Dame Elizabeth Taylor’s Love Affair with Jewellery

By Sara Abey

It’s Dame Elizabeth Taylor’s birthday today [this was first published on 28 Feb 2020], she would have been 88 years old.

I consider her to be one of the greatest jewellery lovers of modern times. She owned an impressive collection of jewels that she wore frequently, but also preserved at a museum standard. Nine months after her death, in a series of ground-breaking auctions from 3 to 17 December 2011, Christie’s auction house in New York sold the collection for US$ 137,235,575.

Every individual jewel of the collection was sold between five and fifty times the pre-sale estimation, perhaps because the auctioneers didn’t account for the Elizabeth-Taylor-effect. Buyers from thirty six different countries bid at the auctions, and set a world record for achieving the highest value for a private jewellery collection sold at a public auction.

Some highlights of the sale:
  • The Elizabeth Taylor Diamond (33.19 carats, D colour, potentially flawless) ring, a gift by Richard Burton, sold for US$ 8,818,500
  • La Peregrina, the legendary 16th century pearl that was depicted in many artworks mounted on a natural pearl, diamond, ruby and cultured pearl necklace by Cartier, sold for US$ 11,842,500
  • Sapphire and diamond sautoir by Bulgari, a 40th birthday present from Richard Burton, sold for US$ 5,906,500
  • Taj Mahal ruby and gold chain, with a table cut diamond by Cartier, also a 40th birthday present from Richard Burton, sold for US$ 8,818,500 (the transaction is in dispute since the sale)
  • 8.24 carats ruby And diamond Ring, By Van Cleef & Arpels, a Christmas gift from Richard Burton, sold for US$ 4,226,500
  • 23.46 carat emerald and diamond pendant brooch by Bvlgari, sold for US$ 6,578,500
  • Ruby and diamond necklace by Cartier, a gift from Mike Todd, sold for US$ 3,778,500
  • Diamond tiara, a gift from Mike Todd, sold for US$ 4,226,500

Elizabeth Taylor’s jewellery collection together with her fashion garments, decorative arts and film memorabilia fetched a total sum of US$ 156,756,576 at the four days of auctions.

Chris Wilding, Elizabeth Taylor’s son said, “My mother always acknowledged that she was merely the temporary custodian of the incredible things she owned. Today, I think she would be happy to know that her collections will continue to enrich the lives of those who have acquired pieces. My family is proud that our mother’s legacy as a celebrated actress, tireless AIDS activist, and accomplished businesswoman touched so many people’s lives that they wanted to have a part of it for themselves.”

All auction sales and exhibition proceeds were received by the Elizabeth Taylor Trust, and a portion of it was donated to The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation (ETAF).

[📷 Elizabeth Taylor photographed by Gary Bernstein from the Grumman Collection]