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Christie’s rakes in record-breaking $156.8M with Elizabeth Taylor auction

December 20, 2011


The four-day live auction of late actress Elizabeth Taylor's personal luxury items broke a slew of records in auctionhouse Christie’s history and brought in a total of $156.8 million.

Taylor’s jewelry collection became the world’s most-valuable jewelry collection when it achieved sales of more than $137.2 million during its two-day sale, according to Christie’s. Along with the live auction, Christie’s hosted its first online-only sale which brought in an additional $9.5 million and more than 57,000 bids.

“The Elizabeth Taylor jewelry auction had everything to attract the high-end buyers such as celebrity provenance and jewelry designs of unimaginable quality,” said Pam Danziger, president of Unity Marketing, Stephens, PA.

“The Elizabeth Taylor jewelry collection was world renowned and who wouldn’t want to share in that if they could,” she said.

The Collection of Elizabeth Taylor auction took place from Dec. 13-16 in Christie’s Rockefeller Center showroom in New York's midtown district.

A special online-only sale also took place from Dec. 3-17 on the Christie’s Web site.

Leading lady
The first night of sales was dedicated to Taylor’s "legendary jewels" and brought in a total of $115.9 million.

The evening sale Dec. 13 sold out and set seven new world auction records.

The records broken by Taylor’s jewelry include price-per-carat for a colorless diamond, price per carat for a ruby, price of natural pearl earring pendants, price for a pearl jewel, price for an Indian jewel and price for an emerald jewel.

Twenty-four of the 80 pieces sold that night went for more than $1 million. Six of the pieces were sold for more than $5 million.

A number of luxury jewelers were found within the collection such as Cartier and Bulgari.

For example, the highest-selling jewelry piece from the evening sale was a Cartier necklace containing natural pearl, diamond, ruby and cultured-pearl that sold for $11.8 million to an anonymous buyer.

The second day of jewelry sales brought in another $21.3 million.

The highest-selling item on the second day was a pearl-and-diamond necklace that Taylor received from her husband Richard Burton, which sold for $1.48 million.

The jewelry collection was the most valuable private collection sold at an auction, beating out the previous Duchess of Windsor auction that brought in $50.3 million.

“The atmosphere was electric from the very first to the last lot, with collectors from Asia, the Middle East, Europe and America chasing each individual jewel with a tenacity never seen before,” said Francois Curiel, international director of jewelry at Christie's, in a press release.

“All the jewels offered greatly exceeded their estimates, sometimes by as much as 100 times,” he said.

Vintage appeal
Dec. 15 and Dec. 16 comprised Taylor’s haute couture collection, fashion accessories, fine and decorative arts and film memorabilia.

Chrisite’s sold a portion of the haute couture outfits during an evening sale Dec. 14.

The ensembles brought in more than $2.6 million and included designs from luxury brands such as Chanel, Christian Dior, Givenchy, Halston, Valentino, Versace and Yves Saint Laurent.

Overall, the two-day sale of the haute couture, fashion and accessories portion of The Collection of Elizabeth Taylor brought in more than $5.5 million.

The highest-selling dress was a Christian Dior evening down and matching bag at $362,500. It was purchased by an American museum.

Following this was a Chanel ball gown, cape, shoes and clutch bag that was bought by an anonymous buyer for $134,500.

The last day of the sale was dedicated to the fine and decorative arts and film memorabilia of Taylor, which brought in an additional $4.4 million.

The highest-selling items on this day included a large gray scholar’s rock that went for $386,500 and an Andy Warhol painting of lips inscribed to Taylor that sold for $242,500.

A majority of the high-priced buyers during the live auction included U.S. museums and private buyers from Britain, the United States and Asia.

The online auction brought in an additional $9.5 million. The highest-selling item from this sale was a portrait of Taylor by Hiro Yamagata, which sold for $108,000 to a private U.S. buyer.

A number of the items brought in more than 50 times their expected value, according to Christie’s.

“As for the appeal for auctioned items versus things that are in a store, there is no comparison,” Ms. Danziger said. “Vintage quality almost always beats what’s currently available.

“Plus, you have rarity and exclusivity going for the items that boosts the appeal and thus the price,” she said. “It takes quite a bankroll to get you access to fine-auctioned items – it’s only for the top 1 percent or even .5 or .25 percent.”

Final Take
Kayla Hutzler, editorial assistant at Luxury Daily, New York