Top Five: Elizabeth Taylor collectibles: diamonds, pearls, Dior and Van Gogh

Last year, as lovers of Hollywood everywhere mourned the loss of iconic movie star Elizabeth Taylor, auction houses readied themselves for the vast weight of sales soon to be coming their way.

Taylor had amassed a spectacular and world-famous collection of jewellery, along with substantial holdings of haute couture and fine art. Not only was there great interest in the items for their intrinsic worth, but also there was the strong draw of wishing to own something that had passed through the hands of the wonderful Liz Taylor.

Whilst those with limited budgets can achieve that by buying some of her hair, here we look at five of our favourites from the most valuable:

5. The Christian Dior gown

The most recent auction of Elizabeth Taylor's belongings offered those items which were most visible to the public eye. On December 18, 2011, Christie's sold a wide range of gowns and costumes which Taylor had worn over the years.

All 67 outfits lots sold, some beating their high estimates by more than 60 times.

The top lot was a Christian Dior gown with a silver-encrusted brocade and matching purse. The gown was expected to bring just $6,000 but in the end sold for $362,500 - more than 60 times its pre-sale listing.

Christian Dior gown with a silver-encrusted brocade and matching purse
Ready to party: The Christian Dior gown and matching purse

This outfit wasn't worn by Taylor on stage or screen, but rather at an annual ball in France hosted by Guy de Rothschild and his wife.

The saffron-yellow chiffon robe worn by Taylor in her iconic role as Cleopatra also sold for $62,500.

4. Taj Mahal necklace

One of the most surprising results of the Taylor auctions was that of the Indian diamond and jade pendant necklace with a ruby and gold chain made by Cartier, nicknamed the 'Taj Mahal'.

The name refers to the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan who presented the diamond to Mumtaz-I-Mahal, his most beloved wife, trusted advisor and friend. When she died in childbirth he constructed an extraordinary mausoleum to hold her body, which is now known as the Taj Mahal.

Taj Mahal diamond jade necklace with a ruby and gold chain by Cartier
An Indian gem: The Taj Mahal diamond and jade necklace

Listed at a relatively modest $300,000-500,000, it sparked frenetic bidding amongst collectors and eventually left the stage for a remarkable $8,818,500 - a world auction record for an Indian jewel.

3. Elizabeth Taylor diamond

Less surprising was the substantial rectangular-cut diamond ring, weighing approximately 33.19 carats, which the actress wore most of the time. One of Richard Burton's greatest gifts to her, it sold for exactly the same as the Taj Mahal necklace: $8,818,500.

Elizabeth Taylor Diamond
Elizabeth Taylors' everyday diamond - a bit like an $8.8m comfy old sweater

Expected by many to be the clear top lot of the night, it might be possible to imagine that the sale was something of a disappointment. Possible that is until you reflect on the fact that not only is $8.8m nearly three times the ring's highest estimate, but it set a world record: $265,697 per carat makes it the most expensive diamond per weight in history.

2. Van Gogh landscape

Taylor didn't just have an eye for beautiful things she could wear. Her father was a London art dealer, and she followed in his footsteps to amass a significant collection of 19th and 20th century works.

van Gogh autumn landscape Vue de l Asile et de la Chapelle de Saint-Remy
Van Gogh's landscape: Vue de l Asile et de la Chapelle de Saint-Remy

Nevertheless, it was her father who bought what is probably the most notable work in the collection: Francis Taylor paid $257,600 for Vue de l'Asile et de la Chapelle de Saint-Remy by Vincent Van Gogh at a Sotheby's auction in London.

The work is estimated at £5m to £7m ($7.6m to $11m) in next month's auction.

1. La Peregrina

So if the Elizabeth Taylor Diamond wasn't the top lot of her jewellery auction, what was?

That honour went to La Peregrina - a storied 16th century pear-shaped pearl of 203 grains in size - equivalent to 50 carats. It dates back into history - including Spanish queens Margaret and Elisabeth.

La Peregrina pearl necklace Elizabeth Taylor Cartier rubies
Historical beauty: the La Peregrina pearl necklace
(Click for detail)

The two queens wore the pearl in 17th century portraits painted by Velázquez, but it was a different Royal painting which resulted in its current mounting. Taylor saw how Mary, Queen of Scots, wore her jewellery in a portrait and commissioned Cartier accordingly.

It sold for $11,842,500 to an Asian phone bidder, smashing the world auction record for a pearl jewel, set in 2007 at Christie's New York with the sale of The Baroda Pearls for $7,096,000.

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