NEW YORK — From the colorful, couture frocks worn during her two weddings with actor Richard Burton, to the dazzling ruby and diamond Cartier jewelry set, a gift from her third husband, film producer Mike Todd, "The Collection of Elizabeth Taylor" on display at Christie's auction house in New York tells a passionate story, spanning seven husbands and nearly five decades.
"(Through the collection) you can see that all the men were really, really fundamentally in love with her," said Orianne Collins, a jewelry designer and Taylor aficionado who hosted a preview of the exhibition Thursday before it opens to the public today.
Other tokens from admirers include jewelry and an autographed poster from Taylor's cherished friend, Michael Jackson. The 1987 print is signed "To my true love Elizabeth. I love you forever."
Patrons of the exhibition, which runs through Dec. 12, will certainly flock to one of Taylor's most prized possessions — a 33.19-carat, emerald cut diamond ring. The estimated worth of the gift Burton gave her in 1968 is $2.5 million to $3.5 million.
Thomas W. Burstein of Christie's said the only time the famous ring left Taylor's hand was when she offered it up to friends to try on. "She really had this notion that the jewelry should be shared and loved by everybody," he said.
One of the most precious items of the collection is a 16th century pear-shaped pearl, the centerpiece of a ruby and diamond necklace designed by Cartier and Taylor herself.
"This is such a rare piece. I compare it to the Hope diamond," Burstein said.
The necklace's estimated worth is $2 million to $3 million.
The exhibition is also a journey through Taylor's evolving fashion sense, from her glamorous red carpet gowns to a chorus line of colorful kaftans and a bevy of beaded Versace jackets. The second floor offers a look at Taylor's vibrant purse and shoe collection, a sea of gold Hermes bags, sequin Chanel clutches and satin Louboutins.
Meredith Etherington-Smith, curator of Taylor's fashion collection, called the exhibit a glimpse into Taylor's "tempestuous, fabulous, technicolor personality that epitomizes gutsy glamour."
The collection will be up for auction both live and online Dec. 13-17. Part of the proceeds will go to The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation. The beloved actress died March 23 at age 79.