An auction of actress Elizabeth Taylor’s world-renowned jewels took in US$116 million, more than double the record for a single collection and setting new marks for pearls, colorless diamonds and Indian jewels.
Christie’s sale of 80 items from Taylor’s collection on Tuesday had been estimated to raise about US$20 million, but everything from her famous 33 carat diamond ring, a gift from Richard Burton, to her charm bracelets sold for many times their estimates.
Just halfway into the marathon four-hour sale, the Taylor collection broke the record for a single-owner jewelry collection set in 1987 when the Duchess of Windsor’s jewels sold for just over US$50 million.
The pattern was set early on, when one of the most historic pieces, a 203 grain (equivalent to 55 carat) pear-shaped 16th-century pearl, once owned by England’s Mary Tudor and later by Spanish queens Margarita and Isabel, sold for US$11,842,500 including commission, setting an auction record for a pearl.
Burton, who married Taylor twice, had bought the pearl in 1969 at auction for US$37,000, and Taylor, who died in March at age 79, commissioned Cartier to design a ruby-and-diamond necklace mount. It had been estimated to sell for between US$2 million and US$3 million.
However, from the very first item, a charm bracelet estimated at about US$30,000, it was clear the Taylor cachet was delivering beyond expectations. The bracelet fetched US$326,500.
Minutes later, an ivory and gold necklace featuring theater medallions soared to more than 100 times its US$1,500 to US$2,000 estimate, selling for US$314,500.
The trend continued unabated, right up until the final offering — Taylor’s iconic 33.19 carat diamond, which Burton had bought for US$300,000 in 1968.
Selling for US$8,818,500, or about three times the estimate, it set a per-carat record for a colorless diamond.