‘Liz-factor’ puts sparkle into sale of diamonds
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