Elizabeth Taylor’s Trust Sues Christie’s

Courtesy Christie’s

The Taj Mahal diamond necklace

The trust of late actress Elizabeth Taylor is suing Christie’s auction house, claiming it’s withholding funds from the record-setting auction of Taylor’s jewelry, after a dispute arose over the provenance of a necklace it sold for $8 million.

The 25-page complaint, filed Feb. 24 in Los Angeles federal court, claims that Christie’s has refused to pay proceeds from the sale of several items consigned by the trust, including a Bulgari ring owned by Taylor and autographed copies of Taylor’s book My Love Affair With Jewelry.

The trust’s relationship with the auction house began in 2011, following Taylor’s death. All proceeds from the auctions were earmarked for the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation. 

The strife between the two organizations stems from the aborted sale of Taylor’s Cartier Taj Majal diamond necklace. The necklace sold for $8.8 million at Elizabeth Taylor’s Legendary Jewels auction in December 2011, but Christie’s canceled the sale when the buyer claimed the necklace hadn’t belonged to a Mughal emperor. Christie’s requested a return of the funds from the trustees, who refused, arguing that the canceled sale was in violation of Christie’s policies. (The trustees say that Christie’s did not guarantee that the diamond had been owned by a Mughal emperor, only that it was “Indian.”)

“Despite facing no credible threat of legal liability, Christie’s nonetheless rescinded the sale of the diamond,” the claim states. This “violated its obligations to the trust, all in an effort to appease the buyer.”  

The proceeds from the Bulgari ring and the books were not paid in retaliation, the claim states.

“Plaintiffs are informed and believe, and thereon allege, that Christie’s canceled an art sale without explanation, failed and refused to return to the trust the unsold auction items (with no explanation), and failed to pay the trust the proceeds from the sale of the Bulgari ring in an attempt to strong-arm the trust into returning the proceeds that the trust rightfully received from the sale of the Taj Mahal diamond,” the complaint states. 

The trust is asking for an explanation of the canceled sales, return of five missing items, $2.9 million for the Bulgari ring, and either an order that it can keep the proceeds from the Taj Mahal necklace or a return of the necklace to the trust. 

Christie’s released the following statement: “Christie’s was pleased to create a landmark auction event on behalf of the Elizabeth Taylor Trust that produced over $183.5 million in proceeds for the beneficiaries of the trust—the friends and family of Elizabeth Taylor. This suit stems from Christie’s seeking the return of a small portion of these proceeds due to the cancellation of a single item from that sale, and Christie’s looks forward to a speedy resolution of this matter.”