Elizabeth Taylor’s Sapphire Earrings Return to Auction

Elizabeth Taylor Auction December 2011

I remember the day I went to see the Elizabeth Taylor Collection at Christie’s in New York. I made plans to see the collection on Friday December 9th. I waited in line as the auction house had the sidewalk lined up with people waiting in the cold to see this famous collection and remember the woman who was their guardian. I had to make plans over a month in advance. I usually wait to buy a ticket to NYC the night before I decide to leave, however this was an auction I have never experienced before and probably never will again.

It was unique for several reasons one being the history behind each piece, the second the amount of fine jewelry owned by one person and finally the fact I had to pay to attend an auction preview! Yes for those that did not see the Elizabeth Taylor Collection, you had to pay $30 plus tax AND…pick a time to reserve for your spot to see this collection. I have a piece of the email confirming my ticket below.

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I signed up for a Christie’s account at the end of October so that on November 5 of 2011 I could be the 3rd transaction of thousands that would see this jewelry. Parts of the collection traveled around the US until it reached its final place which was Christie’s at Rockefeller Plaza.

It was an exciting day, as I mentioned above people were waiting in line for a turn to look at these amazing jewels. I had never seen so many fur coats in one place. The crowd was older but they were still awestruck at the wealth, beauty and lifestyle that was Elizabeth Taylor!

The Christie’s windows were dedicated to Elizabeth and her jewels. A shot below.

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The First-Time I saw the Earrings

My time was called and I entered to find the jewels surround by glass with photos and stories of their role in Taylor’s life at every turn. The surround by glass is no surprise for an auction preview but there was no Christie’s assistant at any displays to let anyone try the gems on. The assistants were only at registers or walking to make sure everyone was where they should be. That was my only complaint for that day. Everything else was perfect the jewels were at times a bit gaudy for my taste were well crafted with the finest materials.

One item I truly loved were a pair of Sapphire Van Cleef and Arpel earrings. They have a mystery setting and were made in the 1980’s. They had that almost too over the top look, but the color was too beautiful not to go back a few more times to admire. I was also hoping maybe someone from Christie’s would walk by and let me get a closer look. I can still picture them suspended in the case. They were estimated to sell for $150,000-$200,000 and sold for $338,500!

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Now, imagine my delight when I looked last month at the upcoming Christie’s auction and saw that these earrings were back on the auction block! The estimate now is $220,000-$300,000. I believe they will make that estimate if not exceed it. This is an item to watch but on Saturday when Christie’s had its preview I went with a goal to try them on.

Elizabeth-Taylor-Sapphire-Earrings

The set up was a little different from the past the earrings were in a salon like setting and placed in a window. I had another fabulous blogger with me Jill from Everything Just So join me to see if we could try on the famed earrings. With luck the crowd had died down and we did get a chance to wear the earrings. They looked over the top at first but on they are light weight with a subtle sparkle from the sapphires.

There is an inspired version selling on QVC to benefit the Elizabeth Taylor Trust. The link is here if you are interested.

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They are also featured in My Love Affair with Jewelry by Elizabeth Taylor

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Getting a Second Chance

I was fortunate enough to make my bus on time to get to New York and to Christie’s where I was greeted by Jill from Everything Just So and her daughter. I saw the earrings displayed like a shop window display and proceeded to enter and ask if we could try on the earrings. Handling jewelry this expensive can be daunting but I had seen the earrings so much and wanted to wear them so badly that having the chance was a relief and so fun! See below!

Elizabeth-Taylor-Sapphire-Earrings

 

The drops are removable but I was not going to push my luck on seeing them like that, besides the mystery setting sapphire drops are part of the glamour. My favorite color is blue if you couldn’t tell from my blue top. I can’t describe enough how amazing these earrings are and how great I felt wearing them for the brief time I had.

Wearing-elizabeth-taylor-sapphire-earrings

I also felt like trying the jewelry on was part of the joy Elizabeth got from her jewels. The stories I heard from online accounts, QVC and personal acquaintances was she was generous in letting others try on her jewelry. I finally had to take them off so that they could be put up and the assistant could help another person looking to try on a piece. The memory will stay with me forever and maybe I’ll get a chance to see them again!  Come back for more stories about jewelry as I focus this month on Elizabeth Taylor the movie star, business woman and jewelry collector extraordinaire! Thank you for reading if you have a story or comment or have tried on some of Ms. Taylor’s jewelry I would love to hear about it!

