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14 Dec 2011

A collection of jewels owned by late actress Dame Elizabeth Taylor is being auctioned at Christie's in New York.

A necklace containing a huge 16th-Century pearl once worn by European royalty has sold for a record price of more than $11m (£7.1m).

Nearly 400 dresses the actress wore to premieres and movie awards will also go under the hammer as well as the 269 items of jewellery.

It has been estimated the four-day sale will fetch more than $30m.

The first lot to be auctioned, a gold and gem bracelet valued at up to $35,000, sold for $270,000.

One buyer paid $600,000 (£388,000) for a diamond and sapphire ring given to Taylor by her close friend, the late singer Michael Jackson.

The pearl, known as La Peregrina, has been depicted in artwork for centuries and was once painted by 17th-Century Spanish artist Velasquez.

Mounted on a diamond Cartier necklace, its selling price had been estimated as up to $3m but the bidding vastly exceeded that.

The BBC's Laura Trevelyan, at the auction house, said applause broke out as the bidding passed $10m.
'Distinctive style'

Still to come up for sale is the 33.19 carat diamond ring given to Taylor by her fifth husband Richard Burton in 1968 - it is expected to fetch up to $3.5m (£2.2m).

The two wedding bands she exchanged with the actor in 1964 and 1975, and a ruby and diamond ring he put in her Christmas stocking one year, are also to be auctioned off.

Before the sale began, Marc Porter, chairman and president of Christie's Americas, said: "Spanning over 50 years of fashion, this is a highly personal collection, every stitch of which is reflective of Elizabeth Taylor's sense of fashion and the development of her distinctive style."

A three-month tour, which began in September, has showcased some of the highlights of the sale.

Known for her love of diamonds, the actress owned some of the world's most expensive stones.

In 2003, she published a book entitled Elizabeth Taylor: My Love Affair with Jewelry.

Mr Porter said the sale would be the "greatest private collection ever assembled in one place".

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


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