News & Runway

Liz Taylor’s Legacy for Auction: Closed Set with Julie Bensman

Elizabeth Taylor's Warhol Portrait

Portrait of Elizabeth Taylor, Andy Warhol

One's life can be measured in many ways: photos, videos, anecdotes, and family (genetic #win for the Duggars). For many of us, it will be Facebook albums and exhaustive e-trails of Gchats and Tweets. Elizabeth Taylor's legacy, on the other hand, is made up, in part, by one of the most jaw-dropping collection of jewels most of us will ever lay eyes on (let alone dream to own).

When Christie's invited me to be one of the first to view their Collection of Elizabeth Taylor exhibition last week, I didn't quite know what to expect. Gotham's own Laurie Brookins had written an exquisite piece in our December issue that got me up to speed, but to smush my nose up against a glass cube containing the ruby, diamond, and pearl La Peregrina necklace was another experience entirely. Sure, the pièce de résistance was beyond beautiful but it also captivated onlookers because of its story:

“But perhaps none of Taylor’s jewels has a more storied past than La Peregrina, an early 16th-century natural pearl that belonged to Spain’s Prince Phillip II, and which subsequently adorned a succession of Spanish queens and members of the Bonaparte family. [Richard] Burton purchased La Peregrina for Taylor in 1969 for $37,000; soon after, the couple worked with Cartier to design a platinum-set ruby and diamond necklace to highlight the pearl. Rahul Kadakia [Head of Jewelry for Christie’s America] calls the piece ‘one of the top-five contenders’ for high bidding at the December 13 auction, with an estimate ranging from $2 million to $3 million. ‘It’s magical, it’s historical and above all, it’s rare,’ he says.”

–Laurie Brookins’ “What Becomes A Legend” in Gotham Magazine, December/January 2012

Elizabeth Taylor's collection

The Collection of Elizabeth Taylor: The icon and her haute couture evening sale

Every single piece in the exhibition tells a tale and, collectively, makes up Liz's legacy not only as the definition of "gutsy glamour" (as Christie's Meredith Etherington-Smith coined it), but also as a wife, mother and passionate philanthropist. This is a woman whose good taste spread to all aspects of her life, during a time when the concept of "celebrity stylist" didn't exist and designers didn't lend ensembles to starlets for red carpet appearances. Ms. Taylor bought (or was gifted, natch) the Dior dresses, Louis Vuitton luggage, and menagerie of caftans, clutches, and couture that was on display before me.

Elizabeth Taylor's Dior

A Christian Dior evening ensemble; La Peregrina

As the ladies who'd lunch left Christie's abuzz over what they’d just witnessed (and, for some, planned to purchase), the overwhelming response was admiration for a woman who lived a fabulous life to its fullest, the embodiment of icon, celebrity and, above all, style.



Christie’s Collection of Elizabeth Taylor will be sold at auctions held in New York City, December 13-16, 2011.

In keeping with Elizabeth Taylor’s life-long dedication to humanitarian causes, Christie’s is pleased to announce that a portion of the profits generated by exhibition admissions, events, and select publications related to the exhibitions will be donated to The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation (ETAF). The exhibition will be open for public view from December 3-12. Tickets are currently available for $30 each. For additional information, visit