“I’m fortunate to have some very important pieces of jewelry. I don’t believe I own any of the pieces. I believe that I am their custodian, here to enjoy them, to give them the best treatment in the world, to watch after their safety, and to love them.”
Elizabeth Taylor, “My Love Affair with Jewelry”
Last month, the jewelry collection of the late screen legend Elizabeth Taylor came up for auction in New York.
Taylor was a renowned connoisseur of both diamonds and colored stones, with a world-class assortment of some of the finest gems known to jewelry.
Many of the auctioned pieces had been given to Taylor by her husband, actor Richard Burton. Among these was her famous White Diamond – a flawless 33.19 carat D colored stone – and “La Peregrina,” a 203-grain pear-shaped pearl Burton bought in 1969 for $39,000.
The pearl was first discovered in the 16th century and worn by Spanish royalty for centuries, inspiring Taylor to commission a stunning pearl and ruby necklace setting for the prized relic.
Perhaps the most spectacular declaration of love was the gorgeous Taj Mahal Diamond, given by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan to his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal. (It was in her honor that the grieving emperor built the dazzling Taj Mahal, one of the wonders of the world.)
Burton gave Taylor the diamond for her 40th birthday, in a custom-made gold and ruby setting by Cartier. He joked, “I would have liked to buy her the Taj-Mahal,” he remarked, “but it would cost too much to transport.”
The piece carried an auction estimate of $2 to $3 million – but when bidding passed $10 million, the house erupted into a spontaneous ovation. It finished at $11.8 million; that’s a world-record for the sale of a single piece of jewelry.
Besides her signature diamonds, the auction included an extensive array of colored gemstones and accessories. The collection fetched a record-smashing $116 million dollars.
Elizabeth Taylor Diamonds Fetch Record Prices At Auction Hannah Elliot, Forbes Magazine