Bettina's Take: Christie's Elizabeth Taylor Collection Preview Lunch

Elizabeth Taylor wardrobe Christie's

Glamorous, seductive, fearless, beautiful, brash, iconic: Elizabeth Taylor was a true movie star and a collector of exquisite jewelry, eclectic clothes and accessories worthy of a museum.

Her glorious cache is brilliantly displayed at Christie's through December 12, after which it will be sold and scattered around the world, with each piece's provenance forever guaranteed. The low estimate for the entire collection is $30 million, but it is widely expected to fetch a lot more. After all, who wouldn't want a little piece of Liz?

"She was the great jeweler collector of our time, both in terms of historic stones, and of contemporary jewelry makers," Marc Porter, Chairman of Christie's America, told me as we toured the exhibit. "Van Cleef & Arpels, Bulgari, Cartier, JAR—all the great makers are represented by the very best of their work."

"The fashion is a total explosion of color and quality," Porter continued. "It's built on a foundation of Christian Dior, for 40 or 50 years from the house, when Dior was there, all the way until the end when Galliano was designing. If you look at the fashions through the second half of the century, as soon as she left the studio system, she started buying her own clothing: Pucci, Dior, Valentino, Balenciaga, Tom Ford for Yves Saint Laurent, an incredible group by Michael Vollbracht, who designed the most extraordinary things you could imagine for the time when she was living in New York. It was when Warhol was here, and they were going to Studio 54. Then she started buying Chanel suits. From there she moved on to Scaasi, Adolfo, more Valentino, and finally an explosion of Versace ready to wear and couture."

Porter co-hosted a lunch with Orianne Collins, Chairman of OC Concept, for a first look at the sale. The glamorous guests included jewelry fans such as Caryn Zucker, Patty Smyth, Gillian Hearst Simonds, and Lesley Schulhof.

"To me, Elizabeth Taylor was an exceptional woman of timeless beauty and style who led an extraordinary life. I feel very honored to have the opportunity to host this lunch and preview of her personal collections in her memory," said Collins, a jewelry designer herself and owner of the OC concept store.

As we browsed the cases and racks, each one of us coveted at least one piece. How about the 33-carat D color diamond ring that Richard Burton gave Taylor in 1968? Or the Shah Jahan diamond he gave her because he couldn't give her the Taj Mahal? Or the emerald and diamond suite they amassed at Bulgari over time? Or the antique tiara that was a gift from Mike Todd? How did she figure out how to pick such generous husbands?

Friends also showered Taylor with gifts: Warhol gave her a Liz portrait (of course), Edith Head bequeathed a necklace made of opera tokens, and Malcolm Forbes gave her a deco ruby and diamond bracelet.

The big surprise for some was how, on the whole, the jewelry was more elegant than in-your-face bling, some of the clothes a little less so ('80s moments, anyone?), but you can be sure that every piece will be snapped up—this was a woman who understood workmanship.

Fiona Druckenmiller, a collector who sells beautiful jewelry, accessories and objects at her Fiona Druckenmiller store, was eyeing some very wearable diamond pieces.

"Are you shopping?" I asked her.

"You never know," she smiled.

Photo: A look some of Elizabeth Taylor's colorful collection at Christie's