Famous Collections: Elizabeth TaylorJun 12th, 2018
This month our Famous Collections series concludes with a peek inside the silver screen stockpile of the iconic Elizabeth Taylor. Truly, no series celebrating the world’s most incredible collections of jewelry could be complete without the life, love and legend of Liz Taylor.
The legend of Elizabeth Taylor’s beauty begins when, as a child, she was instructed to remove her mascara. But Liz couldn’t wipe away the sweeping lashes and icy blue eyes that nature had given her. In time her piercing gaze would help launch her from kiddie actress to movie maven, a career which she continued well into the 1970s. In 1963, Elizabeth Taylor was paid a record-breaking $1 million to play the title role in Cleopatra, and in 1966 she won her second Academy Award for her role in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.
Even after her film career ended, Elizabeth Taylor remained a prominent public figure. She co-founded the American Foundation for AIDS Research in 1985, the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation in 1991, and was awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal for her philanthropy. In 1999, the American Film Institute named her the seventh-greatest female screen legend.
However, Elizabeth Taylor’s jewelry collection is far from the seventh-greatest. Fetching a whopping $116 million at auction in 2011, Taylor’s jewelry sale broke the world record for a private jewelry collection sold at auction.
Among the jewels sold was the famed Taj Mahal Diamond Necklace. While the gold and ruby chain was created by Cartier, the stone itself dates back many centuries and once belonged to the wife of the great emperor, Shah Jahan. When the empress, Mumtaz-i-Mahal, died in 1631, Shah Jahan was inspired to build the Taj Mahal and the diamond received its iconic name. At auction in 2011, the Taj Mahal broke the world record for an Indian jewel, bringing in $8.8 million.
Another item in Elizabeth Taylor’s collection will look familiar to fans of this series. The Prince of Wales brooch, commissioned for the Duchess of Windsor, was the first item the star had ever bid on at auction, and she was very nervous about it. However, Elizabeth won the bid (over $623,000) and was able to honor the memory of her old friend, Wallis Simpson. The Prince of Wales brooch sold in 2011 for $1.3 million.
But these historic treasures pale in comparison to the piece of jewelry now known only as the Elizabeth Taylor Diamond. The 33.19 carat, type IIa-rated diamond was previously owned by Vera Krupp and was purchased for Elizabeth Taylor by Richard Burton in 1968. Elizabeth wore the ring often and frequently told people it was her absolute favorite piece of jewelry, encouraging them to try it on and “see all the colors of the rainbow.” After Elizabeth Taylor’s death, the diamond sold for over $8 million at auction.
The pieces mentioned here are only the tip of the iceberg that was Elizabeth Taylor’s extraordinary collection. However, perhaps even more extraordinary than the collection itself is the woman behind it. All the proceeds from the 2011 auction, all $116 million raised, were donated to AIDS research and the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, thus ensuring that the world would continue to benefit from her magnanimity and generosity well into the future.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this blog series! If there are other collections you would like to see us feature, we encourage you to contact us or stop by the showroom to let us know!