‘Liz-fac­tor’ puts sparkle into sale of di­a­monds

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - AUCTIONS -

DI­A­MONDS MAY be a girl’s best friend, but for icon El­iz­a­beth Tay­lor they were a life­long pas­sion that could now strike gold for the Aids suf­fer­ers she cham­pi­oned.

Ru­bies, sap­phires, emer­alds and pearls – many of them given to Tay­lor by her two-time hus­band Richard Bur­ton dur­ing their stormy ro­mance – are among the 269 jew­els up for auc­tion this month fol­low­ing the le­gendary ac­tress’s death in March.

Some of the most jaw-drop- ping gems are now on an in­ter­na­tional tour be­fore the sale t hat auc­tion­eer Christie’s ex­pects to bring in more than $30 mil­lion.

An­other $20 mil­lion could be raised from some of Tay­lor’s iconic gowns and film mem­o­ra­bilia. A por­tion of the pro­ceeds from exhibitions, events and pub­li­ca­tions re­lated to the auc­tion will go to the El­iz­a­beth Tay­lor Aids Foun­da­tion that was started in 1991.

But what Christie’s ex­perts call “the Liz fac­tor” – the lore sur­round­ing her glam­orous Hol­ly­wood life­style – could blow those pre-sale es­ti­mates sky high.

“This col­lec­tion is un­like any­thing we have of f ered be­fore. It is a win­dow on El­iz­a­beth Tay­lor’s life,” Christie’s Amer­ica c hai r man Marc Porter told re­porters be­fore the four-day Los An­ge­les pub­lic ex­hibit.

Tay­lor’s ca­reer spanned seven decades and in­cluded films such as National Vel­vet, in which she starred as a teenager, as well as Gi­ant and Who’s Afrai d o f Vi rg i ni a Woolf? which earned her an Academy Award f o r b e s t ac­tress.

In her per­sonal life, Tay­lor’s eight mar­riages, health prob­lems and early ad­vo­cacy for Aids pa­tients made her a larger-than-life fig­ure and the epit­ome of Hol­ly­wood glam­our.

“The jew­ellery auc­tion was a de­ci­sion El­iz­a­beth Tay­lor her­self made a few years ago. She wanted some­one new to en­joy them,” Porter said.

The 33.19 carat white di­a­mond ring that Bur­ton bought for Tay­lor in 1968, and which she wore al­most ev­ery day, is just one of the high­lights of the sale and the pub­lic ex­hi­bi­tion. It is es­ti­mated to fetch $2.5m to $ 3.5m, based largely on the value of the stones alone.

Less fa­mous but equally daz­zling is a 16th-cen­tury pearl which is the cen­tre­piece of a ruby- and- di­a­mond neck­lace Tay­lor helped de­sign.

The pearl was a 1969 gift from Bur­ton and the neck­lace is val­ued at $2m to $3m.

Then there is the emer­al­dand- di­a­mond neck­lace, pen­dant, ring and bracelet the c hari s matic Welsh a c t o r bought for Tay­lor in 1962 in Rome when their ro­mance blos­somed on the set of Cleopa­tra.

But Bur­ton wasn’t the only lover to shower Tay­lor with jew­els.

An an­tique di­a­mond tiara from film pro­ducer hus­band Mike Todd that Tay­lor wore to the Os­cars in 1957 is val­ued at $60 000 to $80 000, and a dia- mond wrist­watch that the late pop s t ar and cl ose f r i e nd Michael Jack­son gave Tay­lor as a gif t i s ex­pected t o f etch $300 000 to $500 000.

“What the Liz fac­tor will do to prices, we will see,” said Christie’s ex­ec­u­tive Brett Sherlock.

Christie’s ex­perts say Tay­lor wasn’t just a col­lec­tor of jew­ellery but had a keen sense of de­sign, pick­ing her pieces with care from the world’s most le­gendary mak­ers, in­clud­ing Bul­gari, Cartier, Tif­fany and Van Cleef & Ar­pels.

“She was born with a great eye for jew­ellery,” said Rahul Kadakia, head of jew­ellery at Christie’s Amer­ica. “This is the great­est jew­ellery col­lec­tion that Christie’s has ever pre­sented.”

Tay­lor, 79, died of con­ges­tive heart fail­ure in Los An­ge­les in March. Af­ter Los An­ge­les, the pub­lic ex­hibit will visit Dubai, Geneva, Paris, Hong Kong and New York be­fore the four-day auc­tion in New York from De­cem­ber 13 to 16. – Reuters

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