An auction of jewels belonging to the late actress Elizabeth Taylor fetched more than $115 million dollars in New York on Tuesday. The event, featuring about 80 of Taylor's gems, was handled by Christie's, which says the sale set a record for a single private collection.
The sale is far above what was expected: as NPR's Margot Adler reported, the auction was expected to net about $50 million.
Among the items sold was the breathtaking diamond ring Taylor received from her husband, actor Richard Burton (whom she married twice). Rectangular in shape, the 33-carat ring was purchased by a buyer in Asia for more than $8.8 million dollars, according to AP.
The evening's tense moment came over 'La Peregrina', Taylor's 50.6-carat pearl, part of a ruby, diamond and pearl necklace set by Cartier. Burton picked it up as a Valentine's Day gift for Taylor more than 40 years ago, according to Bloomberg. Owned previously by eight Spanish kings from 1582 through 1808, it went for $37,000 in 1969.
Last night it sold for $11.8 million. Forbes says frenetic bidding closed after just four minutes. Would-be purchasers were in the Christie's throng, but hopeful buyers overseas also telephoned bids to dozens of Christie's staffers who wore evening wear while swamped with calls at phone banks.
Ward Landrigan, CEO of New York jeweler Verdura, was flabbergasted at the final sale prices, telling Bloomberg, "No one has seen anything like this. It's like money means nothing."
There's more. The rest of Taylor's jewels are being auctioned online today, along with some of her art and fine clothing, including the yellow chiffon gown she wore to her first wedding Burton. Want to browse? Visit Christie's here. Part of the proceeds will be donated to the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation.
Update at 5:23 p.m. ET. A Slideshow:
Our friends in the multimedia department point us to a gallery they've made of Taylor's jewels:
The gallery accompanied a story NPR's Margot Adler put together on the collection.