Elizabeth Taylor auction sets world record
The Elizabeth Taylor Collection sets a new world record for the most valuable private collection of jewels sold at auction, fetching £74million in one night.
BY Melissa Whitworth | 14 December 2011-->
Photo: Richard Drew/AP
Photo: Everett Collection / Rex Features
Photo: Richard Drew/AP
Photo: Richard Drew/AP
Zsa Zsa Gabor's daughter, Constance Francesca Gabor Hilton, has her eye on a piece of jewellery that is part of the Elizabeth Taylor Collection. Gabor Hilton is swathed in fur, and has her much younger fiancé on her arm (a man whose father made the costumes for Liberace, she says).
"A woman has the right to feel beautiful, don't you agree?" she says. "I won't tell you which piece it is that I want, because it will push the price up."
The so-called "Crown Jewels of Hollywood" were auctioned at Christie's on Tuesday night for prices that exceeded all estimates and expectations. The sale hadn't even finished before it set the world record for most valuable private collection of jewels sold at auction.
A short video played before bidding started in which Dame Elizabeth was seen on the phone talking to Richard Burton who was bidding for jewellery at an auction on her behalf during the Sixties.
On the speaker phone, whilst sunning herself beside a pool, she says to Burton: "Darling, it sounds like things are going for ten times their [estimated] price.
"Holy cow", she says, before encouraging him to buy it all.
"Holy cow" was perhaps the best way to describe last night's auction. The previous world record for an auction of jewellery was for the Duchess of Windsor's collection sold in Geneva in 1987 making $50,281,887.
The first lot from Taylor's collection, a gold and gem charm bracelet estimated at $25,000-$35,000 went for $326,500 (£208,960) and that sale set the tone for the evening.
Lot 56, the Taj Mahal ruby and gold chain by Cartier set the world record for an Indian jewel, sold for $8,818,500 (£5,643,840): approximately 20 times its estimated worth of between $300,000 and $500,000.
It went on. A pair of kunzite, amethyst and diamond earrings went for 18 times their estimated price at $386,500 (£247,360).
At one point the auctioneer said to the room: "I don't even know where to begin. Next lot, starting at $10million?"
The room fairly fizzed with the anticipation of how much higher each lot would sell for, and the proximity to such enormous sums of money at a time of global economic malaise. Were the members of the one per cent ashamed of such an unabashed display of wealth? No, they were not. The one per cent made their presence felt, as auctioneers in dinner jackets and bowties called in the frenzied bids from across the globe.
"If you've got the money, why not?" said Gabor Hilton.
The La Peregrina necklace - a diamond, ruby and pearl rope with a 16th century pear-shaped pearl pendant, thought to be one of the finest pearls in the world - fetched $11,842,500 (£7,579,200). There was a round of applause. The mood turned jovial, the auctioneers were clearly enjoying themselves. The number of zeros after each winning bid started to become a blur.
"This is without a doubt the greatest private collection of jewellery ever assembled in one place," said Marc Porter, chairman and president of Christie's Americas.
As the night went on, one Christie's attendant said we were watching auction history in the making.
The Prince of Wales brooch, lot 78, was formerly owned by the Duchess of Windsor. It fetched $1,314,500 (£841,280). Three feathers, made of diamonds, form the Royal insignia and it was a piece much admired by Taylor whenever her acquaintance wore it. Taylor turned down the Duchess's offer to let her copy it. When it came to auction in 1987, Taylor had to buy it in honour of her late friend. The actress later said, "It's a Royal piece that I save for special occasions because it means so much to me."
But her other jewels she wore to "do wholesome things like swim laps" in the pool, she wrote in her book "My Love Affair with Jewellery."
She also wrote, "I never, never thought of my jewellery as trophies. I'm here to take care of them and to love them. When I die and they go off to auction I hope whoever buys them gives them a really good home."
The star of the evening was the Elizabeth Taylor Diamond, a 33.29 carat Asscher-cut ring, given to her by Richard Burton in 1968. She wore it nearly every day. It was expected to fetch $2.5 million-$3.5 million but it sold for $8,818,500 (£5,643,840).
"This collection… spans more than 50 years of collecting jewels at a pace and to heights previously achieved only by royalty such as Marie Antoinette," Meredith Etherington-Smith, who curated the star's clothes for a sale on Friday, wrote in The Telegraph .
The evening's auction was expected to fetch $30 million. The hammer went down on a night that had accumulated $115,932,000 or £74,196,480.
A portion of profits generated by admissions, events and select publications related to the sales will be donated to The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation .
Elizabeth Taylor auction sets world record.
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