Renowned actress Elizabeth Taylor was known in life as much – if not more – for her love of jewelry as for her acting. With a record-breaking auction at Christie’s New York sales room last night (Tuesday), another facet was added to the story of her legendary jewelry collection.
“The Collection of Elizabeth Taylor: The Legendary Jewels Evening Sale” achieved an unbelievable $115,932,000, making it the most valuable jewelry auction in history.
The Taj Mahal Diamond
The sale was 100 percent sold both by lot and by value, with 24 of the 80 jewels fetching more than $1 million and six jewels topping out in excess of $5 million. In addition, 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 top lot of the sale was the legendary 16th century pearl La Peregrina, which realized $11,842,500, setting two world auction records: for an historic pearl (against the previous record of $2.5 million set by La Regente at Christie’s Geneva, 2005) and for a pearl jewel (surpassing the $7 million record paid for The Baroda Pearls at Christie’s New York, 2007).
Another record breaker was the 33.19 carat Elizabeth Taylor Diamond. This D color, potentially internally flawless stone, realized $8,818,500, setting a record per carat price of $265,697. The diamond, a gift from Richard Burton in 1968, was bought at auction as the Krupp diamond, for $300,000.
Burton also gave Taylor The Taj Mahal Diamond, which he bestowed on her for her 40th birthday in 1972. The diamond, which was set on a gold and ruby chain, by Cartier, realized $8,818,500, 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).
Another husband gifted the Mike Todd Diamond Tiara, an antique diamond tiara, circa 1880, which sold for $4,226,500. As noted in her 2002 book My Love Affair with Jewelry, 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.
“The extraordinary results of the first jewelry sale are a tribute to Elizabeth Taylor's expert eye for fine gemstones and jewels, as well as her stature as a legendary star and inspiring philanthropist,” said François Curiel, International Jewelry director and president of Christie’s Asia. “I know she would be thrilled that her passion has inspired others through this landmark event. Being the auctioneer for this sale was one of the most memorable auctioneering events of my life.”
The jewelry sale was just the first of a four-day auction extravaganza dedicated to the personal collection of Elizabeth Taylor. The sales continue today with 190 additional jewels, including personal mementos and gifts.