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Elizabeth Taylor’s Jewelry Sells for Record $116 Million at Auction

The Elizabeth Taylor Jewelry Collection sets a new world record for the most valuable private collection of jewels sold at auction, fetching $115,932,000 in one night. The previous world record for an auction of jewellery was for the Duchess of Windsor’s collection sold in Geneva in 1987 making $50,281,887. Also, on Christie’s sales seven new world auction records were established: price per carat for a colorless diamond and for a ruby; a pair of natural pearl ear pendants; a pearl jewel; an Indian jewel and an emerald jewel.

The 33.19 carat ring, a gift from Richard Burton, sold for $8.8 million 
The 33.19 carat ring, a gift from Richard Burton, sold for $8.8 million

The first lot from Taylor’s collection, a gold and gem charm bracelet estimated at $25,000-$35,000 went for $326,500 and that sale set the tone for the evening. The highlights of the night were a La Peregrina natural pearl, diamond, ruby, and cultured pearl necklace that sold for $11.8 million, including fees. That price broke the world record for the most expensive pearl ever sold at auction, formerly $7 million. The estimated value of Taylor’s necklace was $2 million to $3 million before auction.

La Peregrina upstaged what was expected to be the top lot for the evening, The Elizabeth Taylor Diamond. The 33.19-carat Asscher-cut D color potentially flawless diamond set on a ring that Taylor wore nearly everyday, sold for $8.8 million, well above its $2.5 million to $3.5 million estimate.

Altogether, the actress’s jewelry took in $116 million, more than double the record for a single collection and setting new marks for pearls, colorless diamonds and Indian jewels, reports said. The sale was 100% sold by lot and 100% by value, with 24 of the 80 jewels fetching over $1 million and 6 jewels over $5 million. A treasure trove of 190 further jewels including personal mementos and beloved gifts will be offered in the two jewelry Day Sales of the Collection of Elizabeth Taylor on December 14. The eagerly anticipated sale of The Icon and her Haute Couture will also take place on the evening of December 14.

Further Highlights from The Legendary Jewels: The Collection of Elizabeth Taylor

The BVLGARI Emerald Suite, a suite of emerald and diamond jewelry (lots 26-31) fetched a total of $24,799,000 (£15,871,360/€19,095,230). Comprising a pendant brooch which achieved $6,578,500 (£4,210,240/ €5,065,445) setting a record price for an emerald jewel and an emerald per carat ($280,000); necklace ($6,130,500 /£3,923,520/ €4,720,485); ring ($3,330,500/£2,131,520/ €2,564,485); flower brooch ($1,538,500/£984,640/ €1,184,645); bracelet ($4,002,500/ £2,561,600/ €3,081,925) and earrings ($3,218,500/£2,059,840/ €2,478,245), the suite was acquired between 1962 and 1967. The majority of these jewels were selected over many repeat trips to the BVLGARI boutique on the Via Condotti in Rome.

The BVLGARI Sapphire Sautoir, set with a magnificent sugarloaf cabochon sapphire of 52.72 carats sold for $5,906,500 (£3,780,160/ €4,548,005). This bold Art Deco style sautoir was a gift from Richard Burton for Elizabeth Taylor’s 40th birthday in 1972.

The Taj Mahal Diamond, circa 1627 – 28, on a gold and ruby chain, by Cartier realized $8,818,500 (£5,643,840/€6,790,245), setting a world auction record for an Indian jewel (against the previous record of $5.2 million set by the imperial Mughal spinel necklace at Christie’s Geneva, May 2011). Inscribed with the name Nur Jahan, the wife of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahangir, this heart-shaped diamond is believed to have been a gift from the ruler to his son, who became the great emperor Shah Jahan (1592-1666). Richard Burton gave this remarkable necklace to Elizabeth Taylor for her 40th birthday in 1972.

The Cartier Ruby Suite, a suite of ruby and diamond jewelry (lots 74 – 76) realized a total of $5,403,500 (£3,458,240/ €4,160,695). Comprising a necklace ($3,778,500/£2,418,240/€2,909,445); bracelet ($842,500/ £539,200/ €648,725) and earrings ($782,500/£500,800/ €602,525), Elizabeth Taylor’s husband, the film producer Mike Todd, famously presented her with a trio of Cartier boxes containing this magnificent suite of ruby jewels while she was swimming laps in the pool at their villa in St.-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, in August 1957. Without a mirror at hand to see how her new jewels looked, she studied her reflection in the pool instead. When she saw the full array of dazzling jewels lighting her neck, ears and wrist, she recalled, “I just shrieked with joy, put my arms around Mike’s neck, and pulled him into the pool after me.”

The Richard Burton Ruby and Diamond Ring, of 8.24 carats, by Van Cleef & Arpels, was a gift from Richard Burton, Christmas 1968. He had promised to buy Elizabeth Taylor a special ruby, with perfect red color, “But it has to be perfect”, he warned. Four years after making his promise, he tucked a small box into the bottom of Elizabeth’s Christmas stocking – so small that she missed it when opening her gifts. This ring achieved $4,226,500 (£2,704,960 / €3,254,405) setting a record for a ruby per carat ($512,925).

A Pair of Natural Pearl and Diamond Ear Pendants, by BVLGARI achieved $1,986,500 (£1,271,360/ €1,529,605), setting a world auction record for a pair of natural pearl ear pendants. This far exceeds the previous record set in 2004, when a pair of white and purplish gray pearl ear pendants sold at Christie’s Hong Kong for $881,887.

The Night of the Iguana Brooch, by Jean Schlumberger, Tiffany & Co. sold for $1,202,500 (£769,600/ €925,925). More catfish in form than iguana, Richard Burton gave this exquisite brooch to Elizabeth Taylor to wear to the star-studded premiere of his film The Night of the Iguana, in 1964.

The five highly personal Gold and Multi-Gem Charm Bracelets (lots: 1, 2, 45, 46 & 47) all attracted enormous interest and strong bidding, fetching a combined total of $1,110,500 (£710,690/ €855,085). From her teenage years through to adulthood, Elizabeth Taylor collected charms for her many bracelets.

The Mike Todd Diamond Tiara, an antique diamond tiara, circa 1880, sold for $4,226,500 (£2,704,960/€3,254,405). As noted in her 2002 book My Love Affair with Jewelry, Elizabeth Taylor’s husband Mike Todd presented this antique diamond tiara to her, saying, “You are my queen.” She wore it to the Academy Awards in Los Angeles in 1957, where Todd’s film Around the World in 80 Days won for best picture.

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