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Elizabeth Taylor's Gem Auction Botched by Christie's, Lawsuit Says

By Shaye Weaver | May 12, 2017 2:04pm | Updated on May 14, 2017 6:13pm
 Elizabeth Taylor.
Elizabeth Taylor.
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Courtesy Patrick McMullen

MANHATTAN — Christie's Auction House is in hot water with Elizabeth Taylor's trust for botching the sale of a diamond given to her by her husband actor Richard Burton, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday.

The suit, filed in State Supreme Court by the trustees of the Sothern Trust, accuses the auction house of falsely advertising the "Taj Mahal" diamond — a pendant by Cartier in the shape of a heart — as once belonging to the Indian emperor who created the Taj Mahal, despite doubts that it belonged to Indian royalty, the lawsuit says.

When the anonymous buyer, who purchased the diamond at auction for $8.8 million in 2011, realized the jewel may not have belonged to royalty months later, he demanded Christie's cancel the sale and return his money, which it did, the suit states.

Taylor's Trust has refused to give Christie's back the proceeds of the sale since Christie's cancelation of the sale was "objectively unreasonable" and "unwarranted" given that Christie's listed the diamond simply as an "Indian diamond" even though Christie's representatives made public appearances claiming that it belonged to royalty, the Trust claims.

The funds from the sale of five other auctioned pieces belonging to Taylor have also been unaccounted for, according to the Trust.

Proceeds from the sales of a necklace and ear clips by Ciner, silver-plated ear clips by Girandole, a pink-layered tulle evening gown with silver beading and sequins, a Vicky Tiel caftan, a brown Valentino evening bag with pink and purple beading and fringe, auction exhibition tickets, specialty catalogues and signed books were never handed over to the Trust, the lawsuit says.

Christie's also canceled the sale of Taylor's Bela Kadar painting without explanation and returned it to the Trust — then refused to hand over $2.9 million from the sale of a Bulgari ring, according to the lawsuit.

The Trust is demanding that Christie's return the items it didn't receive money for or compensation for the full amount of the sales, money from the sale of the Bulgari ring, and all proceeds from the auction exhibition so that they can go toward the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation.

The Trust also wants Christie's to pay for attorneys' fees and costs related to the lawsuit.

Taylor, who died in 2011, was known among other things for her love of jewels, having written a book called "Elizabeth Taylor: My Love Affair With Jewelry" in 2002.

The actress's collection made $115.9 million in sales at auction in 2011, setting seven new world auction records, according to Christie's.

Christie's did not immediately return requests for comment Friday.