The Elizabeth Taylor Collection

By Samantha Plotner

Elizabeth Taylor (1923-2011)

Elizabeth Taylor is known for many things, including an illustrious acting career, her seven marriages, pioneering activism, and an absolutely amazing jewelry collection. Next week, her jewelry will be auctioned off, with the proceeds donated to the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation. Ahead of the auction, the entire Elizabeth Taylor Collection is on display at Christie’s.

I decided that an hour or two of looking at pretty, shiny things would be the perfect cure for my pre-finals funk. Braving the rain and tourists, I headed down to Rockefeller Center. After handing over my ticket at the entrance, I was whisked into room upon room displaying the life of Elizabeth Taylor. Although the jewels are the biggest draw, the collection includes a large amount of clothing, art and other memorabilia.

The sheer amount of stuff feels almost invasive at times, since what you see on display is someone’s dearest possessions. It doesn’t help that everything on display also has an expected bid range posted. The amounts range from the mid-three figures to the millions. Seeing someone’s belongings with a priced affixed to them in such a way is a tad off-putting.

Gold and multi-gem charm bracelet
(est. $25,000 – $30,000)

The first major part of the exhibit is a room full of Taylor’s clothing, or “the caftan chronicles,” as one fellow visitor deemed it. The clothing exhibit, including display of handbags, come off as an odd cross between a museum and a closet. Next. there is a small room containing Taylor’s art collection, which is largely unremarkable aside from a trio of Van Goghs and a Pissarro. There is also some assorted memorabilia, including her three Oscars, leather director’s chairs, and movie costumes. The final few rooms display Taylor’s jewelry, as well as some very notable other lots (such as Taylor’s dresses from her first and second weddings to Richard Burton).

Antique natural pearl and
diamond necklace
(est. $100,000 – $150,000)

Taylor’s jewelry is like nothing I have ever seen. These are pieces so large that they have their own names (and possibly zip codes). I have no idea how someone would even wear a gemstone nearly the size of a golf ball. The shiniest piece is the Elizabeth Taylor Diamond, a 33 carat diamond ring, which is sparkly to the point of being almost blinding. Want it for Christmas? It’ll cost two million dollars, and that’s before the even bidding starts.

Emerald necklace
(est. $50 million)

Almost as entertaining as viewing the Collection is observing the other people there to see it. The collection appeals to an interesting mix of tourists (whose t-shirts and sneakers give them away) and well-heeled Upper East Siders brandishing designer handbags who will actually be bidding on everything.

The tickets, at $30, are totally overpriced, and having to buy in advance for a specific date and time is a pain. Yet if you think of it as a donation to charity (like the auction proceeds, ticket proceeds go to the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation), then the auction would definitely be an entertaining study break. After all, once the auction is over, the chance of all of this ever being displayed together again is exceedingly low.

Tickets for the Elizabeth Taylor Collection can be purchased on the Christie’s website. It runs through December 12, 2011 with the auction December 13 through 16 2011. 

Samantha is a junior at Barnard and Editor-in-Chief of The Nine Ways of Knowing. She is easily distracted by shiny objects. 

Photos courtesy of Gabby’s Gab, Christie’s, and CBS12.

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