Ambani went down the latter route and bought Tina the “Tian”, an extremely expensive, 34 meter luxury superyacht costing approximately $84 million. Built by The Ferretti Group, the vessel was dubbed by the papers “the Rolls Royce of the waters” due to its premium design and fittings. It features 4 floors with six bedrooms, a jacuzzi and a private ballroom. Not too shabby!
Henry the VIII was a Tudor king of England and infamous for his marital turmoil. But even among his many loves and losses, his relationship with a courtier and then wife Anne Boleyn is the stuff of legend, and his pursuit of her ultimately led to his kingdom’s schism with the Catholic church. It is often asserted that Henry, a keen musician, composed the famous song Greensleeves in adoration of Boleyn.
While this is in fact just a popular myth, the couple did exchange some noteworthy gifts during the course of their romance. Boleyn commissioned artist Hans Holbein to design a beautiful fountain for use by guests to freshen themselves. It pumped rose scented water and was constructed from gold and silver. As if that wasn’t opulent enough, the fountain was finished with encrusted pearls and rubies.