Buyer beware: Taylor gems may take years to show profit

Tue Dec 20, 2011 8:48am EST
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By Jill Serjeant

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - If ever there was a sale that begged a "buyer beware" disclaimer, it may be last week's auction of Elizabeth Taylor jewelry, gowns and art that fetched more than 400 times experts' estimate for at least one item.

But for Taylor shoppers who collectively paid $157 million to acquire items once owned by the Hollywood legend and who, perhaps now, are suffering a severe case of buyer's remorse, experts say relax. In some cases, the investment may take years to pay off, but eventually should show a profit.

"Elizabeth Taylor's image, her outsize life, her husbands, the people she interacted with, are all part of major Hollywood folklore," said New York art lawyer Judith Bresler, author of "Art Law: A Guide for Collectors, Investors, Dealers and Artists".

"I definitely think she will endure and that this will be a very good investment. And on top of that, you can wear them. You can't do that with stocks," Bresler said.

Auctioneers Christie's ended the week-long auction last Saturday. The least expensive item -- one of the few that sold within its estimate -- was an Emilio Pucci two-piece outfit that went for $563. The most expensive was an $11.8 million pearl, ruby and diamond necklace that carried a pre-sale estimate of $2 million to $3 million.

Taylor's gems comprised $137 million of the total sales figure, and Christie's priced them on the value of the jewels alone. They hadn't fully accounted for "The Liz Factor," the actress's adoration by fans, her storied Hollywood career and globe-trotting life among the rich and powerful.

Yet to many celebrity memorabilia experts, the high prices were little surprise in a red hot market. They say Taylor, who died in March at 79, will rank with icons like Marilyn Monroe, John Lennon and Jacqueline Kennedy in years to come.

Even astronomical prices -- a 33.19-carat diamond ring from husband Richard Burton went for $8.8 million -- will likely hold up and increase again. It just may take years to happen.   Continued...