Cartier Mansion: My Views Inside and Why a Second Visit is Needed

If you have seen Hitchcock’s, To Catch a Thief, starring Grace Kelly and Cary Grant then you are familiar with the fireworks scene. Grace Kelley’s character is trying to seduce Grant’s character a retired jewel thief into taking up his life of former crime by tempting him with her diamond necklace.

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They are both alone watching the fireworks when she turns off the light and starts going into great detail about the excitement he has given up, at least to her. Grant’s character is not buying her act.

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She sits on a desk slightly leaning back so that all you can see is her necklace shimmering as she continues to tempt Grant. She goes up to him this time describing the necklace in vivid details you can almost feel as though you can touch it.

kelly-grant-to-catch-a-thief-3Kelly moves to the couch and Grant follows. Now insistent on catching her thief, him she puts the necklace in his hand.

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Hitchcock is known for his surprises and dialogue with double meanings. Grant’s character feels the necklace then states: ‘You know as well as I do, this necklace is imitation.’ Not missing her moment Kelly responds: ‘Well I’m not’. Hitchcock then cuts in and out from the two kissing to fireworks for the audience to draw its own conclusions.

Why start off the introduction to the Cartier Mansion with Grace Kelly? For those not following the mansion’s renovations, there is a room dedicated to Grace Kelly that will display the engagement jewelry. I choose the scene from To Catch a Thief and not High Society for two reasons. One this is one of my favorite movies with Grace Kelly (the direction Hitchcock gave really brought out Grace Kelly’s talent) and the second this is the time she meets Prince Rainer of Monaco. He was in Cannes as she was finishing up to Catch a Thief.  So on to the mansion experience…

The Cartier Mansion had been under renovation for over 2 years and was to be completed in the summer but was pushed to September. The grand opening brought in a lot of celebrities and press. Googling Cartier mansion in the news will bring in lots of blogs and news articles. I know I went through several articles trying to get glimpses into the mansion and jewels.I also asked about it when the CEO of the American branch of Cartier came to speak at a Harvard Conference I attended and I wrote a post on. There are 4 floors of the mansion and I had a time limit in New York, I took a bus from Boston and made it a day trip. So this post will only cover the first 2 floors because there was a lot to see and I want to follow up later on how this helps Cartier for their holiday season. Before we go into the mansion you had to see the outside of it.

I came up to groups gathered at the windows trying to see all the jewels and watch the display playing continuously. One group I came upon had several young girls hanging out.

girls-looking-at-cartier-windowThe outside felt almost like a toy shop. There were amazing rings, necklaces, bracelets, etc. (see below)cartier-window-display-necklaces

Some were on a standard display but in each window surrounding the store was a small replica mansion complete with windows that opened to reveal a red box that opened with a jeweled surprise. The box closed went back into the window and another box would come out of another window with a different jewel. It felt like a cuckoo clock only without the chimes. (see below)

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The different surprises…

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So I spent some time just admiring the outside display. I then proceeded inside with a red t-shirt, jeans and sneakers not exactly dressed for a visit to a mansion but the doors opened and I was greeted politely and warmly. A staff member handed me a card mapping out the floors and what each place had. I think it is useful to share:

cartier-floor-directory

I looked around for a few minutes on the first floor taking a few photos but quickly went up to see the two rooms I was most interested in, the Princess Grace room and the Elizabeth Taylor room. The Princess Grace room was light and airy, filled with cases of diamonds and in the cases around the room more diamonds and pearl jewelry. The walls had a few photos of Grace Kelly and the smaller rooms to the side had stills of her movie High Society where she wore her over 10 carat diamond Cartier engagement ring.

grace-kelly-high-society-pool-scene

In a case across the room a small display of jewelry owned by Grace Kelly can be viewed until early October. I took my time to take in the thrill of seeing these items. It was very generous of Monaco to loan these items to Cartier to share with the public.

princess-grace-jewelry-display

Below each piece was a description. I got the description for the ring and necklace but the photo for the watch description did not come out as well so I only had a title and time.

princess-grace-jewelry-display-closeup

I found it interesting that the dates on all the items except the ring date to before she married the prince. The necklace dates to 1953 so she picked and paid for it herself. She was a client of Cartier before being married.

