Diamonds are an auction house’s best friend – at least when they belonged to Elizabeth Taylor.
The iconic actress’ legendary pearls and diamonds sold for around $116 million at Christie’s on Tuesday, smashing the previous record for a single collection, set in 1987 by the Duchess of Windsor’s jewels.
The 80 items included several pieces given to Taylor by her actor husband Richard Burton, including a 16th century pearl that once belonged to Mary Tudor of England and Spanish queens Margarita and Isabel. The pear-shaped pearl, which Burton purchased in 1969 for $37,000, sold for a record $11,842,500.
(PHOTOS: Taylor and Burton, Timeless Romance)
The heart of the collection — a 33.19-carat diamond bought by Burton in 1968 – sold for $8,818,500 to South Korean hotel conglomerate Eland World. The giant rock, newly christened as The Elizabeth Taylor Diamond, will go on display in one of Eland World’s hotels.
The results of the auction staggered Christie’s officials. “This truly is one of the greatest jewelery collections in the world,” head of jewelery Rahul Kadakia told Reuters. “But in my wildest dreams, I did not think we would outsell the estimate by five times.”
Other pieces sold include the Taj Mahal diamond, a gift from Burton for Taylor’s 40th birthday and a Van Cleef & Arpels ruby-and-diamond ring he gave her in 1968 for Christmas.
The auction will continue today, where eager bidders can snap up Taylor’s haute couture, including the gowns from her two weddings to Burton.