The dazzling collection of jewelry amassed by Elizabeth Taylor - to be sold at Christie's New York on December 13 - tells not only of her taste for iconic gems but also the story of an extraordinary life marked by love tokens and trinkets.
“Elizabeth Taylor’s passion for jewelry was well-known, but it is her depth of knowledge about fine jewelry that truly impresses. From the first time I met her in 1998, it was clear that she possessed an expert’s eye for craftsmanship, rarity, quality and history. She collected the best pieces from the best periods, and as a result her collection boasts exquisite examples from the most celebrated of jewelry designers, including BVLGARI, Boucheron, Cartier, JAR, Schlumberger, Tiffany, and Van Cleef & Arpels, among others. Elizabeth Taylor always planned to offer her collection of jewelry at auction and I hope that the next owner of each of these iconic pieces will enjoy and respect these jewels just as much as she did, and as she herself said, ‘give them a really good home’”.
- François Curiel, International Jewelry Director and President of Christie's Asia
‘The Collection of Elizabeth Taylor: Jewelry’ will be sold at Christie’s New York from December 13-15
Highlights of the sale are currently on an international tour of Christie’s offices:
Hong Kong November 25-27
New York December 3-12
A special online only auction includes close to 1,000 lots of Fine Jewelry, Fashion & Accessories, Costume Jewelry, and Decorative Arts & Memorabilia. Estimates start as low as $100. Online Registration and bidding begins December 3 and runs through December 17.
The Elizabeth Taylor Diamond, of 33.19 carats
Gift from Richard Burton, May 16, 1968
D Color, Potentially Internally Flawless
“My ring gives me the strangest feeling for beauty. With its sparks of red and white and blue and purple, and on and on, really, it sort of hums with its own beatific life.”
Celebrated as the most iconic of her cherished white diamonds, this spectacular stone was a constant in Elizabeth Taylor’s life and became the ring she wore virtually every day. Purchased at auction for $300,000 in 1968 as the Krupp diamond, this superb Type IIa diamond has since become synonymous with Elizabeth Taylor, and in that spirit Christie’s and the trustees of her estate have renamed it The Elizabeth Taylor Diamond.
La Peregrina – The Legendary Pearl
Gift from Richard Burton, January 23, 1969
A 16th Century Pearl Ruby and Diamond Necklace designed by Elizabeth Taylor, with Al Durante of Cartier
Estimate: $2,000,000 – 3,000,000
“The most perfect pearl in the world.”
- Elizabeth Taylor
This remarkable pearl of 203 grains in size – equivalent to 55 carats – ranks as one of the most important historic pearls in the world. Discovered in the 1500s in the Gulf of Panama, the pear-shaped pearl became part of the crown jewels of Spain. Prince Philip II of Spain was among the first recorded owners of the pearl and it later passed on to the Spanish queens Margarita and Isabel, who proudly wore the pearl in 17th century portraits painted by Velázquez himself. Richard Burton famously purchased the pearl for Elizabeth Taylor at auction in 1969 for $37,000, after successfully outbidding a member of the Spanish Royal family. Inspired by a 16th century portrait of Mary Queen of Scots, she later commissioned Cartier to design an exquisite new mount of matched natural pearls and rubies.
The Mike Todd Diamond Tiara
Gift from Mike Todd, 1957
An Antique Diamond Tiara, circa 1880
As noted in her 2002 book My Love Affair With Jewelry, Elizabeth Taylor’s husband Mike Todd presented her with this antique diamond tiara, 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.
The Ping Pong Diamond Rings
Gift from Richard Burton for winning a game of ping-pong, circa 1970
A Group of Three Diamond Rings
Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor both loved Ping-Pong, and Elizabeth never backed down from the challenge of a good match. At home in Gstaad on one occasion, Burton promised Elizabeth a diamond if she could win 10 points against him. She did, and he promptly set off to town on a quest to find the smallest possible diamond for her. In the end, the pair came back with three small diamond rings – thereafter dubbed “The Ping Pong Diamonds”.
The Bulgari Emerald Suite
Gifts from Richard Burton, 1962-1967
Necklace estimate: $1,000,000 – 1,500,000
Pendant estimate: $500,000 – 700,000
Ring estimate: $600,000 -800,000
Bracelet estimate: $300,000 – 500,000
Earrings estimate: $150,000-200,000
Collected over the course of many repeat trips to the BVLGARI boutique on the Via Condotti in Rome, the jewels that make up this stunning suite were cherished keepsakes from the filming of Cleopatra. Of their time together in Rome, Richard Burton famously quipped, “I introduced Liz to beer, and she introduced me to Bulgari.”
The Cartier Ruby Suite
Gift from Mike Todd, August 1957
Necklace Estimate: $200,000 – 300,000 Bracelet
Estimate: $150,000 – 200,000
Earrings Estimate: $80,000 – 120,000
During her marriage to producer Mike Todd, Elizabeth Taylor was swimming laps in the pool at their villa in St.-Jean-Cap-Ferrat when he surprised her with a trio of Cartier boxes containing this magnificent suite of ruby jewels. 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
Gift from Richard Burton, Christmas 1968
A Ruby and Diamond Ring, of 8.24 carats By Van Cleef & Arpels
Estimate: $1,000,000 – 1,500,000
“The most perfect colored stone I’d ever seen.”
Early in their marriage, Richard Burton promised Elizabeth Taylor he would buy her 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. Later, her daughter Liza brought her the box.