So I then crossed the hall with another display of diamonds that had a small side room for stationary, and reached the Elizabeth Taylor room. The room was filled with candid stills from her home movie of receiving the set of Cartier rubies from Mike Todd, the ones Elizabeth famously wore in the pool. There was also a drawing on the right when you entered of the ruby necklace on Taylor. The side room I looked in had drawings of Cartier designed jewelry like the necklace she commissioned Cartier to design around the famous Peregrina Pearl.

elizabeth-taylor-room-cartier

The jewelry in the cases had a variety of colored stones, in contrast to the primarily white diamonds in Kelly’s area. Around the room where amazing works of jewelry in stand alone glass cases. I will share one below but I could not take too many photos.

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This is the last jewelry photo I took. A staff member by the door informed me that photos of jewelry in the cases was not allowed. I didn’t argue or act unpleasant I just put my phone away and looked a bit more down stairs. Now I had been taking photos downstairs before I was told there was an issue so I’ll share them with you to finish the story. That opal piece above was just the tip of the iceberg. When you walked down to the first floor the room to your left held the high jewellery. There were snakes, panthers, birds made with stones in all kinds of colors.

cartier-inside-necklace-display

The Cartier Mansion still felt like someone could live in it. It didn’t feel exclusive. I felt I could have bought something with ease, there was no intimidation for me in the store. A little sad I couldn’t afford any jewelry but that is how it is for now. One other nice thing I noticed on the first floor in the room closest to the main entrance some of the more affordable jewels had the prices listed next to the item. I have been a big fan of transparency with jewelry stores. I hate having to waste a clerk’s time asking for prices as I try and decide on an item. In keeping time with my schedule to catch a bus to return to my apartment I moved on but am resolved to return for more. I still have floors 3 and 4 to visit. Because as Kelly’s character put it to Grant she is no imitation and neither is this amazing experience. The Cartier Mansion is no longer just a store but a destination that can easily be for some a home away from home! Return soon for more from Data in the Rough! And please let me know in the comments if you have seen the new Cartier Mansion or have a favorite Grace Kelly movie!

Hidden Treasures of the Romanovs

Cover

Conspiracy theories, revolts, grandeur, murder and cover ups are only the start to describe a book that explains how some of the Russian family jewels were saved! It is a relatively short book of 143 pages of text, the drawback at first glance is the few photos and even fewer colored photos in this book. The way the book started out also caused some early doubts about how good the book would be. I didn’t really have any set notions about how the story should go but the intro talking about the unmarked grave in Paris of a man I never heard of in all my reading on Russian Royal History caught me off guard. The photo of him (only one that seems to be publicly available) seemed a bit spooky. (Note: The photographer of the photo below is Cecil Bateman which was a name I know).

Albert_photo_gemIf I had not loved the jewelry of the Russian Royal Family (specifically Faberge) I might not have continued on. That would have been a mistake. The man in the picture above is Albert Stopford, born in England to a family of modest means. Albert left to pursue a job selling jewelry of Cartier and Faberge at his shop in London. There he got to be involved with the high society of London. When World War I was starting his connections soon put him in a position to spy for the Allies and members of the Royal family to see what was the state of the war front. The major contact that is important for this story is Albert’s connection to Grand Duchess Vladmir aka Maria Pavlovna (pictured below). Maria was married to the Czar Nicholas’ Uncle, Vladmir.

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For those that do not know the history of the Russian Revolution it is worth taking a deeper look into. The book describes life in Russia for Albert as he watches what is happening to the Czar and the Russian people. I want to just focus mainly on the two chapters in the book about saving the jewels and the fate of the jewels once recovered. The Russian royalty was under strict watch and subjected to searches of their living quarters in hopes of finding jewels and other valuables. Maria was not located in the place that housed her jewels, so she got help from her sons, other royal relatives and Albert to sneak back in and claim her jewels.  In the meantime, her sister the former Queen Alexandra,(her husband King Edward was dead at this time),  got her son King George (current Queen Elizabeth’s Grandfather) to help get his  Aunt out of the country to save her from a soon to be death. Sneaking back into the palace was no easy task, it was guarded and watched by outsiders. A story in the book told of a royal family member hearing of their palace getting ransacked because the maid forgot to turn off the lights when she left the palace that evening and suspicions were raised about who was in there. Once the men snuck past the guards, Maria’s details of where they could find her jewels was perfectly described.  This made it easy for the men to locate where they should be and thankfully were found untouched. Albert and the group wrapped up the jewels in newspaper and placed them into Albert’s two Gladstone bags. I found a photo of what a Gladstone bag for a gentleman in the early 1900’s would look like. (below)

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Maria is not reunited with her jewels until she gets to London, much later. Albert puts them in a London bank vault until she is safe and able to deal with them. Albert also does not do this for money but out of a sense of friendship and duty.

