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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Actress Elizabeth Taylor's world-renowned collection of jewelry will be auctioned off in December at a two-day sale that is expected to realize more than $30 million, Christie's said Wednesday.
The December 13-14 sale will follow a global three-month tour that will also include Taylor's couture, fine art and memorabilia, and will be the first of a series of auctions from the estate of the legendary film star who died in March.
Some 269 diamonds, pearls, rubies, rings, necklaces and even a tiara will be sold, with several of the most valuable, and storied pieces tied to Taylor's lengthy and complicated relationship with Richard Burton, whom she married twice and divorced twice.
"This is without a doubt the greatest private collection of jewelry ever assembled in one place," said Christie's Americas chairman and president Marc Porter.
The collection includes everything "from her most jaw-dropping diamonds, gems and one-of-a-kind historic jewels to ... never-before-seen keepsakes," he said.
Leading the December 13 gala evening sale of 89 top lots is Taylor's iconic, 33.19-carat white diamond ring, a 1968 gift from Burton who purchased it at auction for $300,000.
The trustees of Taylor's estate have renamed it The Elizabeth Taylor Diamond, and it is estimated to fetch $2.5 million to $3.5 million.
But prices for items from the collections of other famous people ranging from Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Marilyn Monroe to the Duke and Duchess of Windsor have soared to many times their pre-sale estimates.
Taylor's fame, as well as her eye for quality are expected to drive interest, and boost prices.
"It is her depth of knowledge about fine jewelry that truly impresses," Christie's' international jewelry director Francois Curiel said. "It was clear that she possessed an expert's eye for craftsmanship, rarity, quality and history. She collected the best pieces from the best periods."
Among the most historic pieces is a 203-grain (equivalent to 55 carat) pear-shaped 14th-century pearl once owned by England's Mary Tudor, and later passed on to Spanish queens Margarita and Isabel.
Burton bought it in 1969 at auction for $37,000, and Taylor commissioned Cartier to design a new ruby-and-diamond necklace mount. It is estimated to sell for $2 million to $3 million.
At the other end of the spectrum, bidders will have a chance at Taylor's two, diamond-set wedding bands from her marriages to Burton, estimated at only $6,000 to $8,000.
From Mike Todd, another of Taylor's seven husbands, there is an antique diamond tiara which the star wore to the 1957 Academy Awards at which Todd's "Around the World in 80 Days" won best picture. It is estimated at $60,000 to $80,000.
Taylor's estate was valued at anywhere from $500 million to $1 billion at the time of her death from congestive heart failure on March 23, age 79.
In keeping with Taylor's humanitarian work, a portion of the proceeds from exhibitions, events and publications related to the auction will be donated to The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, which the actress founded in 1991.
The series of Taylor sales are individually devoted to jewelry, haute couture, fashion and accessories, decorative arts and memorabilia from Taylor's Bel Air home, and Impressionist and modern art.
The New York sales will be preceded by a 10-day exhibition of her collection beginning on December 3. The world tour starts in Moscow on September 15.
Writing, reporting by Chris Michaud; editing by Bob Tourtellotte