Elizabeth Taylor's Final Curtain Call: Star's Collection of Jewelry, Haute Coture and Film Memorabilia on Preview in LA


The Elizabeth Taylor Diamond

She won three Academy Awards.  Her natural beauty was such that  cinematographers routinely said they couldn't find one single bad angle when she was in front of their cameras.  She created some of the best-selling perfumes of all time, marketing them with marvelously tongue-in-cheek commercials in which she casually tossed a handful of glittering diamonds onto a gaming table and purred, "These have always brought me luck."  She took on Presidents, government agencies and the public over their apathy and inaction regarding an epidemic that robbed her of dozens of friends, including co-star Rock Hudson and, in the process, became the leading advocate in the world for people withHIV/AIDS.

La Peregrina, a natural pearl set with rubies, diamonds and cultured pearls

Elizabeth Taylor, a once diminutive child star whose first ticket to fame was a simple love story about a horse, conquered Hollywood and global popular culture so thoroughly that not even multiple marriages and divorces, battles with illness or death itself could knock her star from the Hollywood firmament.  She seemed at once unapproachable and thoroughly familiar, in no small part because her stardom never prevented her from expressing genuine emotion or making fun of herself.  She took plenty of things seriously, but not herself.  "La Liz" was not only the last, but also the very, very best of her kind.  

Sapphire and Diamond Brooch by Jean Schlumberger, Tiffany & Co.

Starting Thursday, October 13, Angelenos have an opportunity to cast aside their unflappable airs and gaze upon a teasing sample of Taylor'sjewelry, haute couture and film memorabilia, which will be auctioned by Christie’s later this year, with a portion of the profits going to The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation.  A preview of select pieces fromTaylor’s collection opens tomorrow at MOCAat the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood.  Taylor’s collection is so sweeping in scope and quality that it almost defies belief.  The initial three days planned for the preview, October 13-15, sold out so quickly that Christie's is offering another 11,000 tickets, which will be released for sale at midnight tonight athttp://www.christies.com/eliabethtaylor).

Those lucky enough to score entry will discover an almost fairy-tale-like display of privilege and wealth, the perfect escape from our ongoing economic malaise.  After all, who doesn't dream of having this kind of life, if even for just one day?  

Diamond "Lord Kalla" Wristwatch, a gift from Michael Jackson

There has been much written about the three most famous piecesTaylor owned and, looking at them mere inches away, one understands why.  If you go for pearls, head for La Peregrina, the largest natural pearl ever found, whichCartier set for the star in a necklace of cultured pearls, diamonds and rubies, estimated to sell for between two and three million dollars.  

If history is your bailiwick, you might spend some extra time soaking up the detailed setting of the Taj Diamond, which is inscribed with the name of a Mughal emperor who was one of the direct predecessors of Shah Jahan, the ruler who built the Taj Mahal as the final resting place for his beloved wife.  Alas, the Taj Mahal isn't for sale, but you can own the Taj Diamondfor a mere half a million dollars.  (Don't forget to look at the setting from behind, and marvel at its tiny, tiny emeralds.) 

Emerald and Diamond Earrings (one of Taylor's own purchases)

Perhaps, like Taylor, you're a diamond gal.  In that case, there's a feast of plenty here, starting with the gargantuan Eliabeth Taylor diamond.  At just over thirty-three carats, this ring, which Taylor wore almost daily right up to her death, features the most stunning series of cuts of any precious gem I have ever seen.  This jewel gives renewed credence to the phrase "now that's some rock," and makes contemporary shorthand such as "bling" seem patently ridiculous.  


Perusing the vast array of diamonds alone, one begins to believe thatTaylor may have been the world's biggest diamond addict.  Of the fifty-one lots of jewelry here, a staggering forty-three of them contain diamonds, from famed houses includingCartier, Van Cleef and Arpels, JAR,Schlumberger, Tiffanyand BVLGARI.  That would make Taylor'sthree-time husband and frequent co-star,Richard Burton, her biggest enabler:  He gave Taylor seventeen of the pieces here. Taylor herself purchased but two.  Smart, smart, smart woman.  

Among my personal favorites:  A gorgeous ring, with matching ear drops and bracelets of coral, amethyst and diamonds, a giant emerald ring framed with diamonds and a marvelous snowflake-shaped diamond and sapphire brooch.  (Note to this season's Academy Awards producerBrett Ratner and chefWolfgang Puck:  You would do well to contemplate re-creating the design of this brooch as a desert to be served at the Governor's Ball.  It would be a fitting, utterly delicious tribute to one of the Academy's most beloved members.)  

