From her famous La Peregrina pearl to the 33.19-carat Krup Diamond, Elizabeth Taylor's most jaw-dropping jewels are going on display in Los Angeles this Thursday, Oct. 13 to Sunday, Oct. 16. The original block of tickets for the show sold out quickly but Christie's has just announced that it is extending the hours for evening viewing on Friday, Oct. 14, and Saturday, Oct. 15, from 8 PM to midnight. Tickets are $50 and a portion benefits the The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation.
Private previews of the show began earlier this week, including a ladies-luncheon on Tuesday, Oct. 12 to benefit the Melanoma Research Alliance. The late actress' three Oscars for Butterfield 8, Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf and her Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award sit in cases near the entrance of the exhibition space at the Museum of Contemporary Art's Pacific Design Center location in West Hollywood. Gowns and costumes are also on display, including a beaded bolero by Versace that shows her in some of her most iconic roles. On the second-level are the biggest and most-renowned gems, including the engraved heart-shaped, early 17th-century Taj Mahal diamond. The pieces are a highlight of the approximately 2,000 lots that will be sold by Christie's in New York in December during five days of auctions (Dec. 13-17.) The 269 pieces of jewelry alone are estimated to fetch at least $30 million.
Here's what to know if you are going to the show:
1. The Krupp Diamond, now called the Elizabeth Taylor Diamond, has the highest estimate in the show: $2.5-$3.5 million, due to who owned it, its size and its purity. It was a gift from her two-time husband Richard Burton in 1968. "It's D-color, meaning diamond, the best, and it's an Asher cut, that cut between a square and a circle that's a very beautiful flattering shape," said Marc Porter, chairman and president of Christie's Americas at the show. But Porter says it's not certain the diamond will bring the most at auction. The biggest chatter at the luncheon was speculation about who might buy the diamond. "I bet Lynda Resnick will buy it and knock that puppy off," said one guest. (In 1996, Pom Wonderful and Fiji Water owner Resnick — when she owned Franklin Mint — paid $211,000 for a strand of fake pearls owned by Jacqueline Kennedy. She copied them and sold 130,000 strands at $200 each for a gross profit of $26 million.) Another attendee repeated a rumor heard in London: "I hear David Beckham wants to buy them for Posh as a push present."
2. The other top contender to sell for the highest price is the La Peregrina pearl. It's estimated at $2-$3 million. "It's the most important natural pearl that one could buy. It was found by a slave in Panama in the 1500s," said Porter. "He earned his freedom through his discovery of the pearl which eventually ended up with the royal family of Spain and the pearl appears in two successive portraits by Velasquez of Spanish queens. It ultimately ended up in England where it was sold. Elizabeth Taylor bought it for $37,000 and had it reset in a mount that she designed in cooperation with Cartier based on an English Tudor example."
3. Photos are allowed. But make sure it's OK to take a photo of your mom standing next to one of the jewelry cases. At the preview on Tuesday, a woman was told that she couldn't pose next to the Krupp diamond. "You can take a photo of the diamond but not yourself with it," said a Christie's representative. "The family feels strongly about preserving her image." Though later, Porter said, "I don't know why they did that."
4. The large Silver LIz painting by Andy Warhol at the top of the stairs was not owned by the actress. An unidentified owner has consigned it with Christie's and it is going to be sold separately from the Elizabeth Taylor auction. Taylor did own a lithograph of one these iconic portraits of her which is also on exhibit. It's inscribed: "To Elizabeth with much love Andy Warhol."
5. You can try on the jewels. Well, only if you are what Christie's considers a "serious" buyer. "They can contact our jewelry department and can make an appointment and yes see the jewelry and try it on," said Porter.
One other thing to be aware of: those small shot glasses full of water that are inside some of the jewelry cases are there to humidify the natural stones which can overheat and dry under lights.
Oh, and by the way, Taylor's Oscars may be on display but are not for sale. They are on loan for the family and are being shown for the first time in L.A. (Two previous exhibits of selections from the auction, one in Moscow, the other in London, did not include them.)