With the end of the Russian Royal family it also marked an era of amazing wealth and glamorous social scene. I want to share an except from the book talking about Maria’s jewels and how she enjoyed them. The first account is by Consuela Vanderbilt who visited Maria Pavlovna at Saint Petersburg : ‘She [Maria]  had a majestic personality, but could be both gracious and charming. After dinner she showed me her jewels set out in glass cases in her dressing room. There were endless parures of diamonds, emeralds, rubies and pearls to say nothing of semi-precious stones such as turquoises, tourmalines, cat’s eyes and aquamarines.’  What a night that would be! It seems Russian etiquette called for the hostess show off her jewels to honored female guests. Not what would be called tasteful by others but I would be ok with seeing jewelry at a dinner party!

The other account of Maria and her jewels describes her relationship with her granddaughters. ‘The glass cases were set into four corners of her dressing-room, with red stones (rubies), blue (sapphires), green (emeralds), and white (pearls) in each corner, giving the room an almost octagonal appearance. Her grandchildren remembered their visits as small girls to the Vladimir Palace, and especially the inner sanctum of their grandmother’s dressing-room. To amuse the girls Maria would often invite them to choose what jewels she should wear for her next formal occasion. Red, perhaps? Or blue, green, or white? Olga, the eldest [granddaughter], usually made the final choice.’ Sounds like a typical day spent with a grandmother, lots of fun and laughter playing with grandma’s treasures!

So what became of these jewels? The Russian royals were left with little more than the clothes they came with. Maria needed to sell many of her jewels to continue to live a comfortable lifestyle. Many jewels were discreetly sold to other members of Europe’s royal family, but most were sold far below there true value. An example of a jewel that stayed within a royal family is the Diamond and Pearl Vladimir Tiara, a favorite of Maria’s.

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You can see on the far left, in the photo above,Maria is wearing the tiara which was purchased later by Queen Mary who was Queen Elizabeth’s grandmother and passed this crown onto her.

Another look at the tiara worn by Queen Elizabeth (below) shows it missing its pearl drops.

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Queen Mary had a set of Emerald drops made that could be interchanged with the pearls or just plain as shown. It is nice to have options right? A close up of the tiara with both pearls and emeralds (below).

Pearl_tiara_emeralds

Which look do you like better?

Another jewel that went through a few hands was a set of emeralds. Maria is shown wearing them in a head dress (I got a close up and colored in the emeralds green to highlight), that was converted into an emerald necklace. Remember that center stone with the six sides, in the next set of photos.

EmeraldOwners_1

The next owner was Van Cleef & Arpels that sold them to heiress, Barbara Hutton. She had them as a necklace and then converted them into the iconic tiara that is shown on her. It was also shown in my last review of Famous Jewelry Collectors. You can read more on that transaction through this Sotheby’s article.

Hutton’s emerald’s were then sold again and used in a set of jewelry by Bulgaria that was bought and famously worn by none other than Elizabeth Taylor!

EmeraldOwners_2

I remembered the name of her jewelry being called the Grand Duchess Vladimir Suite in some articles and saw that many of these emeralds were indeed from Maria’s collection. Bulgari bought back the collection when Dame Elizabeth’s jewels hit the auction block in 2011.

A photo combining the British royalty and Hollywood royalty was found online from the later 1970’s when Taylor was married to Senator John Warner. I like seeing the jewels out and enjoyed!

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My Final Thoughts

Albert Stopford’s sacrifices to help save these treasures are still being appreciated today even if many are unaware of his story. I highly recommend this book. It does jump around at the beginning trying to establish different characters stories but it all ties up as the revolution plays out. With the recent world events there were some passages about the people over throwing the ruling family and the struggles of surviving in this paranoid, desolate and divided society  as a product of the revolution that had some difficulty for me to focus on the history and not see some current parallels to the modern day current events. That makes this book all the more necessary to read, so history is learned from the past and not repeated! Check back soon for more book bling!

 

Hearts on Auction

In honor of Valentine’s Day I have put together a few heart shaped jewelry items that were on the auction block. I am looking at items sold by Skinner Auction House in Boston, Sotheby’s, and Christies. All of them are beautiful, a few have some interesting history and one has created a scandal that will put it back in the auction house once again!