Other pieces of historic note include the Windsor Brooch, a diamond pin in the shape of the British Royal Family's crest, once owned by theDuchess of Windsor, an exquisitely delicate Art Noveau butterfly brooch of multi-colored gems, set by Boucheronin 1900, and two pieces given to Taylor by her late friend, Michael Jackson:  A diamond bracelet (estimated to sell for between $30,000 and $50,000) and a diamond "Lord Kalla" wristwatch (estimated to sell for between $300,000 and $500,000.)  Keep your eye on the final sale figures for these pieces, which I believeChristie's has profoundly undervalued.  Such pieces, linking two pop culture giants across multiple sectors of the entertainment industry, will sell for at least two times--possibly three times--those numbers.  

To make the most of your viewing time, skip the ground floor and head directly up the stairs, taking in theAndy Warhol portrait ofTaylor at the top of the stairs.  Then cross second-floor gallery diagonally toward the hand-written noteTaylor wrote to the artist when she acquired the portrait nearly thirty years ago.  Turn to your right and start with the jewelry cases against the south wall, which contain the Taj Diamond and La Peregrina.  Then work your way through the jewelry in a clockwise direction, pausing for a break in between each group of cases by looking at the clothing on display in the center of the room.  If this seems an odd suggestion, bear in mind that the jewels on display are so extensive that you will need to give your eyes repeated breaks to fully appreciate the quality of the stones and to discover the minute details of their settings.  (Two pieces of clothing bear special scrutiny:  A cheeky Versace beaded jacket featuring faces of Taylor's film roles, including the title character fromCleopatra and Maggie from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and a sumptuous color-saturatedChristan Dior evening ensemble Taylor wore to a New York film premiere she attended in February of 1968, along with Ethel and Robert Kennedy, who was gunned down in Los Angeles a mere four months later.)  

After you are sated on diamonds, rubies, emeralds and gold, return to the ground floor and take in the jewelry there, including the Boucheronbutterfly.  Take in the film memorabilia and squint at the engraving on Taylor's threeAcademy Awards, which will be display only here and in New York, where Taylor'scollection (including her Impressionist and Modern Art, which were not shown here) will completely take overChristie's Rockefeller Center galleries for the only other American preview (December 3-12) in advance of the auctions themselves, which will be held in New York from December 13-16 and in London in early 2012.   (For the auction schedule, detailed pre-sale estimates or to contact a Christie's sales representative, please visithttp://www.christies.com/elizabethtaylor.)    

Finally, as you stroll out into the blazing California sun or the glittering starry night, tossing around the pieces you'd most like to own yourself, do the next best thing and ask yourself what you can do to honor the memory of the talented, generous Elizabeth Taylor.  When you're back at home, visithttp://elizabethtayloraidsfoundation.organd make the biggest contribution that you personally can afford.  (Remember, as Taylorherself frequently said, no contribution is too small.)  Climb into bed, lie your head on your pillow and surrender to your dreams, resting assured that Taylor herself would mightily approve.  

The Collection ofElizabeth Taylor 
MOCA Pacific Design Center
8687 Melrose Avenue 
West Hollywood 
October 13-16
Price:  $50 

Video Credits:

Images Courtesy of: 
©Douglas Kirkland/CORBIS©Sunset Boulevard/Corbis©dpa/Corbis©Business Wire/Getty Images Publicity/Getty Images©mptvimages.com©Photofest©Jerome Delay/AFP/Getty Images©Norman Parkinson/Sygma/Corbis©House of Taylor Jewelry Inc. ©Associated Press©Bettmann/CORBIS©Douglas Kirkland/CORBIS
©Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images©2011 Time Life Pictures/Getty Images©Universal Pictures/Photofest©AP Photo/Calvert©AP Photo/Mae©Bettmann/CORBIS©Photo by MGM Studios/Archive Photos/Getty Images©MGM/Photofest©MGM©Warner Bros./PhotofestAndy Warhol, Liz © 2011 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Robert Rauschenberg, Untitled, 1990. © Estate of Robert Rauschenberg / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.©Rick Maiman/Sygma/CORBIS©AP Photo/Atsushi Tsukada©AP Photo/John Duricka©Walter McBride/Corbis©William Lovelace/Hulton Archive/Getty ImagesCourtesy of the Scavullo Foundation and motionpicturegroup.com©Peter Stackpole/Time & Life Images/Getty Images©Underwood & Underwood/CORBIS©Eve Johnson/Premium Archive Films/Getty Images
©2011 Christie's, Inc.


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