It only cost $30 to get a ticket (time-stamped) to see Elizabeth Taylor’s jewels on display at Christie’s auction house in Manhattan. That’s a lot of money for an entrance fee, and for a nanosecond I hesitated. Then my common sense kicked in and I happily shelled out the smackers for a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see some legendary bijoux.
The place was mobbed. Lines were out the door. This never happens in an ordinary sale.
I skipped the handbags and the shoes on display, and I moseyed through the dresses on view (they were wonderful), but I came for the jewels.
I came for this:
The brooch that Ms. Taylor bought in 1987 from the estate of the Duchess of Windsor. It’s the three plumes of the Prince of Wales, and of course since Richard Burton was Welsh well, you know, Ms. Liz had to have it. She paid $565,000 for it, and it’s now estimated at $400-$600,000. It will go for at least twice that. By the way, it looks HUGE in person.
Mike Todd gave her this tiara:
From what I overheard, most of the ladies only wanted to see stuff that Richard Burton had given Ms. Liz, like this Bulgari emerald necklace:
And the 33-carat diamond ring, which used to be called the Krupp Diamond but is now the Taylor-Burton diamond. In person, this stone doesn’t look all that huge. It’s BIG, but not paper-weight sized. They must have got a small hand-model for this shot:
‘I wanted to see the Taj Mahal Diamond that Burton gave Ms. Liz just after she became a grandmother at age 40:
But the thing I MOST wanted to see was the Peregrina Pearl, the natural pearl found in the 16th century in Panamanian waters by Spanish conquistadors:
That’s a Cartier necklace that Ms. Liz commissioned in the 1980s — it’s ugly, but does not diminish the presence of The Pearl — which is HUGE in person (much biggger than I expected it to be):
The very first piece of writing that I ever got published was an article about the history of the Peregrina that I wrote for a fine little antique jewelry magazine in 1993. So the Peregrina looms large in my legend, and I’ve waited lo these many years to SEE it.
I’ve known it only from photographs:
And from paintings of its original owner:
Mary Tudor .
The pearl was put up for auction by an aristocratic English family in 1969 in New York, where Richard Burton bought it for $37,000 amidst much controversy. Some titled Spanish lady claimed that she had the Peregrina, which she didn’t; and when her ruse was revealed there was some clamour that a Hollywood tart shouldn’t be able to own a Spanish crown jewel.
In my opinion, Ms. Liz had much more class than all the Spanish queens put together, who were for the most part a rough bunch.
The Peregrina is estimated to go for $2-3 million. I will bet right now that it goes for closer to 5, and I hope against hope that it stays in sight in the Western world, and doesn’t disappear into the Middle East.
**** The Peregrina sold for $11,842,500, the highest price ever paid for a pearl at auction. It was the top lot of the entire sale; no word on the identity of its new owner.