15 Dec 2011

Taylor's jewels sold for $US116m

11:19 am on 15 December 2011

A collection of jewels owned by the late Dame Elizabeth Taylor has fetched $US116 million at auction in New York.

Christie's sale of 80 items had been expected to raise about $20 million.

The highlight was a necklace featuring a 16th Century pearl which sold for $US11.8 million.

A famous 33.19 carat diamond ring, given to Dame Elizabeth by Richard Burton, also sold for $US8.8 million.

The pearl, known as La Peregrina, was bought by Burton in 1969 at auction for $US37,000.

It was once owned by Mary Tudor and later by Spanish queens Margarita and Isabel. It was part of the crown jewels of Spain and was painted by 17th Century artist Velazquez.

The actress commissioned Cartier to design a ruby-and-diamond necklace mount for the piece.

It had been estimated to sell for $US2 - $US3 million, but surpassed the previous auction record for a pearl, set in 2007.

The BBC reports applause broke out as the bidding passed $US10 million.

The first lot to be auctioned, a gold and gem bracelet sold for $US270,000.

Minutes later an ivory and gold necklace fetched more than 100 times its estimate, selling for $US314,500.

One buyer also paid $US600,000 for a diamond and sapphire ring given to the actress by Michael Jackson.

Other highlights included the Taj Mahal diamond, another gift from Burton marking Dame Elizabeth's 40th birthday, which sold for $US8.8 million.

The sale will continue on Wednesday. Part of the proceeds will go to The Elizabeth Taylor Aids Foundation, which she established in 1991.

Taylor died in Los Angeles in March at the age of 79. She was best known for National Velvet, Cleopatra and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?.