With her movie star glamour and love of the luxe life, Elizabeth Taylor gave meaning to the phrase “diamonds are a girl’s best friend.” Her passing on March 23 left a palpable vacuum: Who can possibly assume such a glittering mantle?
Now that Ms. Taylor’s treasured collection of pricey baubles is on a world tour with Christie’s, destined for their New York auction on December 13 and 14, the opportunity exists for some tastemaker to spring for jewels that are almost as famous as the woman who wore them.
The thing is, many of today’s celebrities borrow their jewels for red carpet events like the Academy Awards. For the most part, they don’t swan around in their own diamonds, opting instead to adorn themselves with loaned Harry Winston rocks.
A notable exception is Kim Kardashian, who received a 20.5 carat diamond engagement ring from Kris Humphries worth $2.1 million and affects an extremely high maintenance appearance when out in public. Perhaps her new husband will gift her with one of Taylor’s choice pieces, such as ‘La Peregrina,’ an early 16th century pearl, diamond, and ruby necklace worn by European queens. Now worth $3 million, the necklace cost Richard Burton $37,000 when he bought it at a Sotheby’s auction and gave it to Taylor for Valentine’s day.
Investors, take note. The rising price of gold has made jewelry an attractive investment.
Perhaps rap star Jay-Z, who bestowed an 18 carat diamond engagement ring upon singer Beyoncé, will think Taylor’s fabulous emerald and diamond Bulgari suite would suit her as well. Or maybe sentimental Prince William will buy one of the romantic pieces for his wife Kate; in a moving gesture, he gave her his mother Diana’s 18 carat sapphire engagement ring for their engagement.
Businesswoman Ivanka Trump certainly has a flamboyant style sensibility like Ms. Taylor, but at a significantly lower price point. Her Ivanka Trump Collection sells a showstopper of an emerald cut rock crystal cocktail ring with diamond band for a mere $3,650. Does it have the same impact as ‘The Elizabeth Taylor Diamond,” a 33.19 carat ring that was gift from Richard Burton and is expected to fetch up to $3.5 million at the Christie’s auction? Probably not. All the more reason for Ms. Trump to buy such a potent status symbol.
If the late Harry Winston were around, he might snap up the entire Taylor jewelry collection, as he did that of socialite Evelyn Walsh McLean in 1949. Included was the legendary deep blue 45.52-carat Hope Diamond, now on display at the Smithsonian.
Taylor’s historically significant gems may end up in the collection of a billionaire such as Liu Yiquian of China. Some of the most expensive jewels in the world have been bought by private collectors in Asia.
The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation will be the beneficiary of some of the proceeds from the exhibition and publications about the jewelry. The auction’s proceeds will go to Taylor's estate.