The late Hollywood actress once said that the three loves of her life were Mike Todd, Richard Burton and jewelry. Now the lavish gifts that the two men gave Elizabeth Taylor to satisfy the third of her passions are to go on sale.
Liz Taylor’s entire collection of 269 pieces, valued at $30 million, will be auctioned at Christie’s in New York in December 13-14.
“These are the top jewels that Elizabeth Taylor received from the great loves of her life, Mike Todd and Richard Burton,” said Christie’s jewelry expert Rahul Kadakia. “They’re from moments in life that were very dear to her,” jewels that were purchased in Bulgari in Rome, at Cartier in New York and at auction.
“Jewelry was a way of life for Elizabeth Taylor. They were her friends. She enjoyed wearing them and it gave her a lot of pleasure because they reminded her of the great moments in her life, the great places in her life,” Kadakia said.
The stories behind them are as priceless as the gems themselves. In a 2002 memoir, “My Love Affair with Jewelry,” Taylor took readers on a personal journey of her collection, describing in her own words how she came to own each piece.
It’s an extraordinary collection of rubies, diamonds, emeralds and sapphires in intricate and bold designs.
Taylor‘s third husband, theater and film producer Mike Todd, presented her with a red leather Cartier box as she sat by the pool at a rented villa in the south of France.
Inside was a ruby necklace, matching earrings and bracelet.
“She was so, so happy that she jumped into the pool wearing all this jewelry and started doing laps,” the pieces will be sold separately.
Richard Burton, whose grand gestures of love for his fellow star came to symbolize the intensity of their passion. bought Taylor a 33.19-carat Asscher-cut Krupp diamond, D color, VS1 claity, which later became known as The Elizabeth Taylor Diamond. Set in a platinum ring, the diamond, which Burton bought for $305,000 in 1968, is expected to fetch up to $3.5million. Kadakia said its size and clarity – “as white as they can be and potentially flawless” makes it a perfect gem.
“Elizabeth Taylor used to refer to it as her baby and wore it as much and as often as she could,” said Kadakia, including in nearly all her subsequent films.
Other standout items include the 16th-century La Peregrina, one of the largest and most symmetrically perfect pear-shaped pearls in the world, which Burton bought for Taylor in 1969 as a Valentine’s Day gift.
King Philip II of Spain gave the pearl to Mary I of England before their marriage in 1554. When Mary died in 1558, the pearl returned to Spain, where it remained on show in the royal court.
Spain again lost the jewel in 1808, when Napoleon Bonaparte invaded, thereafter earning the nickname La Peregrina (the Wanderer).
It was then sold by Charles Louis Napoleon (Napoleon III) while in exile in London to the 2nd Marques of Abercorn, and remained in the Abercorn family.
When it came up at auction in New York, Burton snapped it up for $37,000, beating out the underbidder, a member of the Spanish Royal family.
Cartier later created a ruby and diamond necklace from which the pearl was suspended, a design that was inspired by the famous Velazquez portraits of Spain‘s Queen Margarita and Queen Isabel wearing the pearl as a necklace.
It is estimated to fetch $2 million to $3 million.
Burton was enamored of historical pieces, and in 1972 purchased the famous 17th-century Taj Mahal diamond pendant for Taylor‘s 40th birthday. The transaction took place at John F. Kennedy International Airport because the couple didn’t have time to run into the city before catching a plane, said Kadakia.
The heart-shaped diamond is associated with one of history’s greatest love stories. It belonged to Emperor Shah Jahangir, who had the diamond inscribed with his wife’s name “Nur Jahan.” He later passed the stone on to his son, Shah Jahan, who built the Taj Mahal in memory of his wife Mumtaz, who died in childbirth.
“I would have liked to buy her the Taj Mahal but it would cost too much to transport,” Burton remarked after buying it.
Cartier later recreated the diamond’s original silk cord as a gold rope-like necklace set with rubies and diamonds.
The necklace has a pre-sale estimate of $300,000 to $500,000.
Among the pieces of jewelry that Taylor purchased for herself was the Duchess of Windsor diamond brooch, which she got at auction for $620,000. Kadakia said she paid a big price for it for two reasons, to remember her friend and because the proceeds were going to a cause dear to her, AIDS research.
The brooch is estimated to bring $400,000 to $600,000.
Marc Porter, Chairman and President of Christie’s Americas, noted: “Christie’s is honored to have been entrusted with this important role in celebrating the extraordinary life and legacy of Elizabeth Taylor. The global tour and exhibition of her collection at Christie’s will be a window into the world of a true icon, a rare woman who was at once an international film and fashion star, loving mother, successful businesswoman, and generous humanitarian. This collection of her many cherished possessions will bring us closer to the essence of Elizabeth Taylor’s unique spirit, and promises to inspire admiration, delight, and at times, sheer wonder, in all who come to see it.”
In keeping with Elizabeth Taylor’s life-long devotion to humanitarian causes, Christie’s is pleased to announce that a portion of the monies generated by exhibition admissions, events and publications related to the sales will be donated to The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation (ETAF). Founded in 1991, ETAF provides funding to AIDS service organizations throughout the world to assist those living with HIV and AIDS.
Eighty of the most iconic pieces will be sold on the evening of Dec. 13. The following day, 189 more gems will be sold. About 500 pieces of Taylor‘s costume jewelry will be sold online at the same time.
Christie’s New York will devote its entire Rockefeller Center gallery space to the public exhibition and sales, which are expected to draw several thousand visitors each day.
The Collection of Elizabeth Taylor Exhibition Tour
GUM, Red Square 3 1
Christie’s, 8 King Street, St. James’s
MOCA Pacific Design Center, 8687 Melrose Avenue, West Hollywood
13 October 12pm-6pm
14 October 12pm-8pm
15 October 10am-8pm
16 October 10am-5pm
Jumeirah Emirates Towers, Sheikh Zayed Road
23 October 2pm-10pm
Four Seasons Hotel, 33 quai des Bergues
11 November 10am-5pm
12 November 10am-5pm
Christie’s, 9 avenue Matignon
16 November 2pm-10pm
17 November 9am-2pm
Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center, Wanchai
Christie’s, 20 Rockefeller Plaza
“I never, never thought of my jewelry as trophies,” Elizabeth wrote. “I’m here to take care of them and to love them. . When I die and they go off to auction I hope whoever buys them gives them a really good home.”