Liz Taylor’s 33-Carat Diamond, Van Gogh Top $50 Million Auction

"Vue de l'Asile et de la Chapelle de Saint-Remy" by Vincent van Gogh. The 1889 painting was part of the collection of Elizabeth Taylor and sold in London for 10.1 million pounds ($16 million) with fees. Source: Christie's Images via Bloomberg

A 33-carat diamond and a Van Gogh painting will be among top lots in auctions that may raise more than $50 million for the estate of Elizabeth Taylor.

Christie’s International announced the contents of the New York and London sales yesterday as it put on show some of the 1,000 lots of jewelry, couture and art formerly owned by the Oscar-winning actress and philanthropist. Taylor died in March, aged 79. Bloomberg reported in April that a sale was planned.

The star of “Cleopatra,” “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” made more than 50 movies and was married eight times. She was an inveterate collector and wearer of jewels.

The 33.19-carat emerald-cut diamond was a gift from Richard Burton, whom she married twice. Burton bought the piece at Sotheby’s, New York, in May 1968 for $305,000, then an auction record for such a ring. The stone, worn by Taylor on an almost-daily basis, will reappear at Christie’s Rockefeller Plaza rooms priced at $2.5 million to $3 million on Dec. 13. The two-day sale of Taylor’s jewels is valued at $30 million.

A necklace incorporating a pear-shaped 203-grain pearl known as “La Peregrina” -- formerly part of the crown jewels of Spain -- was another Burton gift. It is valued at $2 million to $3 million.

The exhibition runs from today to Sept. 26 at Christie’s in London. The show, comprising more than 100 pieces, continues on a world tour to Los Angeles, Dubai, Geneva, Paris, Hong Kong and New York. Visitors to the London preview will be charged 10 pounds and the boxed five-volume catalog costs $300. A portion of these proceeds will be donated to the Elizabeth Taylor Aids Foundation (ETAF), the auction house said in an e-mailed statement.

Landscape Claim

Taylor was the daughter of an art dealer, who championed the work of Augustus John in the U.S. He bought Van Gogh’s 1889 landscape “Vue de l’Asile et de la Chapelle de Saint-Remy” for his daughter for 92,000 pounds at Sotheby’s London in 1963. The painting subsequently became the subject of a restitution claim that was rejected by a U.S. appeals court in 2007.

The intensely rendered canvas -- one of 17 artworks in the preview -- is now valued at 5 million pounds to 7 million pounds. Christie’s will include Taylor’s most valuable paintings in its London series of Impressionist and Modern art auctions on Feb. 7-8, 2012.

Her couture, costume, decorative arts and memorabilia will be sold in New York on Dec. 14-16. Additional lower-value items, including costume jewelry, will be offered online at from Dec. 3-17.

The preview also includes a Chanel ballgown that Taylor wore to the Royal Film Performance of “The Taming of the Shrew” and a Tiziani black velvet evening cape the star commissioned for Princess Grace of Monaco’s 40th birthday “Scorpio Ball.” These have minimum values of $6,000 and $2,000.

(Scott Reyburn writes about the art market for Muse, the arts and culture section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)

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