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Day one of The Collection of Elizabeth Taylor, The Legendary Jewels achieves $115,932,000
La Peregrina, left, a Natural Pearl, Diamond and Ruby necklace by Cartier, and a pair of Natural Pearl and Diamond ear pendants by Bulgari are on display during a preview of the full Collection of Elizabeth Taylor at Christie's. AP Photo/Mary Altaffer.

NEW YORK, N.Y.- The Collection of Elizabeth Taylor: The Legendary Jewels Evening Sale achieved $115,932,000 (£74,196,480/€89,267,640), becoming the most valuable jewelry auction in history* and setting the tone for Christie’s highly anticipated four-day series of landmark auctions devoted to the iconic collection of Elizabeth Taylor (13-16 December 2011). A tribute to the discerning eye of this celebrated film star, fashion icon, and humanitarian, the sale was 100% sold by lot and 100% by value, with 24 of the 80 jewels fetching over $1 million and 6 jewels over $5 million. 7 new world auction records were established: price per carat for a colorless diamond and for a ruby; a pair of natural pearl ear pendants; a pearl jewel; an Indian jewel and an emerald jewel.

The top lot of the sale was the legendary 16th century pearl La Peregrina which realized $11,842,500 (£7,579,200/ €9,118,725), setting two world auction records: for an historic pearl (against the previous record of $2.5 million set by La Regente at Christie’s Geneva, 2005) and for a pearl jewel (surpassing the $7 million record paid for The Baroda Pearls at Christie’s New York, 2007). A gift from Richard Burton in 1969 (having been bought for $37,000 at auction), this remarkable pearl of 203 grains in size is equivalent to 50 carats. Discovered in the 1500s in the Gulf of Panama, it became part of the crown jewels of Spain and ranks as one of the most important historic pearls in the world. Elizabeth Taylor designed the Ruby and Diamond Necklace with Al Durante of Cartier to offset what she called “the most perfect pearl in the world.”

“Elizabeth Taylor's magnificent collection of jewels has captivated the auction world this fall, resulting in world-wide bidding and this first landmark result. Without a doubt the greatest private collection of jewelry ever assembled, this sale marked the powerful start of Christie’s historic week of sales auctioning the Jewelry, Fashion, Accessories and Memorabilia from The Collection of Elizabeth Taylor between the 13 – 16 December, in tandem with the online-only sale (3 – 17 December),” said Marc Porter, Chairman and President of Christie's Americas.

“The extraordinary results of the first jewelry sale are a tribute to Elizabeth Taylor's expert eye for fine gemstones and jewels, as well as her stature as a legendary star and inspiring philanthropist. During the international pre-sale exhibition tour, which travelled all the way to Hong Kong, via Moscow, London, Tokyo, Los Angeles, Dubai, Geneva and Paris, before arriving in New York, thousands of collectors and admirers braved long lines to get a glimpse of one of the greatest collections of all time,” noted François Curiel, International Jewelry Director and President of Christie’s Asia. “For many, there was both the desire to share in the stories behind Elizabeth Taylor’s iconic jewels and to dream of perhaps acquiring one. For others, the sale provided the opportunity to purchase unique jewels, which brought Elizabeth Taylor such joy and reflect her remarkable taste and connoisseurship. I know she would be thrilled that her passion has inspired others through this landmark event. Being the auctioneer for this sale was one of the most memorable auctioneering events of my life.”

From the start of the sale, conducted by Francois Curiel and Rahul Kadakia - Head of Christie’s Jewelry Americas - the atmosphere was electric; the palpable sense of drama, intensity and passion appropriately reflecting the iconic collection of diamonds, pearls, gemstones, historic jewels, one-of-a-kind creations and storied gifts which accompanied Elizabeth Taylor’s remarkable lifetime and great moments. The first showstopper was The Edith Head Necklace which realized $314,500 (£201,280/€242,165). This one-of-a-kind gold necklace with ivory opera passes, circa 18th and 19th centuries, captivated the imagination of clients around the globe and attracted fierce competition. Having been bequeathed to Elizabeth Taylor by her dear friend, the renowned Hollywood costume designer, Edith Head - whom she often described as being like a second mother to her – it was one of Miss Taylor’s most cherished possessions.

The Elizabeth Taylor Diamond, of 33.19 carats, D color, potentially internally flawless, realized $8,818,500 (£5,643,840/€6,790,245), setting a record price per carat ($265,697). This far exceeds the $240,000 per carat paid for The Annenberg Diamond of 32.01 carats when it sold at Christie’s New York in 2009. A gift from Richard Burton in 1968, The Elizabeth Taylor Diamond was a constant in Ms. Taylor’s life and became the ring that she wore virtually every day for more than three decades. Bought at auction as the Krupp diamond, for $300,000, it was renamed in homage to this spectacular gem’s most glamorous owner.

Another favourite of Ms. Taylor’s, The JAR Sapphire Ear Clips sparked a frenzied bidding war selling for $602,500 (£385,600/ €463,925). Perhaps best known for her affinity for the storied jewelry houses of BVLGARI, Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels, these diamond and multi-colored sapphire “ball” ear clips, by the celebrated jewelry designer Joel Rosenthal (known by his initials JAR) illustrate that Elizabeth Taylor also had her finger on the pulse of contemporary jewelry design. Purchased in Paris, 2001, they were custom-designed to evoke the elusive hue of her eyes. A diamond and platinum ring by JAR which was a gift to Elizabeth Taylor from the designer on her 70th birthday also secured a strong price fetching $158,500 (£101,440/€122,045).

