Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Elizabeth Taylor Auction

My sister and I recently had a girls' get away in New York City. The main reason for being there: to check out Elizabeth Taylor's jewelry and accessories prior to the Christie's auction. With our 11:30 AM-timed tickets in hand, we made our way to Christie's at Rockefeller Plaza and got in line behind people of all ages, including a couple of those weird women who thought they looked like Liz when they were younger, but who are now in their late 70's, and guess what  girls: bouffants and black eyeliner just doesn't work for you like it did back in the 50's.

We entered and were teased with the first exhibit: a display of the jewelry boxes her baubles came in. Red Cartier box after red Cartier box on tables and shelves, most labeled with white tape indicating what came inside. There was even the box with the formed indentation of the famous La Peregrina Pearl necklace.  I was excited about the forthcoming jewels...I couldn't wait to see the pearl, the rubies, the diamonds.

Christie's recreated Taylor's room where she kept her jewelry. She was well-organized, keeping the baubles in their original boxes and making sure those that were gifted had their name on the box.
However, what was next was Caftanville. I don't care if they were Dior, YSL or Valentino; it was really a lot of schmattas for one person to own for godsake. This told me Liz languished in her fat phase for an excessive number of fashion cycles.



 
Wasting Away In Caftanville Looking For My Lost Shaker Of Salt...
Next we came upon the handbag room. With only one window for viewing, a logjam was created by all of us trying to see the bags from Chanel, Louis, and Hermes. Of course, no real exhibit like this would be complete without your designated rude bitches, and they were located right here.  Refusing to budge, and not allowing anyone else to see what was inside the handbag vault, their hands and noses were pressed on the glass like they were visiting their Uncle Nunzio, a death row prisoner, right on the other side. One turned to me and said, "you're just gonna have to go around me cause I'm cataloging everyone of these handbags,"like I dare you to get in front of me. Even the friend  accompanying her tried to pull her away, telling her they should come back later. I told her Christie's has already done the cataloging for you--that's why you buy the book at the beginning of the exhibit.  (Obviously her first auction preview). 

The Get Outta My Way Bitch Handbag Room...a replica of Liz's actual accessories room.

Next was furniture, art, and some jewels, but nothing fantastic. Especially not fantastic were the many tacky gems Michael Jackson gave her. It appeared Liz wallowed in the Michael Jackson sequined 80's era for a while. Most of the gifts Jackson gave her were gaudy and cheap looking. Also on display was her Versace-sequined "Faces" jacket, featuring a version of her face in one of her many movie roles.  Estimated to fetch anywhere from $15,000-$20,000, I think it's just awful looking, and I loved the 80's.

Michael Jackson gave Elizabeth Taylor the "Monkey Necklace".

If Liz only knew about Purple Heart.
But where is the Taylor-Burton diamond? When was I going to see the pearl?  I knew they were saving the best for last as we approached the steps that led to a room that was emanating vibrating, sparkle space rays from the ceiling.  Inside this room was case after case of the most incredible jewels: diamonds, rubies, sapphires, emeralds and pearls. They were all in there, the Taylor-Burton diamond (sold for $8.8 million to a South Korean hotel conglomerate who plans on exhibiting the ring in their hotels); the Cartier tiara Mike Todd gave her (sold for $4.2 million), along with the chandelier earrings she initially owned in paste and Todd later had made in real stones; and the emerald and diamond Bulgari suite Richard Burton started buying for her when they were filming Cleopatra in the early 60's. How romantic and fun it must have been to be Dick and Liz then, walking into Bulgari in Rome and buying even one gem like that, let alone ultimately the entire suite (which fetched almost $25 million - reportedly purchased back by Bulgari). The La Peregrina Pearl - who will own this important piece of history?  (sold for $11.8 million). The Bulgari sapphire saurtoir ($5.9 million) and Trombino ring? One could see that Liz didn't buy too many pieces herself. Most were given as gifts from admirers, serious and otherwise. 

This was definitely an exhibit of conspicuous consumption. I don't think celebrities live like this anymore - it's a bygone era.  I'm not sure what celebrities do with their money today, but it seems few flaunt it like Liz did. However, her fortune wasn't really earned through acting. Some agree she wasn't a great actress and earned her Oscars through sympathy, and the majority of her jewels were given as gifts. Maybe that's why she chose to auction them and not pass them on to her children. She truly believed she was just a guardian of the gems - never the real owner.

1 comment:

Jessie said...

The La Peregrina Pearl is a famous gemstone, and because Liz liked to show off her jewelry, we know how she came to own it and what she did with it once it was hers. She understood the history of that pearl and took great joy in owning it, to include sharing stories about it with the public.

Now, the new owner of the pearl is unknown, as is what that owner will do with the Cartier setting Liz had made for it. This piece of history, then, will get tucked away in some vault or some private residence until it goes up for auction the next time.

But there is another possibility for this pearl: the buyer could donate it to a museum, which would be a terrific gesture for a gemstone with the historical legacy this one has.

I'm hoping Queen Elizabeth bought it and will put it on display with all those other honking gems she owns. After all, the other Queen Elizabeth didn't treat its prior owner all that well, so perhaps this would be a nice way to patch things up. :)