“It would be very glamorous to be reincarnated as a great big ring on Elizabeth Taylor’s finger.” — Andy Warhol
Yesterday I had the privilege of seeing the Elizabeth Taylor Collection at Christies on it’s final day of viewing. The auction began today and will continue in various categories over the next few months. It consists of fine jewelry, costume jewelry, clothing, handbags, luggage, paintings, and much more. Walking into the gallery, I was struck by how many female guests arrived in their finest jewelry, in homage to the late Elizabeth Taylor. I even overheard one older woman relishing a security guard with stories of the time she met and spoke to Elizabeth Taylor long, long ago.
If you didn’t get to see the collection for yourself, let me take you for a guided tour. First off, one of the Christies employees confirmed that the prices listed for each piece were determined as if they did not belong to Elizabeth Taylor. There is no way for them to know what the pieces will actually gather at auction, since bidders may have a fondness for Elizabeth Taylor that is beyond the technical value of the piece.
Imagine room after room filled with women who are excited and slightly pushy, each making jokes about the prices of the pieces and how their husbands should be buying them gems like these. There were plenty of fine and costume pieces in the collection that would be considered tacky to today’s modern woman. Many women I walked past could be overheard muttering the same thing. In turn, it made the pieces that were created in timeless styles that much more stunning.
One of the most delightful things about the auction was the books of “paper jewelry” on sale for $25. It was four panels containing photos of key pieces of jewelry from the auction, perforated around the edges like you would see in a book of paper dolls. You could simply detach the paper and wear these “jewels” around your neck, wrist, or finger. Or as some of the Christies staff so cleverly improvised, you could take your regular pair of stud earrings, poke a hole through one of the “paper” earrings, and wear them as if they were real. It was quite adorable, and was inspired by some paper jewels that Malcolm Forbes gifted to Elizabeth Taylor.
Let’s start with one of my favorites, Lot #233, Two Unmounted Heart-Shaped Rubies, estimated at $4,000 – $6,000 USD:
Perhaps it is my love of colored gemstones, or my gemological upbringing, but these two stones were just stunning. They contained inclusions, but that was part of their charm. Their color was a rich deep red, and their size was equally impressive. I wonder if the final bidder will mount them into a piece of jewelry, or leave their beauty as is?
Lot #869, Amethyst Geode with Calcite Inclusions, estimated at $2,000 – $3,000 USD:
This geode was quite large at 14 inches high, 24 inches wide, and 12 inches deep. The rich purple hue and sheer grandiosity made me wonder when she began collecting such raw gemstones. A real stunner!
Lot #7, Diamond and Sapphire Ring, estimated at $80,000 – $120,000 USD:
The photo above doesn’t do justice to the approximately 16.98 carats of this yellow pear-shaped center stone, or the small sapphires and pear-shaped diamonds surrounding it. This ring was a gift to Elizabeth Taylor from Michael Jackson, and it is the color and size of the center stone that is most impressive about this piece. It has a lovely light yellow hue to it, and is extremely impressive in person. What a generous and lovely gift for one friend to give to another!
Let’s take a moment to talk about one of the non-jewelry auction pieces that I was surprised to see there. In a separate room were featured works of art from her personal collection. There was only one security guard in the large room, and the paintings were on the wall with no glass or cases to protect them. I am consistently impressed by the level of trust that galleries and museums give to their patrons! My favorite painting was a beautiful piece by Vincent Van Gogh, estimated at £5,000,000 – £7,000,000 (approximately $7,800,000 – $10,900,000 in US dollars):
Upon first glance it was obviously a painting by Van Gogh, but what struck me most about this one was the subtle pink color in the sky. Van Gogh was able to capture the fleeting color of an afternoon sky with just a few brushstrokes. I was honored to see this painting up close and personal. For the art enthusiasts out there, there were also some stunning works by Renoir, Degas, and Pissaro on display at the auction as well.
And now back to the sparklies with Lot #60, A Set of Sapphire, Diamond, and Gold Jewelry, by Mouawad, estimated at $120,000 – $150,000 USD:
The sapphires in this collection were absolutely gorgeous. Their color was reminiscent of a tanzanite, but with a bit of a light “cornflower” blue hue to them. Both are amazing pieces that I am sure went together splendidly with Elizabeth Taylor’s famous blue eyes.
Lot #56, The Taj Mahal, an Indian Diamond and Jade Pendant Necklace with a Ruby and Gold Chain, by Cartier, estimated at $300,000 – $500,000 USD:
This necklace was a gift to Elizabeth Taylor on her 40th birthday from Richard Burton. It is set with an inscribed heart-shaped table-cut diamond bearing the Islamic date 1037. Admittedly I am not an expert on the history of this famous necklace. It wasn’t beautiful in quite the same way as the more traditional fine jewelry in the collection, but it was impressive nonetheless, simply because it was so unique.
Lot #26, Emerald and Diamond Ring by Bulgari, estimated at $600,000 – $800,000 USD:
One of the only ways I can describe this ring is that it was so free of inclusions, it practically looked manmade. It was so incredibly large (I wish they listed the carat weight) and impressive. A truly amazing ring.
Lot #20, The Burton Cognac Ring, by Van Cleef & Arpels, estimated at $180,000 – $200,000 USD:
This pear-shaped diamond, a whopping 32.14 carats in a fancy deep brownish orangy yellow, is quite a sight. The color changes in the light as you view it from the front and the side. As the name of it indicates, this is another gift to Elizabeth Taylor from Richard Burton. That man sure knew how to buy a girl some jewelry!
And saving the best for last, there was Lot #80, The Elizabeth Taylor Diamond Ring, estimated at $2,500,000 – $3,000,000 USD:
This ring was a gift from Richard Burton, and was purchased from Parke-Bernet Galleries in New York on May 16th, 1968. It weighs approximately 33.19 carats, is mounted in platinum, and the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) has determined it may be potentially internally flawless. The center diamond is out of this world. Looking at it in the glass case, it was hard to focus on it, simply because my eyes kept looking for flaws they weren’t going to find. It is the kind of diamond where I am thankful to have seen it in person once in my life. I wonder which bidder will win at the end of this auction, and what they will decide to do with it. Donate it to a museum, for all to see? Or lock it away, to be swooned over in the privacy of their home? One can only hope this won’t be the last we see of it. I can’t wait to find out where the final bid will fall on this one!
All of the jewelry listed above will be up for auction today and tomorrow. I will be following the results and will let you know in a separate blog post how much the items sell for in the end. Exciting!
Did you get a chance to check out the auction? Feel the same about the gallery show as I did? Any pieces I missed that you were in love with?
Elizabeth Taylor image found here, Heartshape rubies image found here, Amethyst geode image found here, Pear-shaped diamond ring image found here, Vincent Van Gogh painting image found here, Sapphire necklace and earrings image found here, Taj Mahal necklace image found here, Emerald ring image found here, Burton Cognac ring image found here, Elizabeth Taylor diamond ring image found here.