 

Skinner Auction House:

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An 18kt Gold, Ruby, and Diamond Pendant sold in 2015 at the Fine Jewelry Auction for $1,230.

 

Skinner_121_12_2015_1An Antique 14kt Gold and Pink Tourmaline Necklace sold in 2015 at the Fine Jewelry Auction for $9,840.

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Important Diamond sold in 2015 at the Fine Jewelry Auction for $3,947,000.

Note: I saw this in person, my photo on the right it was so valuable that it was not taken out for the public viewing. A bidder needed to be preregister and cleared by the accounting department in order to place a bid! This diamond was named important due to the area it was mined from which was believed to be in the area of the Golconda mines. This diamond had been in the collection of a prominent British American family who originally acquired this diamond around the 1880’s/1890’s. You can see in the photo on the right the ring is mounted in a setting. That is a platinum setting by Harry Winston. Total weight 31.25cts.

 

Sotheby’s Auction House:

Sothebys_339_12_2015_1Gold, Platinum and Diamond Bracelet sold for $22,500 in Magnificent Jewels Auction, 2015

Sothebys_5_12_2015_1Pair of Gold, Wood and Emerald Ear clips by Daniel Brush sold for $11,250 in Magnificent Jewels Auction, 2015

 

Sothebys_145_12_2015_118 Karat Two-Color Gold, Faint Pink Diamond, Colored Diamond and Diamond Ring, no final bid price listed from the Magnificent Jewels Auction, 2015

 

Sothebys_1327_12_2015_HK_1Tanzanite and Diamond Pendant Necklace, no final bid price listed from the Fine Jewels and Jadeite Auction, 2015

Note: Does this remind you of Rose’s Heart of the Ocean necklace from Titanic?

 

Christie’s Auction House:

Flato_04_14_14The Millicent Rogers Heart: A Ruby, Sapphire, Colored Diamond and Enamel Brooch by Paul Flato sold at the Magnificent Jewels Auction in 2015 for $425,000.

Note: Millicent Rogers (1902-1953) was a socialite and fashion icon that influenced several designers in her day and continues to inspire current designers in their collections. Verbum Carro is a Latin phrase that translates to ‘A word to my dear one’.

 

19c_sapphire_brooch_4_14_15_christiesA late 19th / early 20th century diamond and sapphire brooch sold at the London Jewellery Auction in 2015 for $4,401.

 

DE GRISOGONO_11_11_14_christiesA Pair of Diamond, Colored Diamond, Ruby, and Emerald Ear Pendants by De Grisogono sold at the Geneva Magnificent Jewels Auction in 2014 for $ 290,924.

 

ETaylor_taj_blogThe Taj Mahal, An Indian Diamond and Jade Pendant Necklace with Ruby and Gold Chain (chain by Cartier) owned by Elizabeth Taylor and Auctioned off at the Legendary Jewels Evening Sale in 2011.

It is no surprise to see something related to Miss Taylor back in the news. This piece was a gift from Richard Burton who famously stated, ‘I would have liked to buy her the Taj-Mahal but it would cost too much to transport.’ All items for the Taylor Jewelry Auction far surpassed their estimates. This item sold for $8,818,500, the second highest price paid for that auction. The Peregrina, the famous Spanish pearl was the item with the highest price paid, $11,842,500. (Note: All final price come from the Christie’s sight on the Evening Sale) The Taj Diamond, like the Peregrina necklace, has a story and history attached to it.

The necklace belonged to the Shah Jahan who commissioned the Taj Mahal monument in Agra in India. This diamond was a gift to the wife the Shah Jahan built the Taj Mahal for. However, the dispute happened shortly after the auction ended, as the winning bidder has claimed that this diamond did not belong to Shah Jahan. The owner then sought to get their money back and return the gem. This reason for the long battle is since the proceeds of the charity went to the Elizabeth Taylor Foundation; the Foundation had to return the money, not the auction house. This December the dispute finally ended with the bidder returning the gem and getting their money back. Now the diamond is returning to auction on an undisclosed date. It will be interesting to see the story now attached to it. I hope that there will be a public viewing of this diamond. I saw this diamond in December 2011, the only auction preview I needed to reserve a ticket and wait in line. Regardless of its origin, this diamond is still associated with love. For more information on this diamond’s story, please click here.

I hope you have a Happy Valentine’s Day and I look forward to you returning soon for another blog post!