I have a friend who sells on eBay. She has found that when she writes “stories” about her products, the sale price goes up. That bodes very well for Christie’s Dec. 13–15 auction of Elizabeth Taylor’s jewelry collection, where virtually all the pieces have colorful histories, some of which we recount here. There are the diamonds Taylor won in a game of ping pong, pieces she wore to the Academy Awards, the list goes on. Christie’s expects to fetch at least $30 million from the sale; at least one of our commenters thinks that’s low.
Rahul Kadakia, head of jewelry for Christie’s America, took some time the other day to talk with me about the sale:
You must have high hopes for the auction.
I think this is going to be the auction of the year. As far as jewelry, this may be the most important event the U.S. has ever seen.
What do you think will make it so special?
Elizabeth Taylor represents such a great Hollywood icon, such a great story, a great humanitarian. She was a person who reached out to people and opened up to people and yet she was also this legend.
The jewelry is not just a diamond necklace or an emerald necklace, it is jewelry from Van Cleef, Cartier, all the great names, from all the great moments in her life. When Mike Todd wanted her to have a crown. The ruby and diamond necklace Todd gave her by the poolside. The necklace she got when she became a grandmother for the first time. The Taj Mahal diamond, which dates back to 1621. There are such great moments behind every purchase. The quality is at such a high level, and the stories are so great.
Do any of the pieces stand out for you?
The Elizabeth Taylor diamond [formerly the Krupp] is one of the most beautiful gems I have ever seen. I have been in the business for a long time and I have seen enough diamonds. But this really blew me away. It is worthy of a museum.
It is such a well-rounded and fabulous collection of pieces. If you want pearls, there is La Pérégrina, one of the most famous pearls in private hands. If you think emeralds, there is the entire BVLGARI suite. If you want rubies, you have the Cartier suite of rubies.
How do you decide who attends the auction?
It will be packed. There will be a main sales room and a secondary sales room. But we are also putting up television screens, so people can just come in and enjoy the auction and pay tribute to Miss Taylor. You will have to reserve seating but we will make sure we have ample arrangements.
It said in your release that Taylor was very well-informed about gems.
I met her for the first time when she helped me auction a painting [for her AIDS Foundation.] She was a really, really great person and she had a great eye. You can tell this even by her later purchases. Even as late as 2001, she had her finger on the pulse of the market, she knew prices, she had such a good nose for quality, for trends, for designers. She just understood these things.