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A Life İn Auction...Elizabeth Taylor's Famous Jewelery ....

An emerald-and-diamond flower brooch, by Bulgari, 1960, gift from Richard Burton

“I introduced Elizabeth Taylor to beer and she introduced me to Bulgari.”

A coral-diamond-and-emerald bangle bracelet, by David Webb, 1967

Elizabeth Taylor and David Webb were both at the height of their fame when the actress purchased the bracelet from the jeweler, who had already received a Coty Award for his animal jewelry. When Elizabeth and Richard Burton gave a press conference in New York for the premiere of Doctor Faustus, Elizabeth was decked out in Webb: a coral-and-white-enamel Maltese cross, a coral ring, and, of course, the carved lion bracelet.

A titanium evening bag with diamonds, rubies, and cultured pearls, gift from Michael Jackson

“We exchanged elephants”
Media titillations aside, Michael Jackson and Elizabeth Taylor truly were the closest of friends, each having felt that their early showbiz careers deprived them of a normal childhood. What they also shared was an abiding affection for animals. Jackson gave Elizabeth masses of jewelry over the years, but nothing came close to the adorable quotient of this little titanium elephant purse, which Jackson gave her as a birthday present when they were at the Vegas Bellagio. Repayment from Elizabeth was nearly in kind: a real elephant for Jackson’s Neverland ranch.

The Dame ear pendants, by Van Cleef & Arpels, c. 1999

“First a broad, now a dame!”
For Elizabeth, who was English born though mostly American raised, being made a Dame was an honor of the highest degree—even if she did lean on fellow honoree Julie Andrews to remind her when to curtsey and other matters of protocol. As Elizabeth later gushed, “First a broad, now a dame!”

A pair of emerald-and-diamond ear pendants, by Bulgari, 1960, gift from Richard Burton

She wore them at the Paris premiere of Lawrence of Arabia in 1962; she wore them to greet Queen Elizabeth in Washington, in 1976; and they were part of her costume in the V.I.P.s. They were, if such a thing can be said of emerald-and-diamond earrings, ubiquitous.

The ping-pong diamond rings, gift from Richard Burton

She was known as the shrewdest of negotiators, but who expected it over a game of ping-pong? Burton challenged her to get 10 points off him, with a promised payoff of a diamond ring. Game on, Burton lost. But the cheeky Welshman got back at his wife by gifting her with the smallest diamond ring he could find in the Swiss chalet town of Gstaad where they had a home.

The Elizabeth Taylor Diamond, gift from Richard Burton

This sparkler, formerly known to the world as the Krupp Diamond, had only one name around the Taylor household: “My baby.” But oh, what a doll, whose incomparable measurements are 33.19 carats and D flawless. The proud owner liked nothing better than to gently prod others to try it on and “see all the colors of the rainbow.”

An emerald-and-diamond pendant brooch, by Bulgari, 1958, gift from Richard Burton

This brooch never met a dress it didn’t fancy, whether it was as part of an over-the-top costume for a Save Venice ball or on a yellow chiffon dress when she and Burton married in Montreal in 1964.

The Prince of Wales brooch, c. 1935

Elizabeth and the Duchess of Windsor were old friends, going back to the days when the Burtons would visit the duke and duchess when they were both in Paris. Sentiment mixed with sport when the brooch came up for auction: it was the star’s first time bidding at an auction and she was nervous as hell. But her kids rallied around her, urged her on, and as the gavel came down, Elizabeth’s heart soared: she won!

The daisy parure, by Van Cleef & Arpels, c. 1990–93

As the recipient of the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at the 65th Annual Academy Awards in 1993, the self-proclaimed “rowdy” AIDS activist borrowed this marguerite-daisy suite from Van Cleef & Arpels to wear. And then she did what came naturally to her: she bought it.

The Granny necklace, by Van Cleef & Arpels, c. 1971, gift from Richard Burton

She was a child bride at 18 (short-lived marriage No. 1 to Nicky Hilton) and a grandmother at the age of 38. Burton saw fit to honor the occasion with this gold-and-diamond set, which made Elizabeth’s heart start “clicking like a castanet.”

A retro costume-jewelry brooch, c. 1945

By the time Elizabeth Taylor saw this brooch and wanted to give it to her mother, she was already a working actress at the young age of 13, having endeared herself to the public with Lassie Come Home in 1943. So she did what every kid does: she scraped together all her pennies and bought this little pin as a Mother’s Day gift. It was her first purchase and, in hindsight, the beginning of a lifelong passion.

A pair of diamond-and-cultured-pearl ear pendants, by Ruser, c. 1960

“I was the slut of all time!”
She’d been previously overlooked by the Academy for her heartrending portrayal of Maggie in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, so she was bemused, sort of, when awarded her first Oscar as best actress in 1959’s BUtterfield 8. Managing only a breathy “Thank you,” she still wowed her colleagues, while wearing these Ruser earrings.

