Elvis Presley lived by the maxim that it is better to give than to receive. He loved to give presents. Very expensive presents. Lowell Hays (Elvis’ favorite jeweler), remembers that the singer spent a fortune on other people. “Elvis,” he said, “would take rings right off his fingers and give them to people.” Mr. Hays owns a fine jewelry shop in Memphis and for the last ten years of Elvis’ life was the only man the rock legend would buy jewelry from. “Elvis had done business with other jewelers,” Lowell says, “but I don’t think he was very happy with them.”
Hays often traveled as part of Elvis’ entourage. On tour, he would bring a case stuffed with trinkets which Elvis would purchase and dole out to friends and fans. “Money was not an object with him. To Elvis money was to be spent for his enjoyment and he liked big jewelry pieces. Elvis bought considerable amounts of platinum rings, baguettes and colored stones like sapphires, rubies and diamonds—he loved colored diamonds.”
One night, while on the road Hays was sitting on the side of the stage taking in the show when Elvis requested to see the case. “I set the case up on this big black speaker and Elvis started taking jewelry out of the case and handing it people in the front row,” said Hays. “Elvis gave away two hundred and fifty thousand dollars worth of jewelry that night.” As Hays sat and watched Elvis hand out dozens of diamond rings and rubies he became upset. He told the singer that he felt he was taking advantage of his money and good nature. Elvis looked at him reassuringly and told him not to worry. “I’ll only have to sing five minutes longer tomorrow night to pay for that.”
The only thing Elvis loved more than giving away jewelry was occasionally treating himself to an expensive bauble. His most famous—and outrageous— piece was the TCB ring—an acronym for Elvis’ favorite saying, “Taking Care of Business.”
Elvis asked Hays to design a TCB ring to wear on-stage. He wanted an eye-catcher of a ring that could be seen from the third row. “I have never made anything, or even seen anything the equal of the TCB ring as it finally turned out,” said Hays. “It is still the number one best looking ring I have ever made.”
The Crown Jewel of the Presley Collection, it was encrusted with diamonds and rare stones, and took months to design. Hays won’t divulge how much the ring cost, but will allow that the price tag was astronomical. When the ring was ready Hays took it to show Elvis. Under the chandelier in the dining room at Graceland Hays opened the box and watched as Elvis’ eyes grew wide. “Man,” the singer said, “Sammy Davis Jr. is going to shit when he sees this.”
“Elvis didn’t get excited about too many things, but he just went crazy over the ring,” said Hays.