Burton-Taylor romance puts sparkle in diamonds auction

Mon Oct 10, 2011 6:09pm EDT
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By Jill Serjeant

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Diamonds may be a girl's best friend, but for Hollywood icon Elizabeth Taylor they were a lifelong passion that could now strike gold for the AIDS sufferers she championed.

Rubies, sapphires, emeralds and pearls -- many of them given to Taylor by her two-time husband Richard Burton during their stormy romance -- are among the 269 jewels up for auction in December following the death in March of the legendary film actress.

Some of the most jaw-dropping gems are now on an international tour ahead of the sale that auctioneer Christie's expects to bring in more than $30 million.

Another $20 million could be raised from some of Taylor's iconic gowns and film memorabilia. A portion of the proceeds from exhibitions, events and publications related to the auction will go to the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation that was started in 1991.

But what Christie's experts call "the Liz factor" -- the lore surrounding her glamorous Hollywood lifestyle -- could blow those pre-sale estimates sky high.

"This collection is unlike anything we have offered before. It is a window on Elizabeth Taylor's life," Christie's America chairman Marc Porter told reporters on Monday ahead of the four-day Los Angeles public exhibit.

Taylor's career spanned seven decades and included films such as "National Velvet," in which she starred as a teenager, as well as "Giant" and "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" which earned her an Academy Award for best actress.

In her personal life, Taylor's eight marriages, health problems and early advocacy for AIDS patients made her a larger than life figure and the epitome of Hollywood glamour.   Continued...

<p>A 33.19 carats diamond ring given to Elizabeth Taylor by her fifth husband Richard Burton is pictured at the press preview for Christie's auction of The Collection of Elizabeth Taylor featuring her jewelry, haute couture, fashion, and fine arts at MOCA Pacific Desgin Center in Los Angeles October 10, 2011. The diamond is expected to bring $2.5 to $3.5 million at the auction beginning December 13 in New York. REUTERS/Fred Prouser</p>