Actress Elizabeth Taylor’s world-renowned collection of jewellery will be auctioned off in December at a two-day sale that is expected to bring in more than $30-million (U.S.), Christie’s said on Wednesday.
The Dec. 13-14 sale will follow a global three-month tour that will also include Taylor’s couture, fine art and memorabilia, and will be the first of a series of auctions from the estate of the legendary film star, who died in March.
Some 269 diamonds, pearls, rubies, rings, necklaces and even a tiara will be sold, including several of the most valuable and storied pieces tied to Taylor’s lengthy and complicated relationship with Richard Burton, whom she married twice and divorced twice.
“This is without a doubt the greatest private collection of jewellery ever assembled in one place,” said Marc Porter, Christie’s Americas chairman and president.
The collection includes everything “from her most jaw-dropping diamonds, gems and one-of-a-kind historic jewels to … never-before-seen keepsakes,” he said.
Leading the gala evening sale of 89 top lots is Taylor’s iconic, 33.19-carat white diamond ring, a 1968 gift from Burton who purchased it at auction for $300,000.
The trustees of Taylor’s estate have renamed it the Elizabeth Taylor Diamond, and it is estimated to fetch $2.5-million to $3.5-million.
Prices for items from the collections of other famous women, including Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Marilyn Monroe and the Duchess of Windsor, have soared to many times their presale estimates.
Taylor’s fame and her eye for quality are expected to drive interest and boost prices.
“It is her depth of knowledge about fine jewellery that truly impresses,” said Francois Curiel, international jewellery director for Christie’s. “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.”
Among the most historic pieces is a 55-carat pear-shaped 14th-century pearl once owned by England’s Mary Tudor, and later passed on to Spanish queens Margarita and Isabel.
Burton bought it in 1969 at auction for $37,000, and Taylor commissioned Cartier to design a new ruby-and-diamond necklace mount. It is estimated to sell for $2-million to $3-million.
At the other end of the spectrum, bidders will have a chance at Taylor’s two, diamond-set wedding bands from her marriages to Burton, estimated at only $6,000 to $8,000.
From Mike Todd, another of Taylor’s seven husbands, there is an antique diamond tiara which the star wore to the 1957 Academy Awards. It is estimated at $60,000 to $80,000.
Taylor’s estate was valued at anywhere from $500-million to $1-billion at the time of her death from congestive heart failure on March 23, age 79.
In keeping with Taylor’s humanitarian work, a portion of the proceeds from exhibitions, events and publications related to the auction will be donated to the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, which the actress founded in 1991.
The New York sales will be preceded by a 10-day exhibition of her collection beginning on Dec. 3. The world tour starts in Moscow on Sept. 15.