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Liz Taylor couture sells at auction for $2.6 million

The late actress Elizabeth Taylor's clothing, jewels and paintings continue to sell at auction, setting records for Christie's house, with some items going for as much as ten times expected prices.
/ Source: TODAY news services

One of actress Elizabeth Taylor's Dior evening gowns sold for $362,500, boosting the total for the auction of her haute couture to $2.6 million at Christie's.

The silver encrusted brocade gown from 1968, with matching bag, had been estimated at about $5,000, but a protracted bidding war among several determined would-be buyers drove the price to about 70 times that, including commission.

The Wednesday sale, the third in a weeks' worth of auctions of Taylor's storied jewels, clothes, memorabilia and other items, was not marked by the freewheeling frenzy that prevailed on Tuesday, when her finest jewelry took in nearly $116 million.

But the $2.6 million was still about 10 times the pre-sale estimate, owing to the Taylor cachet and also driven by competitive online bidding from around the globe.

Christie's said the sale set a record for a couture auction, although the evening's top lot was actually an Andy Warhol lithograph of Taylor which fetched $662,500.

The painting was included in Christie's auction house sale Wednesday of jewelry and other items from the collection of the late actress, who starred in "National Velvet" and "Cleopatra." A wedding dress worn at her second marriage to Richard Burton sold for over $62,000.

"The couture was an extremely successful auction," said Andrea Fiuczynski, president of Christie's Los Angeles, who served as auctioneer.

The results, she said, were a testament to Taylor's iconic status, which she said is unmatched today.

"There isn't any celebrity now who does everything she did," Fiuczynski told Reuters, speaking to Taylor's work as an actress, activist, humanitarian, savvy businesswoman and style icon.

Taylor died of congestive heart failure in March at age 79.

With two Academy Awards, eight marriages and a long history of AIDS activism, Elizabeth Taylor was a Hollywood icon.

Two other offerings soared past $100,000 — a Chanel ball gown and cape with shoes and matching bag, which fetched $134,500; and a Versace beaded bolero jacket emblazoned with images of Taylor in her film roles, which sold for $128,500.

A few pieces of jewelry included in the sale also commanded strong prices, notably a fish charm necklace estimated at $500 which sold for $30,000 and a pair of rock crystal and gold Gucci ear pendants, which went for $74,500 against an estimate of $1,500.

The jewelry portion of the auction fetched over $137 million. Highlights were $11.8 million for a pearl necklace and more than $8.8 million for a diamond ring given to her by Burton. Prices include the buyer's premium.

The Taylor auctions continue on Thursday with a memorabilia and fine arts sale. Online auctions of some 1,000 lower-priced items from Taylor's estate are running concurrently, and end Saturday.