Display of Liz Taylor collection a gem

Fri, Dec 2, 2011, 00:00

NEW YORK – Can’t spare a few million for one of Elizabeth Taylor’s world-renowned rocks at this month’s auction of her jewellery? You aren’t alone. Less well-heeled fans of the late screen star are consoling themselves by snapping up lavish, limited edition sets of catalogues for Christie’s upcoming auction of Taylor’s baubles, clothing, art and memorabilia. But even the books aren’t that cheap.

While catalogues from individual auctions of her memorabilia can be had for as little as $60 (€44), the crown jewel for collectors is an ultra-limited edition boxed set of the gem sale catalogue, accompanied by a signed copy of Taylor’s out-of-print 2002 book, My Love Affair With Jewelry.

Packaged in a lavender presentation box, it is going for $2,500. Only 25 are available, with profits going toward Taylor’s Aids Foundation. The same set, minus Taylor’s signature, is available for $600.

Another 20lb boxed behemoth of all five catalogues will set a buyer back $300. A “jewellery set” of two catalogues detailing the gem auctions and selling for $150 has been another big seller.

“We’re almost out of the boxed set,” Heather Barnhart, project director for the Taylor sales, says. “People just really want the whole thing, they see it as a collector’s item.” Christie’s said printing the catalogues constituted one of the auction house’s most monumental publishing projects.

Taylor’s jewellery collection is world renowned. It includes iconic rocks such as the 33.19 carat diamond ring that was a gift from Richard Burton. Estimated to sell for $2.5-$3.5 million, it will likely sell for far more.

A 10-day exhibition of Taylor’s legendary jewels, clothing and memorabilia opens for public viewing on Saturday and comprises “a great historic record”, Barnhart says. “It captures a moment in time, and it captures the history of things that you may never see again,” she says. “It’s the story not only of her, but of the jewellery, fashion and more.”

Indeed, when Taylor died earlier this year, many held her up as the quintessential star of Hollywood’s Golden Age.

Visitors to the exhibition, who must buy tickets in advance, get a glimpse into her life. Its walls are lined with blow-ups of Taylor at her most iconic, posing in her noteworthy film roles or at gala openings. A mock-up of her dressing room is filled with jewellery boxes, many well worn because they were kept at home, and all labelled according to who gave her the gems – whether Burton, Mike Todd, Michael Jackson or Elton John.

Her Louis Vuitton luggage bears her personal luggage tags which read simply: “Mine!” A replicated accessory closet is carpeted in her signature colour, lavender.

The New York exhibition also displays Taylor’s eclectic collection of haute couture by designers Pucci, Versace, Valentino and Chanel, as well as her signature kaftans in a dazzling array of sparkly, embellished prints. Her Oscars, two competitive ones and one for her humanitarian work, are also on display, though not for sale.

At the other end of the spectrum, and perhaps one that best speaks to the personal style of the woman who wore pants when she was made a Dame by Britain’s monarch, is a postcard Taylor sent to her parents after Burton bought her that 33-carat diamond.

“Dear Mom and Dad,” it reads. “Did you hear about my ring? It’s fab! Love you both, wish you were here!” It’s also signed “Elizabeth + Richard”, and next to her text is a child-like sketch of the huge gem.

The auctions kick off on December 13th. – (Reuters)