Eye on the Prizes
When Angélique Knafo, designer and co-owner behind 15-year-old American brand Angélique de Paris, heard about Christie’s auction of the Collection of Elizabeth Taylor in late 2011, one thought came to mind: “I wouldn’t want to be bidding against me,” she tells JCK.
The Liz Taylor fan—Knafo bought her book Elizabeth Taylor: My Love Affair With Jewelry soon after it was published in 2002—says there was “no question” whether she and husband Philippe Renaud would bid on pieces. It was only a matter of which pieces.
Van Cleef & Arpels 18k yellow gold, chrysoprase, and diamond earrings (Lot 1407)
She purchased the boxed set of auction catalogs in December, and homed in on three lots, including her “top two favorites,” a bracelet and a watch. The morning of the bracelet sale, Knafo, from the comfort of her office, complete with a big-screen TV ideal for watching the auction live on the Internet, placed her first bid by phone. She placed multiple bids, in fact, but watched helplessly as, within minutes, bidding spiraled out of control to nearly $200,000. Later that afternoon, disappointment struck again as she was outbid on the watch she was eyeing. “There came a point when it was just illogical to keep bidding,” she says. “One piece went for 140 times the estimated value.”
An 18k white gold watch pendant (Lot 1235)
But she kept watching—“I was like an obsessed woman, and drove everybody in the office crazy!” she recalls—even after she lost the bidding war for her third choice. She eventually shifted her focus to other beautiful but perhaps less high-profile pieces in the two-week-long online-only auctions: Lot 1407, a pair of Van Cleef & Arpels 18k yellow gold, chrysoprase, and diamond earrings; Lot 1328, a Kundan-style 18k gold enamel and diamond elephant-motif bracelet; and Lot 1235, an 18k white gold and diamond watch pendant. Though the online bidding was stressful—“You had to wait to the last second,” she says—she won all three (one heirloom each for her three kids): the earrings for $20,800 (est. $1,200–$1,500), the bracelet for $10,800 (est. $2,000–$4,000), and the watch pendant for $26,400 (est. $2,500–$3,500). Helping to reassure her bracelet buy was a simple Google search she conducted before placing the bid: “I typed in elephant bangle and up popped one of my designs, so I knew it was meant to be,” she says.
Her next step: researching where Taylor wore each of the pieces. The designer could tell from their “lovingly worn” condition that the jewels had spent more time in Taylor’s company than in her safe. But that only adds to the provenance for Knafo. “Liz wore jewels all the time, even when she dressed casually,” she says. “That’s how I like to enjoy my pieces and how I design—to be worn every day and not just for special occasions.”