Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Elizabeth Taylor and Her Night of the Iguana Brooch by Jean Schlumberger

This brooch takes up the better part of a hand!

Last fall on eBay I was able to purchase a sealed package of the paper jewelry offered by Christie’s, in connection with the Elizabeth Taylor jewelry auction back in December 2011. I believe the reproductions of the jewels they included are life-size so it’s fun to get a sense of just how big they are and to see the intensity of the colors. In this post I want to highlight one of the pieces from Liz’s collection that I just love, her “The Night of the Iguana Brooch” by Jean Schlumberger for Tiffany & Co., of diamonds, sapphires, and emeralds set in 18k gold and platinum, circa 1962 (or 1964, depending on whether you trust Liz’s book or Christie’s more).

No one can say it better than Liz herself, so this quote is directly from her tome Elizabeth Taylor: My Love Affair with Jewelry, which she co-wrote with the wonderful Ruth Peltason:

“Richard gave me this pin to wear for the opening of The Night of the Iguana, which forever symbolized the early days of our marriage when we lived in Puerto Vallarta, while Richard was working on the Tennessee Williams film. To me, this is one of the most extravagant pieces that Schlumberger ever designed. The timing was fortuitous.”

Liz wearing the brooch. Getty Images Photo.

Jean Schlumberger. Photo courtesy of Tiffany & Co.

I found this quote too, also straight from Liz, and originally from the book Brooches: Timeless Adornment, that the author Lori Ettlinger Gross shared in a blog post at the news of Liz’s death in 2011:

“Richard (Burton) had just finished shooting Night of the Iguana in Mexico, and we took a trip to New York to let our tans fade. We happened to go to Tiffany & Co. to cruise around and we went to the top floor where they kept Mr. Schlumberger’s staggering collection. They brought out a gold and diamond brooch and we looked at each other. I said, ‘It’s the iguana.’ Well, it was just too much of a coincidence - one that Richard could not resist.”

The brooch is both stunning and huge! It is approximately 4 1/2 inches long. I bet it’s heavy too. Even though Burton nicknamed it the Iguana, Schlumberger actually designed it to be a dolphin. On an estimate of $200,000-300,000, the price realized at the auction in December 2011 was $1,202,500. Wowza! I hope whoever shelled out that much cash for it WEARS IT and doesn’t let it sit in a vault.

The brooch as shown in the paper jewelry set. You know I could not leave it there...

Couldn’t resist putting the brooch cut-out under Liz’s own words!

Let me know what you think of this brooch, or any piece from Liz’s collection!


Coulda shoulda woulda said...

Liz was the best curator around and I am now wondering if there is a coffee table book about her collection?

I love this brooch and must say that old school Tiffany was fabulous and I wish they would go back to thsi level of craftsmanship bc they are really too much on their silver trinkets and the brand as gone through a big downfall.

I love her huge emerald the best xx

Jill said...

Hi Naomi! For books on Liz's collection you can get a copy of the book she wrote with Ruth Peltason. There are copies to be had on eBay! It has the bulk of the collection, all the important pieces, and a great trove of photos. And of course all the bon mots and stories from Liz herself! There is the set of auction catalogs, also available on eBay, but way too expensive. I may get one eventually, but will probably never own the whole set.

Re Tiffany, I hear you. I like their vintage pieces best. Some of the T collection is nice, but I'd still rather have a brooch from the mid to late 60s instead! They are more affordable as vintage pieces than VCA, for sure. You know I keep my eye on these things!

Also keeping my eye on Brexit vote. I hope the streets remain calm after the ballots have been cast and the results made public.

Oooh, are you going to Masterpiece London this year? I hope you do! xx

Dawn Lucy - Fashion Should Be Fun said...

Wow, what a brooch! This post caught my eye because my husband was named after "Father Shannon" in The Night of the Iguana ... oddly enough! ;)

Dawn Lucy

Gracey the Giant said...

That is so cool! The brooch is amazing and I love the story behind it. I also love that you were able to get that book. Great post, and thank you so much for sharing!


rosie said...

