Friday, November 16, 2012

Elizabeth's Jewels

This past Wednesday night, I attended a lecture at the Royal Ontario Museum given by Brett Sherlock, Senior Vice President, Managing Director of Christie's Canada, the auction house.  Brett had been involved in cataloguing and selling the 1,800 pieces of clothing, artwork and jewellery belonging to Ms. Taylor that were auctioned in December 2011 in New York, following her death in March of that year.  He met with her prior to her death to discuss the sale, the history of the items and her wishes for the disposal of the various pieces.  The sale raised $183 million, the proceeds were divided between a trust for her family and her AIDS foundation.  Brett showed us slides of some of the more famous pieces and regaled us with stories of a beautiful movie star and her extraordinary jewellery collection.

Such as the ruby necklace, earring and bracelet set given to her by her 3rd husband, Mike Todd (the only one of her 7 husbands she didn't divorce, as he was killed in a plane crash).  You can see them here, in this home movie taken just after he presented them to her while she was swimming in a pool in Monte Carlo:

Or the La Peregrina Pearl necklace, which features one of the largest pearls in the world, weighing 203 grains or 50 karats. It was estimated to garner $2 to 3 million at the auction, but the final selling price was over $11M! You can read a cute story about the time the necklace went missing here, on the site where I got this photo:

You can see the pearl hanging as the lower pendant.  The larger pendant and the pearl, diamond and ruby choker were made separately by Cartier, who had to find pearls of the highest quality for the design, which also featured Burmese rubies.  All the pieces detached so they could be worn separately.

There was also a stunning emerald and diamond necklace with matching earrings and bracelet. The pendant detached and could be worn as a brooch.
Photo from
Richard Burton gave the brooch to her on their first wedding day in 1964, in Montreal (they couldn't get married in Toronto because Ontario wouldn't recognize their recent Mexican divorces from their previous spouses).  The brooch was estimated at $500-600,000 in value, it sold for over $6 million at the auction!

Of course, the most famous piece of jewellery she owned was her diamond ring.
It was a gift from Richard, originally known as the Krupp diamond, now known as the Taylor/Burton diamond.  Apparently he gave it to her "because it was Tuesday". She wore it nearly every single day.  It is 33.19 karats in size and sold for $8.8 million at the auction, almost 3 times more than the estimated price.

During the Q&A session after the lecture, someone asked where she kept all these valuable jewels.  He told us she had a walk-in safe in her home but that she rarely used it.  She had several Lucite drawers in her bedroom and often, a visitor would find the jewels strewn across her bed or somewhere nearby to wherever she was.  He said she had been very involved in organizing the auction and was glad the pieces were to be sold to raise money for her foundation, that she felt no sense of loss. She thought of herself merely as a custodian of the pieces.  Her 4 children don't live the same sort of lifestyle she did and would have no use for these glamourous pieces and of course, it avoided any arguments over which one of the 4 would get which piece!

If you'd like to see more pictures of the various fabulous jewelry pieces sold in the Christie auction (the tiara Mike Todd gave her, the "Ping Pong" rings that Richard gave her after she beat him 3 times at the game, the brooch previously owned by the Duchess of Windsor and more, click here for the photos and written descriptions of the various pieces). 

It is only fitting that a Hollywood legend would own such fabulous jewelry and that each piece would have a story of its own to tell.  I, for one, certainly enjoyed hearing each and every one of them!

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