By Mario R. Mercado
December 05, 2011

New York City sparkles during the holidays but this year it dazzles as never before! Just around the corner from the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, on display at Christie’s auction house are the jewels, fashion, paintings, and memorabilia that were owned by film star Elizabeth Taylor. And what an assemblage of bling and color. Here, among almost 300 remarkable pieces of jewelry are 80 iconic diamonds, gemstones, legacy jewels, including the 33.19-carat Elizabeth Taylor Diamond (once known as the Krupp diamond), the legendary pearl La Pérégrina (that belonged to the Spanish royal family), and a spectacular group of emeralds and diamonds—ring, necklace, bracelet, earrings—acquired by Richard Burton and Taylor from Bulgari in Rome around the time they made the movie Cleopatra (1963). Serious jewels.

Through December 12, the public can behold this unparalleled collection before it is sold at auction. You don’t have to plan on bidding to take in the varied splendors arranged as an exhibition in galleries on two floors at Christie’s, but you do need to book tickets in advance for timed entry (no tickets will be sold at the door or by phone).

There are settings with sapphires, amethysts, and yellow diamonds. The provenance of the gemstones and ateliers that created the exquisite baubles encircle the globe, from Colombia to India, Hollywood to France. The ruby jewelry, in particular, possessing an extraordinary depth of color, veritably pulsates. Highlight: the ruby-and-diamond ring (pictured below) that Burton gave Taylor as a Christmas present in 1968. Imagine finding it in your Christmas stocking!

But inasmuch as there was infinitely more to Elizabeth Taylor than jewels, also at auction is fashion (Chanel, Christian Dior, Givenchy, Halston), some of which was associated with her film career and public life, accessories (Christie’s has re-created one of Taylor’s closets), and film memorabilia, including her director's chairs from movie sets, scripts, costumes, posters—Butterfield 8 and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof—and three Oscars. In short, the exhibition, gives a glimpse into the life of one the most public, glamorous Hollywood stars.

If the holidays involve an aspect of fantasy, look no further than this Collection of Elizabeth Taylor and the special reality, admittedly a world apart, it conjures. But look and look now! After December 12th, the treasure will be sold at auction and dispersed.

A portion of theprofits from the exhibition admission and publications will be donated to the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation (ETAF), which was established to fund AIDS service organizations around the world. The sales in NYC take place over four days, December 13-16.

Mario R. Mercado is arts editor at Travel + Leisure.

Images courtesy of Christie's Images Ltd. 2011