Elizabeth Taylor jewellery auction fetches $116m

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Media caption,

La Peregrina sold for a record $10.5m before auction fees were added

A collection of jewels owned by the late Dame Elizabeth Taylor has fetched $116m (£74.9m) at a New York auction.

Christie's sale of 80 items had been estimated to raise about $20m (£13m), but took more than double the record for a single collection.

The highlight was a necklace featuring a 16th Century pearl which sold for $11.8m (£7.6m), a record for the gem.

The actress' famous 33.19-carat diamond ring, given to her by Richard Burton, also sold for $8.8m (£5.7m).

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

Burton, who married Dame Elizabeth twice, bought the pearl in 1969 at auction for $37,000 (£23,800).

It was once owned by Mary Tudor and later by Spanish queens Margarita and Isabel.

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

Image caption,
Dame Elizabeth Taylor was known for her love of diamonds

It had been estimated to sell for $2 million (£1.3m) - $3 million (£1.9m), but surpassed the previous auction record for a pearl, set in 2007 with the sale of The Baroda Pearls for $7.1m (£4.6m).

The BBC's Laura Trevelyan, who was at the auction house, said applause broke out as the bidding passed $10m (£6.4m).

The first lot to be auctioned, a gold and gem bracelet valued at up to $35,000 (£22,500), sold for $270,000 (£174,000).

Minutes later an ivory and gold necklace fetched more than 100 times its estimate of $1,500 (£967) - $2,000 (£1,300), selling for $314,500 (£203,000).

One buyer also paid $600,000 (£387,000) for a diamond and sapphire ring given to the actress by her close friend Michael Jackson.

Other highlights included the Taj Mahal diamond, another gift from Burton marking Dame Elizabeth's 40th birthday, which sold for $8.8m (£5.7m), a record for an Indian jewel.

The per-carat record for a ruby was also broken by Burton's Van Cleef & Arpels ruby and diamond ring, a 1968 Christmas gift.

Another record, for a tiara, fell when the actress' third husband Mike Todd's 1957 gift to Taylor sold for $4.2 million (£2.7 million) - about six times its estimate.

Christie's Marc Porter said the auction was "one of the most extraordinary sales" they had ever held, calling it "a testament to the love of Elizabeth Taylor worldwide".

The sale will continue on Wednesday when Dame Eizabeth's haute couture, including the dresses from her two weddings to Burton, will be sold.

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

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

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