By Danielle Olivia Tefft, Jewelry Writer
Note: The first version of this article was published on the Ruby Lane Blog and the now defunct Yahoo! Contributor Network.
Shortly after her death on March 23, 2011, Christie’s auction house announced that it would be selling the renowned jewels of movie screen legend, Elizabeth Taylor. The auction house shrewdly decided to send Elizabeth Taylor’s jewels on a world-wide tour in September of that year to drum up interest for the pending auction. The planned itinerary included stops in Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Moscow, Paris and London. The jewels ended up back in New York City for Christie’s planned 2-day auction, December 13-14, 2011.
If you're not familiar with Elizabeth Taylor’s jewelry collection, the majority of it is catalogued in her oversize, coffee table book, My Love Affair with Jewelry (2002). Her collecting memoirs are also presented in the book. Back in May of 2011, 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. It might also quite possibly contain 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 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.") I am happy to report that you can now, three years later, purchase a used copy in good condition at either Barnes & Noble or Amazon for around $25.
My Love Affair with Jewelry 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 pieces are also photographed in color individually so you 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. (I wasn't paid to say that or endorse the book in any way.)
Elizabeth Taylor owned some outrageous jewelry pieces in her lifetime. She owned a 29.4-carat diamond engagement ring third husband Michael Todd presented her. She had a museum- quality collection of antique Art Nouveau butterfly and dragonfly brooches. She also owned a 69.42-carat pear shaped diamond Richard Burton (not to be outdone by Michael Todd) purchased for her. It was too heavy in ring form, so she had it made into a necklace. She sold it the late 1970’s after their second divorce so that she could buy Nancy Sinatra’s house!
Another outrageous gem in her possession thanks to Richard Burton was the 33.19-carat Krupp diamond. The Krupps were a rich German family of Nazi sympathizers. Having converted to Judaism in one of her early marriages, it gave Elizabeth Taylor great pleasure to flaunt the fact that the enormous stone was now in the possession of a “Jewish girl.”
Elizabeth Taylor also owned several jewels of historical importance like the Taj Mahal diamond which dates back to the 1600’s and La Peregrina, an enormous natural pearl discovered in the 1500s and first worn by Queen Mary I of England. There were also 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. During the December 13-14, 2011 Christie’s auction, her collection sold for 115.9 million dollars! The proceeds went to The Elizabeth Taylor Foundation which helps people living with Aids.
2. Barnesand noble.com
3. Business Insider.com: Elizabeth Taylor's Incredible Jewelry Collection Sold For A Record-Breaking $116 Million Last Night, http://www.businessinsider.com/elizabeth-taylor-jewelry-sale-auction-records-2011-12?op=1
4. National Jeweler: Taylor collection to travel before NY auction, http://www.nationaljeweler.com/nj/fashion/celebrity-style-jewelry/article_detail?id=26857
5. Taylor, Elizabeth (2002). My Love Affair with Jewelry. Simon & Schuster.
6. “Actress Elizabeth Taylor dies at age 79,” The Boston Globe, boston.com.
Have you read Elizabeth Taylor's book or know an interesting fact about her jewelry? If so, please tell us about it in the comments section. Also, if you love fashion and gemstone jewelry as much as I do, subscribe to this blog so you don't miss an article!
Danielle Olivia Tefft is a professional writer with a lifelong passion for gems, jewelry and fashion. She is a GIA accredited jewelry professional and the owner of online antique and vintage jewelry shop,Treasure Box Antiques. Current projects include ghostwriting jewelry and fashion blogs for clients worldwide. When she is not writing, she spends time in the garden, spoiling her cats and traveling with her significant other. Would you like to hire her? Visit her website danielleoliviatefftwrites.comfor clips, terms and more information.
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The Found in the Jewelry Box Blog is my attempt to teach others about the wonderful world of gems and jewelry, past and present. Please enjoy!