Viv Groskop: How Liz Taylor put her jewellery to work

Notebook

Share
Related Topics

Reports of the auction of Elizabeth Taylor's estate this week all focus on the idea that the baubles, trinkets and voluminous silk kaftans "tell the story of her life and loves". And, of course, they do. The dozens of breathtaking jewels are a testament to her captivating beauty as a young woman, one any man would bankrupt himself for. Elizabeth Taylor was not someone who could be fobbed off with a Tiffany key ring.

But the real story behind these geegaws appears to be a sad one. There were roomfuls of handbags which spoke of a world where it's almost depressing to be able to afford absolutely anything you want. Because nothing actually means that much to you. The Louis Vuitton luggage collection was laugh-out-loud ridiculous: she owned every single piece. But the designer kaftans were the most poignant. At least when you're wealthy you can really put on weight in style.

Ultimately, most of these items have no genuine meaning, it turns out. The auction bidders want them because huge gems and carats have monetary worth. And all the more so because they belonged to Elizabeth Taylor. But their sentimental value is zero. And after a life like Taylor's – of highs, lows, grand passions and betrayals – that seems extraordinary.

How bizarre, for example, that there is no one left who wants to keep the legendary Richard Burton ring, which went for $8.8 million. Taylor had four children (none by Richard Burton, though), 10 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. We can't know why none of them kept back that ring – along with many other seemingly emotionally significant pieces.

Reading between the lines, though, it's obvious it was Taylor's own wish that all this stuff be sold off. "I never, never thought of my jewellery as trophies," she once said. "I'm here to take care of them and to love them. When I die and they go off to auction I hope whoever buys them gives them a really good home." Part of the proceeds of this week's auction will go to her Aids foundation.

So that's Taylor's real legacy. One of a woman who had her feet firmly on the ground. She knew that once she was gone, the money the jewels would raise for charity would be more meaningful than anything the pieces themselves ever stood for. Good on her. Except I can't help thinking she didn't mean the Burton ring. It was 33.29 carats! Somewhere in heaven violet eyes are flashing. Anyone want to club together and buy it back for her?

The pleasures of scorn

December brings an avalanche of reading recommendations and lists of books of the year. I scour them avidly for evidence of brown-nosing and intellectual showy-offiness. But if anyone includes a book I have enjoyed then I think they are a genius and that their recommendations must be treated with reverence.

Annoyingly, almost every list this year has Daniel Kahneman's Thinking, Fast and Slow, a brilliant work which does for the thought process what Malcolm Gladwell did for blinking. It's simply one of the best books I've ever read. It has also been talked up as The Book of 2011. And rightly so.

But when everyone agrees with you, it doesn't half take away the fun of scorning their rubbish recommendations.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£28000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer and Markets Development Executive

£22000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company's mission is to ma...

Recruitment Genius: Guest Services Assistant

£13832 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This 5 star leisure destination on the w...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Account Manager

£20000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Account Manager is requ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Seven per cent of young men have recently stopped using deodorant  

‘Sweaty-gate’ leaves a bad smell for PRs and journalists

Danny Rogers
Alison Parker and Adam Ward: best remembered before tragedy  

The only way is ethics: Graphic portraits of TV killings would upset many, not just our readers in the US

Will Gore
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory