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

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Administrator

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a security software com...

Recruitment Genius: Telemarketing / Sales Co-ordinator - OTE £25,000+

£10000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This provider of staffing and r...

Recruitment Genius: Kitchen Porter

£19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the four inns of Court is seeking...

Recruitment Genius: Chef De Partie

£20000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the four inns of Court i...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A memorial to the1982 war between Great Britain and Argentina in Buenos Aires  

Argentina poses no military threat to the Malvinas Islands. So why is the UK ratcheting up tension?

Alicia Castro
 

Daily catch-up: religion, politics and roads named after dictators

John Rentoul
War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?