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Wed 14 Dec 2011 03:35 PM

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Auction of Liz Taylor’s jewels rakes in $166m

Marathon 4-hour Christie’s sale surpasses ‘wildest dreams’ to break records

Auction of Liz Taylor’s jewels rakes in $166m
Hollywood legend Elizabeth Taylors had a wide collection of jewellerr haute couture and memorabilia (Getty Images)

An auction of actress Elizabeth Taylor's world-renowned
jewels took in $116m, more than double the record for a single collection and
setting new marks for pearls, colourless diamonds and Indian jewels.

Christie's sale of 80 items from Taylor's collection on
Tuesday had been estimated to raise about $20m, but everything from her famous
33-carat diamond ring, a gift from Richard Burton, to her charm bracelets sold
for many times their estimates.

Just halfway into the marathon four-hour sale, the Taylor
collection broke the record for a single-owner jewellery collection set in 1987
when the Duchess of Windsor's jewels sold for just over $50m.

The pattern was set early on, when one of the most historic
pieces, a 203-grain (equivalent to 55 carat) pear-shaped 16th-century pearl,
once owned by England's Mary Tudor and later by Spanish queens Margarita and
Isabel, sold for $11,842,500 including commission, setting an auction record for
a pearl.

Burton, who married Taylor twice, had bought the pearl in
1969 at auction for $37,000, and Taylor, who died in March at age 79,
commissioned Cartier to design a ruby-and-diamond necklace mount. It had been
estimated to sell for $2m to $3m.

But from the very first item, a charm bracelet estimated at
about $30,000, it was clear the Taylor cachet was delivering beyond
expectations. The bracelet fetched $326,500.

Minutes later an ivory and gold necklace featuring theatre
medallions soared to more than 100 times its $1,500 to $2,000 estimate, selling
for $314,500.

The trend continued unabated, right up until the final
offering - Taylor's iconic 33.19-carat diamond, which Burton had bought for
$300,000 in 1968.

Selling for $8,818,500, or about three times the estimate,
it set a per-carat record for a colourless diamond.

The colossal rock, which has been renamed The Elizabeth
Taylor diamond, was bought by South Korean businessman Daniel Pang, who was
bidding on behalf of Eland World, a South Korean concern.

Pang said the conglomerate owns several hotels and plans to
exhibit the diamond, as it has done in the past with historic memorabilia from
the estate of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

Christie's officials were ecstatic with the results, which
followed a monumental 10-day exhibition Taylor's jewellery, couture, art and
memorabilia which sold 25,000 tickets at $30 each.

Rahul Kadakia, head of jewellery for Christie's Americas,
said the auctioneers knew the sale was going to do very well, given Taylor's
expert eye and worldwide fame as one of the last great Hollywood stars.

"This truly is one of the greatest jewellery
collections in the world," he said. "But in my wildest dreams, I did
not think we would outsell the estimate by five times."

Marc Porter, Christie's Americas president and chairman,
said the auction was "one of the most extraordinary sales Christie's has
ever had." He called it "a testament to the love of Elizabeth Taylor
worldwide" as well as to her collecting ability.

Other highlights included the Taj Mahal diamond, another
gift from Burton marking Taylor's 40th birthday. It sold for $8,818,500, a
record for an Indian jewel.

The per-carat record for a ruby was also broken, by Burton's
Van Cleef & Arpels ruby-and-diamond ring, a 1968 Christmas gift. Another
record, for a tiara, fell when her third husband Mike Todd's 1957 gift to
Taylor sold for $4.2m, or about six times the estimate.

The Taylor auctions continue on Wednesday when the actress'
haute couture, including the dresses she wore from her two weddings to Burton,
will be sold.

Online auctions of some 1,000 lower-priced items from
Taylor's estate are running concurrently.

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