The Bulgari Sapphire Sautoir
Gift from Richard Burton, 1972
Estimate: $600,000 – 800,000
Set with a magnificent sugarloaf cabochon sapphire of 52.72 carats, this bold Art Deco style sautoir was a gift from Richard Burton for Elizabeth Taylor’s 40th birthday in 1972. She later added the ring – a perfect mate – to make it a set.
The JAR Sapphire Ear Clips
A Pair of Diamond and Multi-Colored Sapphire “Ball” Ear Clips, by JAR Purchased in Paris, December 2001
Estimate: $100,000 – 150,000
“She told me, ‘My eyes are blue, like yours, sometimes green. It’s the others who think they see violet.’ So, the striped balls are her vision of color, and the world’s.”
- Joel Arthur Rosenthal (JAR)
Though perhaps best known for her affinity for the storied jewelry houses of Bulgari, Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels, Elizabeth Taylor also had her finger on the pulse of contemporary jewelry design. This set of sapphires ear clips was custom-designed by the celebrated jewelry designer Joel Arthur Rosenthal (known by his initials JAR) who maintains a small, appointment-only boutique on the Place Vendôme in Paris. For these special earrings, JAR incorporated varying shades of sapphires to evoke the elusive hue of her eyes.
The Prince of Wales Brooch
A diamond brooch, circa 1935, from the Collection of the Duchess of Windsor, and purchased by Elizabeth Taylor at auction, April 1987
Estimate: $400,000 – 600,000
“It’s a royal piece that I save for very special occasions because it means so much to me.”
Formerly owned by the Duchess of Windsor, this sparkling diamond pin in the form of the three feathers from the royal insignia of the Prince of Wales was originally a gift from the Duke to the Duchess. As an acquaintance of the royal couple, Elizabeth Taylor had admired the brooch whenever she saw the Duchess wearing it, but turned down the latter’s generous offer to let her make a copy of it. Years later, after the Duchess died and her estate was brought to auction, Elizabeth outbid all other comers to win the special pin in honor of her late friend.
The Taj Mahal Diamond
Gift from Richard Burton, for Elizabeth Taylor’s 40th birthday, 1972
Circa 1627 – 28 Gold and Ruby Chain by Cartier
Estimate: $300,000 – 500,000
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). At the age of 35, it is believed that the young prince presented the diamond to his favorite and most beloved wife, Mumtaz-i-Mahal. The emperor’s grief at her death just four years later was legendary – in her memory he commissioned the majestic Taj Mahal – one of the seven wonders of the world. Richard Burton was captivated by the history and significance of this special diamond, and gave it to Elizabeth to mark her 40th birthday.
The Night of the Iguana Brooch by Jean Schlumberger, Tiffany & Co.
Gift from Richard Burton, August 11, 1964
Estimate: $200,000 – 300,000
More catfish in form than iguana, Richard Burton gave this exquisite Schlumberger-designed brooch to Elizabeth Taylor to wear to the star-studded premiere of his film The Night of the Iguana. For Elizabeth, the serpentine jewel – fashioned of diamonds and gold, with emerald and sapphire accents – would forever symbolize the heady early days of their marriage, when the couple lived in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, a favorite destination.
The Edith Head Necklace
Gift from the Estate of Edith Head
A Gold Necklace with ivory opera passes, circa 18th and 19th centuries
Estimate: $1,500 – 2,000
Fashioned from ivory theatre tokens, this one-of-a-kind necklace was owned by the Hollywood costume designer Edith Head – a dear friend of Elizabeth Taylor whom she often described as being like a second mother to her. As Ms. Taylor later recounted, she had always admired the necklace on Edith, who in turn promised to leave it to Elizabeth in her will. True to her word, the necklace was the one thing Miss Head left to her, and it became a beloved reminder of her dear friend and one of her most cherished possessions.
A Charm Bracelet with 20 assorted charms
Estimate: $25,000 – 35,000
From her teenage years through to adulthood, Elizabeth Taylor collected charms for her many bracelets. Together, the five charm bracelets in her collection form an autobiography of sorts, each revealing a part of their owner’s personal history. Among the group is this gold bracelet of 20 charms, including an engraved clapperboard commemorating The Taming of the Shrew, a gold jeweler’s loupe inscribed with Elizabeth’s name, and perhaps most touching, a gold sphere locket that opens to reveal four medallions, each one engraved with the names and birthdates of each of her four children.
The Burton Wedding Bands
Estimate: $6,000 – 8,000
These diamond-set wedding bands were given to Elizabeth Taylor by Richard Burton upon their marriages in 1964 in Montreal and in 1975, on the occasion of their second marriage in Botswana.
The “Granny” Suite by Van Cleef & Arpels
Gift from Richard Burton, 1971 to mark the birth of her first grandchild in 1971 at the age of 39
Necklace estimate: $120,000 – 180,000
Ear pendants estimate: $25,000 – 35,000
“My heart was clicking like a castanet when I saw this set,” she wrote of the gift. “Richard loved it on me and he said, ‘Wow! You are so beautiful; nobody is going to believe you’re a grandmother.’”
“The Cleopatra Mirror”
A Turquoise and Gold Mirror by Bulgari
Created by Bulgari in 1962, just around the time the epic film Cleopatra starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor was finishing production in Rome, she acquired this Egyptian revival motif mirror worthy of the Queen of the Nile herself.