Further Highlights from The Legendary Jewels: The Collection of Elizabeth Taylor:
The BVLGARI Emerald Suite, a suite of emerald and diamond jewelry (lots 26-31) fetched a total of $24,799,000 (£15,871,360/€19,095,230). Comprising a pendant brooch which achieved $6,578,500 (£4,210,240/ €5,065,445) setting a record price for an emerald jewel and an emerald per carat ($280,000); necklace ($6,130,500 /£3,923,520/ €4,720,485); ring ($3,330,500/£2,131,520/ €2,564,485); flower brooch ($1,538,500/£984,640/ €1,184,645); bracelet ($4,002,500/ £2,561,600/ €3,081,925) and earrings ($3,218,500/£2,059,840/ €2,478,245), the suite was acquired between 1962 and 1967. The majority of these jewels were selected over many repeat trips to the BVLGARI boutique on the Via Condotti in Rome.

The BVLGARI Sapphire Sautoir, set with a magnificent sugarloaf cabochon sapphire of 52.72 carats sold for $5,906,500 (£3,780,160/ €4,548,005). This bold Art Deco style sautoir was a gift from Richard Burton for Elizabeth Taylor’s 40th birthday in 1972.

The Taj Mahal Diamond, circa 1627 – 28, on a gold and ruby chain, by Cartier realized $8,818,500 (£5,643,840/€6,790,245), setting a world auction record for an Indian jewel (against the previous record of $5.2 million set by the imperial Mughal spinel necklace at Christie’s Geneva, May 2011). Inscribed with the name Nur Jahan, the wife of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahangir, this heart-shaped diamond is believed to have been a gift from the ruler to his son, who became the great emperor Shah Jahan (1592-1666). Richard Burton gave this remarkable necklace to Elizabeth Taylor for her 40th birthday in 1972.

The Cartier Ruby Suite, a suite of ruby and diamond jewelry (lots 74 – 76) realized a total of $5,403,500 (£3,458,240/ €4,160,695). Comprising a necklace ($3,778,500/£2,418,240/€2,909,445); bracelet ($842,500/ £539,200/ €648,725) and earrings ($782,500/£500,800/ €602,525), Elizabeth Taylor’s husband, the film producer Mike Todd, famously presented her with a trio of Cartier boxes containing this magnificent suite of ruby jewels while she was swimming laps in the pool at their villa in St.-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, in August 1957. Without a mirror at hand to see how her new jewels looked, she studied her reflection in the pool instead. When she saw the full array of dazzling jewels lighting her neck, ears and wrist, she recalled, “I just shrieked with joy, put my arms around Mike’s neck, and pulled him into the pool after me.”

The Richard Burton Ruby and Diamond Ring, of 8.24 carats, by Van Cleef & Arpels, was a gift from Richard Burton, Christmas 1968. He had promised to buy Elizabeth Taylor a special ruby, with perfect red color, “But it has to be perfect”, he warned. Four years after making his promise, he tucked a small box into the bottom of Elizabeth’s Christmas stocking – so small that she missed it when opening her gifts. This ring achieved $4,226,500 (£2,704,960 / €3,254,405) setting a record for a ruby per carat ($421,981).

A Pair of Natural Pearl and Diamond Ear Pendants, by BVLGARI achieved $1,986,500 (£1,271,360/ €1,529,605), setting a world auction record for a pair of natural pearl ear pendants. This far exceeds the previous record set in 2004, when a pair of white and purplish gray pearl ear pendants sold at Christie’s Hong Kong for $881,887.

The Night of the Iguana Brooch, by Jean Schlumberger, Tiffany & Co. sold for $1,202,500 (£769,600/ €925,925). More catfish in form than iguana, Richard Burton gave this exquisite brooch to Elizabeth Taylor to wear to the star-studded premiere of his film The Night of the Iguana, in 1964.

The five highly personal Gold and Multi-Gem Charm Bracelets (lots: 1, 2, 45, 46 & 47) all attracted enormous interest and strong bidding, fetching a combined total of $1,110,500 (£710,690/ €855,085). From her teenage years through to adulthood, Elizabeth Taylor collected charms for her many bracelets.

The Mike Todd Diamond Tiara, an antique diamond tiara, circa 1880, sold for $4,226,500 (£2,704,960/€3,254,405). As noted in her 2002 book My Love Affair with Jewelry, Elizabeth Taylor’s husband Mike Todd presented this antique diamond tiara to her, saying, “You are my queen.” She wore it to the Academy Awards in Los Angeles in 1957, where Todd’s film Around the World in 80 Days won for best picture.

A treasure trove of 190 further jewels including personal mementos and beloved gifts will be offered in the two jewelry Day Sales of the Collection of Elizabeth Taylor on December 14. The eagerly anticipated sale of The Icon and her Haute Couture will also take place on the evening of December 14. For the full schedule of sales in this landmark series please see Notes to Editors.

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