Jessica Chastain: It Was 'a Little Scary' to Wear Elizabeth Taylor's Necklace

05/22/2013 at 10:37 AM ET

Jessica Chastain Cannes 2013Joel Ryan/Invision/AP

Jessica Chastain was so nervous about wearing Elizabeth Taylor‘s sapphire-and-diamond necklace at the Cannes Film Festival’s Cleopatra screening, she didn’t even ask its value.

“I didn’t want to know how much it was worth,” Chastain told PEOPLE at a Bulgari-sponsored soirée, following the film’s 50th-anniversary screening. “It was so thrilling to wear it, but I was overwhelmed too. It was a little scary. I was the first person to wear it since Elizabeth. I felt as if I was able to spend the day with her today by wearing the necklace.”

That sense of familiarity likely extends from Chastain’s choice of reading material. She admitted to picking up Furious Love, a book about Taylor and Richard Burton’s tempestuous love affair, which began on the Cleopatra set and was marked by Burton’s many opulent Bulgari purchases for Taylor.

“I was captivated … [by] what an incredible love story they had,” Chastain said. “And I loved Richard’s famous quote about how ‘Bulgari’ was the only word Liz knew in Italian. I was just touched by everything about their love.”

PHOTOS: See all the stars’ stunning Cannes styles in one place — here!

Chastain first paired the necklace with a simple white Versace Collection dress on the red carpet. However, by the time of the rooftop after-party, where Adrien Brody and Clive Owen were mingling, Chastain had changed into a white Givenchy gown and Taylor’s Bulgari emerald brooch and ring. The original sapphire “sautoir” was back in a glass case, along with more jewels that the house had re-purchased at Taylor’s 2011 Christie’s auction.

A heavier-than-usual security detail stood guard among the jewels as they sat on display at the party. It was an extra precaution given the Chopard jewel heist at the start of the festival, plus several other Cannes-related robberies in recent days. Once Chastain knew the necklace was under lock and key, she was able to relax — and possibly angle for a role in a new film. “I hope a new generation of people in the industry see Cleopatra and are inspired to make an epic as exciting and dramatic,” she said.

Tell us: Did Chastain pull off the look?

–Dana Kennedy

PHOTOS: See the gems from the Elizabeth Taylor auction

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Showing 7 comments

Dawn S on

Jessica Chastain can do no wrong! Definitely my favorite current actress, quickly climbing the ranks of my all time fave list with fantastic choices on roles. She’s an elegant beauty, talented throwback—lucky us!

huh? on

The ring doesn’t fit correctly.

kitty62862 on

Jessica looks wonderful in this picture! I like her sweet, respectful attitude. What a nice person.

Jordan on

She is beyond beautiful!!!!

Clara on

She is a great actress, such a chameleon. Perhaps she will be in a movie playing Elizabeth Taylor.

Jacqueline on

She’s a really lovely person…but I don’t think this is a very flattering picture of her. The dress and the necklace are beautiful and she is beautiful…but this picture in particular, I don’t know, something seems off about it. Maybe it’s just the angle but her features look really off and her face looks pale. I like her a lot…just not the picture. but hey, everyone has a bad picture now & then!

fan of boardwalk empire on

Jessica looks stunning and does honor to the Elizabeth necklace!

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