12 of the Most Extravagant Gifts Ever Given
With the festive season in full throttle, you may be struggling to find the perfect gift for the one on your list who’s — ahem — particular. If you’re still searching for inspiration, take a look back on some of the most extravagant gifts ever given, from Jennifer Aniston’s Chanel bicycle to a 17th-century architectural marvel.
1. Solid Gold Bathtub
Back in 2013, American boxer Mike Tyson bought his then-wife, actor Robin Givens, a 24-carat solid gold bathtub that was estimated to be worth over $2 million at the time. The item was gifted by Tyson to Givens as a birthday gift and was intended to be installed in their mansion in Ohio.
2. A Waterfall… and an Island
After bemoaning how difficult it was finding the right present for fellow actor Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie gifted her then-partner an actual waterfall — and the surrounding land — for Christmas in 2012. The gesture was inspired by Pitt’s love of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture, which Pitt had become taken with when the couple visited Fallingwater, a house designed for the Kaufmann family that sits over a 30-foot waterfall in southwest Pennsylvania.
In purchasing the waterfall and parcel of land, it was intended that Pitt would design and build his own house in homage to Wright’s marvel. Jolie later outdid herself for Pitt’s 50th birthday when she subsequently bought him a small island. On the island, the only two houses that existed were designed by none other than Frank Lloyd Wright himself.
3. George Condo-Designed Hermès Bag
In 2013, performing artist Kanye West gave reality star Kim Kardashian the gift of art and fashion in one Birkin handbag, part of the iconic, sought-after line by luxury retailer Hermès. The bag in question, however, wasn’t just any Birkin; it was adorned with a hand-painted composition by the American contemporary artist George Condo, making West’s gift a unique example of wearable art.
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4. Chanel Bicycle
In 2008, actress Courteney Cox purchased one of only 50 Chanel bicycles from the brand’s limited edition, each of which was valued at around $12,000 at the time. It was a birthday present for her fellow Friends co-star, Jennifer Aniston, who was keen to take up cycling. The bicycle featured signature Chanel quilted leather trim and leather saddlebags.
5. Bombardier Challenger 85 Jet
Performing artist power couple Beyonce and Jay-Z are known for their penchant for opulent gift-gifting. Topping their own list of lavish gifts is a Bombardier Challenger 85 jet, which was gifted to Jay-Z by Beyonce as a Father’s Day gift in 2012, shortly after the birth of their first child, Blue Ivy.
In 2008, Indian business tycoon Anil Ambani bought his wife, Tina, a superyacht named “Tian”. The yacht made global headlines as it was one of the most expensive luxury yachts in the world, reportedly worth $84 million. The yacht was nicknamed “the Rolls Royce of the waters,” owing to its luxurious decor.
7. Cartier Pearl Necklace (Worth the Price of a Mansion)
In 1917, New York banker Morton Plank infamously traded his six-storey mansion for a Cartier pearl necklace for his wife. As cultured pearls were invented soon afterwards, natural pearls ultimately decreased in value and became accessible to a wider group of people, making this a painfully unprofitable investment for the banker.
8. Ruby- and Pearl-Encrusted Fountain
Queen of England Anne Boleyn (1501–1536) reportedly had a fountain made as a gift for her husband, King Henry VIII (1491–1547). It was intended to be a table fountain that pumped rose water for their guests to freshen their hands. The extravagant fountain, designed by artist Hans Holbein, was made from gold and silver and encrusted with rubies and pearls.
9. The Most Expensive Diamond Ever Sold
In 1969, actor Richard Burton had just purchased what was then the world’s most expensive diamond ever sold at auction. A gift for his wife Elizabeth Taylor, it became one of the world’s most famous diamonds — not just because of its jaw-dropping value and remarkable beauty — but largely due to the legend and lore that surrounded the acquisition of the gem.
Prior to the auction by Parke-Bernet (now Sotheby’s) in New York, Burton and Taylor had the diamond flown to them in Gstaad, a resort town nestled in the Swiss Alps. Noticing how enamored with the diamond the actress was, Burton was determined to buy it. On the day of the auction, the couple were in the United Kingdom, and Burton had arranged for his lawyer to bid by phone on his behalf. Burton set his maximum bid at $1 million, believing this to be sufficient to purchase the diamond, as the previous record for a diamond sold at auction was set twelve years earlier at $305,000. The final price achieved at the auction was $1,050,000 — and Burton, of course, was not the successful bidder.
Once Burton discovered that he had lost out on the diamond, he set out desperately determined to buy it at any price. The next day the diamond was sold to Burton for $1.1 million.
10. Alberto Giacometti’s “Femme de Venise I”
Roman Abramovich, prominent art collector and owner of the Chelsea football club, bought Alberto Giacometti’s Femme de Venise I for his gallerist (and then-partner), Dasha Zhukova, after spotting it at Art Basel in 2008. Abramovich returned the day after the couple viewed it and purchased it for $14 million. Abramovich is one of the world’s biggest art collectors, known for acquiring works by Alberto Giacometti, Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud.
11. The Taj Mahal
In one of the most famous public displays of affection of all time, the Mughal ruler Shah Jahan (1592–1666) spent the equivalent of $827 million in modern currency, according to Forbes, building the Taj Mahal as a gift to his wife. The construction took over 22 years, and required the work of over 20,000 artisans.
12.King Abdullah’s Gift to President Obama
In 2014, just before his passing, the late Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, King of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia at the time, showered then president Obama with gifts. Among the swag was a white gold watch estimated at over $60,000, a jewelry set for First Lady estimated at over $500,000, and jewelry sets worth an estimated $80,000 for the First Daughters, Sasha and Malia Obama. In all, Abdullah presented the Obama family with gifts worth an estimated $1.3 million. While the exchange caused a minor political controversy at the time, many people didn’t realize that the Obama family could not actually keep any of the items. While the gifts were accepted in order to avoid a cultural snafu, per US protocol they must later be turned over to the National Archives and Records Administration to avoid any potential conflicts of interest.
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