"These have always brought me luck," Elizabeth Taylor famously boasted of her diamonds, in a fragrance commercial.
She wasn't kidding. Yesterday her jewelry collection broke records and toppled expectations when it sold at auction for an estimated $115 million.
While Taylor's cache added immense value, the astounding sale had a lot to do with the merchandise: big rare rocks of the sparkling nature.
Taylor was a life-long collector of unique gems. Many of the milestones of her life were marked by additions to her collection, now valued at well over $100 million.
There was the diamond brooch passed down from the Duchess of Windsor. And the diamond encrusted bracelet, a gift from her best friend in later life, Michael Jackson. On Tuesday that gift sold at Christie's auction house for almost $200,000 -- four times the price it was expected to command.
The two biggest sales in Taylor's collection were markers of another famous relationship. During her two (that's right two) marriages to Richard Burton, she amassed some of the rarest, most coveted jewels from around the world. The 33-carat Cartier diamond ring Burton designed for his bride sold on Tuesday for $8.8 million to a private buyer from Asia. That was a steal, compared to the $11.8 million dollar necklace, purchased by Burton for his love in 1969. It was estimated to sell for $2 or $3 million at Tuesday's auction, but bidders skidded right into the double digits for the charm. The ruby and diamond necklace, named La Peregrina, boasts a two-inch pearl that dates back to the 16th century. Burton had paid $37,000 for it at an auction. When Taylor lost it in her suite at a Las Vegas hotel she spent the night crawling around the floor in search of it. Burton found it the next day in her dog's mouth.
It's fitting that one of Hollywood's greatest, most volatile and most over-the-top romances would live on in the form of highly-coveted gems. But there's another side to Taylor and her sparkling collection. In addition to being a hopelessly garish romantic, she was also a generous and powerful AIDS activist. A portion of the proceeds of Tuesday's auction go to The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS foundation, a non-profit organization the actress started in 1991 to support people living with the virus. For Taylor, diamonds offered more than just luck, they paved her legacy.
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