La Peregrina, a natural-pearl necklace with cultured pearls, diamonds, and rubies, 16th century, gift from Richard Burton

“The most perfect pearl in the world.”
Before it landed in Elizabeth Taylor’s famous décolletage, scholars had debated the history of this 16th-century pear-shaped pearl for centuries. A slave found it in the waters of the Gulf of Panama, whereupon it was turned over to the Spanish crown. Political marriages kept the pretty pearl in play, so to speak, and it was variously owned by Mary Tudor of England and the Bonapartes of France. By 1969, however, there was no question of its prettiest or most popular owner. Befitting its long and royal pedigree, Elizabeth commissioned Cartier to make this spectacular mounting.

The Night of the Iguana brooch, by Schlumberger, Tiffany & Co., 1964, gift from Richard Burton

Elizabeth stayed with Burton in Puerto Vallarta, where he was starring in John Huston’s Night of the Iguana. They were famously in love, and to commemorate that time and for the film’s opening, Burton gave Elizabeth this bejeweled brooch.

A ruby-and-diamond necklace, by Cartier, gift from Mike Todd

Nothing says perfect red like Burmese rubies. And Elizabeth wore them with fitting perfection.

A pair of diamond-and-ruby ear pendants, by Cartier, gift from Mike Todd

Producer Mike Todd was a smitten new husband when he gifted his pregnant wife with a suite of Cartier diamond-and-Burmese-ruby jewelry. The setting was Cap-Ferrat’s Villa Fiorentina, where the Todds were vacationing with Evie and Van Johnson. Elizabeth happened to be swimming when Todd joined her in the pool, jewels in hand. She kissed him, he hugged her, and Evie Johnson, an amateur shutterbug, recorded the bauble-filled moment for posterity.

The Mike Todd diamond ear pendants, 1957

Fake or fine, no one delighted more in receiving gifts of jewelry than Elizabeth Taylor. She was in Paris with husband Mike Todd when she saw these earrings, and though they were paste, she desperately wanted them. Todd obliged. A few months later he surprised Elizabeth by having them copied—all in diamonds. How did she thank him? Well, it made them late for a party . . .


A gold-and-multi-gem charm bracelet

Nothing combines girlhood and jewelry like a charm bracelet, and as she got older and more successful, Elizabeth’s charm bracelets became more star-worthy. Everybody was always gifting her with golden mementos—Zeffirelli, for Taming of the Shrew; Burton, for Cleopatra; there was even a Henry VIII gold half-sovereign of 1544. Sweetest yet: a gold ball-shaped locket engraved with the names of Elizabeth’s children.


An ivory-and-gold necklace, gift from Edith Head

When Edith Head zipped Elizabeth Taylor into a strapless white silk dress massed with a floral bodice and tulle skirt for A Place in the Sun, hers became the it dress for debutantes. This also marked the debut of another sort: a lifelong friendship between star and costume designer. In her will, Edith left this necklace of 18th- and 19th-century engraved ivory opera passes to her young friend.

An emerald-and-diamond ring, by Bulgari, 1962, gift from Richard Burton

They sizzled on-screen as Anthony and Cleopatra, and offscreen they were the scourges of the Vatican, but that didn’t stop them from some serious shopping at Bulgari, which included the purchase of this ring for Elizabeth.

The Taj Mahal, ruby-and-gold chain by Cartier, 1972, gift from Richard Burton

It was a helluva romantic 40th-birthday gift—a heart-shaped diamond from the 17th century, once given by Shah Jahan to his wife, Mumtaz-i-Mahal, later the inspiration for India’s Taj Mahal.

A pair of diamond-and-multicolored-sapphire “ball” ear clips, by JAR, 2001

They are the aurora borealis of earrings, designed by genius jeweler Joel Rosenthal to complement Elizabeth Taylor’s mesmerizing blue-violet eyes.

Elizabeth Taylor: A Life in Jewels
Accolades about Elizabeth Taylor’s beauty began when as a child she was instructed to remove the mascara from her eyelashes. But Taylor couldn’t undo what nature bestowed upon her: a double carpet of lashes, bewitching blue-violet eyes, an impossibly tiny waist, and, in time, a distinctively come-hither bust. With stardom came smarts and more than a few marriages (“I was taught by my parents . . . if you want to have a love affair you get married. I guess I’m very old-fashioned”). When it came to jewelry, however, her passion neither waned nor wandered. For years now, Taylor has been regarded as having the most important private jewelry collection in America. Her only book on the subject, Elizabeth Taylor: My Love Affair with Jewelry, was the winding course of a lifetime loving men intertwined with loving jewelry. The many gifts she received and the great buys she made on her own are now set to be auctioned by Christie’s on December 13. By any measure—star factor, quality, provenance—it is poised to be the auction of our lifetime. As Taylor herself remarked, “I feel as though I’m only the custodian of my jewelry. When I die and they go off to auction I hope whoever buys them gives them a really good home.”

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