Shortly after her death this past March 23rd, Christie’s auction house announced that it would be selling the renowned jewels of movie screen legend, Elizabeth Taylor. A date has not yet been set for the sale, but a good guess would be June 14, 2011 when Christie’s is having an “important jewels” sale in New York City.
Being passionate about fine jewelry and its history, that bit of auction world news caught my attention. I decided that I needed to know just exactly what the late Ms. Taylor’s jewelry collection was comprised of. A quick search on the internet revealed that she had actually authored a book about her collection in 2002, entitled, My Love Affair with Jewelry. I was intrigued. Did the book have great color photos of Elizabeth Taylor’s jewelry? Was it all inclusive of this legendary Hollywood Royal’s collection? Was it more of a novel or was it a coffee table book?
I did a quick search for it on Barnesandnoble.com, figuring I could purchase it through their used book department for a reasonable cost. I was very mistaken! The one and only book available, through one of Barnes and Noble’s affiliated dealers, was going for $600! They claimed the hardcover book was in new condition.
Next, a check at Amazon.com revealed that the cheapest new paperback book could be obtained through them for a mere $900. (That’s right: nine hundred dollars!) The cheapest new hardcover version was going for $210. Their cheapest used book was a hardcover version going for $120. The seller claimed it was in “very good” condition.
I immediately suspected that opportunists had jacked the price of the book up due to Ms. Taylor’s sad and recent passing and/or the announcement of Christie’s pending sale of her jewelry. Think about it. If one is intending to purchase one of Elizabeth Taylor’s prize jewels, what better provenance to obtain than a book about her collection compiled by the queen herself with quite possibly a photo of Elizabeth wearing the coveted planned purchase piece itself!
Disappointed but not daunted, I took a trip to the public library in my town to borrow a copy of My Love Affair with Jewelry. The library’s online website listed three copies in its possession. I figured I’d at least have a chance of checking out one of them. At the very least, I intended to get on a waiting list to borrow the book.
Luckily, I was the third person to seek it out in recent weeks, and I was able to check out the library’s last copy! (By the way, inside the dust jacket the original 2002 list price reads $65; Canada, $102) The oversize, coffee table book showcases over 125 pieces of Elizabeth Taylor’s amazing jewelry, a passion for which she developed in her youth. It contains a mix of black and white and color photos, many of them privately owned by her at the time that show off her wearing the pieces in her spectacular collection. The individual pieces are also photographed in color individually so that one can get a true sense of how magnificent they are. The photos are accompanied by her intimate memories in writing about each piece. This book will not disappoint the jewelry connoisseur or the Elizabeth Taylor fan.
What are some of the most memorable pieces in Elizabeth Taylor’s remarkable jewelry collection? There is the 29.4-carat diamond engagement ring third husband Michael Todd presented her. There are her museum quality antique Art Nouveau butterfly and dragonfly brooches. There is the 69.42-carat pear shaped diamond Richard Burton (not to be outdone by her deceased husband, Todd,) purchased for her. It was too heavy in ring form, so she had it made into a necklace. She ended up selling it the late 1970’s after divorcing Burton for the second time. (Don’t despair auction goers! There are plenty of treasures left for the upcoming auction. She kept the 33.19-carat Krupp diamond Burton gave her as well as several other magnificent jewels he presented her during their times together.)
There are several jewels of historical importance in Elizabeth Taylor’s collection like the Taj Mahal diamond which dates back to the 1600’s. There are various 20th century custom jewels designed by the famous jewelry houses: Bulgari, Cartier, Tiffany & Co., Van Cleef & Arpels, David Webb, etc. All of these jewels and more are beautifully catalogued in My Love Affair with Jewelry. The upcoming Christie’s sale of her collection is sure to be a jewelry lover’s dream sale!
2. Barnesand noble.com
3. Taylor, Elizabeth (2002). My Love Affair with Jewelry. Simon & Schuster.
4. “Actress Elizabeth Taylor dies at age 79,” The Boston Globe, boston.com.