Thursday, April 11, 2019

Breathtaking Jewels, Elizabeth Taylor, Wallace Simpson, Christie’s Auction - A Closer Look

Sapphire and Diamond Ring, The octagonal step-cut sapphire is
 50.55 carats, surrounded with baguette-cut diamonds.

"...the sight of Wallis' 206-carat sapphire pendant would have sent me straight to the bar..." ( shows readers a few of the jewels Christie's will auction in New York, with mention of special jewels owned by Wallace Simpson and Elizabeth Taylor.)

Breathtaking Jewels, Elizabeth Taylor, Wallace Simpson, Christie’s Auction - A Closer Look

Admittedly, I’ve never owned “Big” jewels, for me they’re simply unaffordable. But that doesn’t stop me from gawking at them whenever I have the opportunity. Frequently when traveling, I stroll into posh jewelry shops solely to look at fine jewels. Athens is a comfortable place to do that, sales staff tend to be welcoming. Rome is OK. In Paris on the other hand, you might encounter condescending scrutiny. Although that rarely stopped me. The fact is, I’m drawn to these objects’ exquisite beauty and craftsmanship.

I’m particularly intrigued by ultra-fine jewels that are owned by famous women. There is always a fascinating underlying story. Consider for instance Elizabeth Taylor’s possession of “La Peregrina,” a gift from Richard Burton.

Even if he was sloshed a great deal of the time, Burton was no dummy, he clearly understood the significance of owning the world’s most famous natural pearl, once worn by Spanish King Philip II’s wife Mary I of England, seen in her 1554 portrait. Philip III’s wife Margaret of Austria wore the pearl, and so did Philip IV’s two wives, Elisabeth of France and Mariana of Austria, their portraits with the pearl painted by Velazquez. In 1625, Rubens also painted Elisabeth of France wearing the pearl.

Among the royals who possessed the pearl was Napoleon III of France, although he was self-proclaimed royalty. In 1852 the Corsican Napoleon declared himself Emperor of France. His imperial gig ended though when he stupidly declared war on the Prussians, who clobbered him, which caused him to lose the bloody Empire. Forced into exile in England, Napoleon III naturally squirreled away some of the French crown jewels, including the famous pearl. Napoleon must have needed money, because he sold La Peregrina to an English Duke whose family flipped it at Sotheby’s Auction in 1969, from whom Burton snatched it for $37,000 to give to Elizabeth. After Taylor’s death in 2011, her estate sold the pearl at Christie’s in New York for $11.8 million.

The Duchess of Windsor banked a fortune in jewels, gifts from her besotted Duke. He tried but failed to hand Wallis the throne. So he compensated by giving her jewelry from the British Royal Collection. In 1987, Sotheby’s in Geneva sold Wallis’ hoard of over 300 sparkly objects, for $50 million, with Elizabeth Taylor phoning in from her home in Los Angeles to lasso a piece. Had I been at Sotheby's for the sale, the sight of Wallis' 206-carat sapphire pendant would have sent me straight to the bar. Auction buyers cheered like fans at a soccer game when the 19-carat emerald and diamond engagement ring Edward slipped Wallis at the time of his abdication sold for $1.98 million.

So you can understand why I find it fun to show readers a few jewels from Christie’s Auction’s up-coming Magnificent Jewels sale, to be held on April 16, 2019 in New York. 

Diamond Ring. $700,000 - $1 million. Rectangular-cut diamond
21.06 carats, circular-cut diamonds, platinum.

Pair of Diamond and Yellow Diamond Earrings. Deep yellow rectangular-cut
diamonds of 7.55 and 7.51 carats, pear and marquise-cut diamonds, 18K white gold.

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