Hi Jill,

The iguana brooch is fabulous but its huge. Liz was not taller than 5'3"; and, she always lamented not being tall or taller. Obviously, this never stopped her from wearing large statement jewelry & wearing it beautifully.

My favorite piece of jewelry that she owned was the Bulgari sugarloaf sapphire cabachon & diamond ring. This ring was purchased several years after she was given a Bulgari sugarloaf sapphire & diamond pendant necklace. The ring was a perfect match. It was Kismet, I guess.

There will never be another Liz.

Data in the Rough said...

I love learning about Elizabeth's jewelry! I just bought her book from QVC that was reprinted with permission of her Trust. I also own a set of that paper jewelry. You are fortunate to find it in good condition. A limited number was printed for selling at the auction. So glad it was though! It was the only thing I could afford. Did you attend the preview? I remember the staff wearing the paper jewels in the auction house. I really loved the sapphire mystery setting VCA earrings! Even the paper version was breathtaking! Also I saw somewhere Jennifer Tilly bought an iguana brooch replica of Taylor's, she was out bid for Taylor's actual one. Another amazing post!

Poppy Buxom said...

Love Liz's collection! I have her book and bought myself the auction catalogs as a birthday present to myself.

About Tiffany—I get their annual "blue book" of exceptional pieces, and it always has at least a couple of pieces that knock my socks off. It's just drowned out by the low- and mid-range stuff. And I disapprove of their habit of adapting Schlumberger designs by taking the 16-stone ring and making it into a bracelet, or changing the stones, but that's their mid-range stuff. At the high end, let's say, $100,000 and up, they have amazing pieces.

OK, OK, time to start breathing air instead of helium!

Jill said...

Hi Dawn Lucy, PLEASE do a post on how your husband ended up with his name! I am so curious if his mother was a Richard Burton fan or just liked the movie, or the character's name. I think your readers (me included) would love it! xx

Jill said...

Hi Gracey, I got so lucky with the paper jewels, they just popped up on eBay one day, I made an offer to the seller, and they accepted! I would like to have them framed, actually, but not sure how to do that since it is a fold-out set. It was so great finding not one but two quotes straight from Liz about this brooch. It is an amazing piece of jewelry. xx

Jill said...

Hi Rosie! I know the ring you mean! I am going to go look it up in the book as soon as I type this, ha ha. I remember Liz said she got the necklace and ring years apart. I hope all is well with you! xx

Jill said...

Hi Michelle! No I did not go to the auction preview and I kick myself a lot these days for not going. I think the crowds put me off, it was the same year as the McQueen exhibit and I could not handle standing in another 2-3 hour line and I thought that's what it would be like at Christie's. I feel so lucky to have found a set of the paper jewels! I love Liz's book and would like to add one of the auction catalogs to my collection one day. I know the exact pair of earrings you mean, they are stunning, I saw those in person at the VCA exhibit "Set in Style" at the Cooper Hewitt. As for Jennifer Tilly, I learned about her bidding on Liz's Schlumberger Iguana brooch (but losing out) in the movie "Crazy About Tiffany's. She says she paid $80,000 for the brooch at a different auction. I read elsewhere she won Liz's Bulgari brooch that Eddie Fisher gave her for her birthday (and then sent her a bill for it once they split, how tacky is that). I think she paid over a million for it! I love Jennifer for that! xx

Jill said...

Hi Poppy, I know what you mean re Tiffany's--the Blue Book pieces are amazing but I have seen some designs in the mid-range that do indeed seem like they just took Schlumberger's work, gave it a slight twist, took his name off of it, and continue to sell it. I find it confusing, actually! It would be a dream come true to own a vintage piece of his, but I don't know if that will happen in this lifetime. You are so lucky to own the Liz auction catalogs. They are crazy expensive now so I may end up with one, but probably never the whole set. xx

Alice Warren said...

What a great statement piece, thanks for sharing the story!

Thank you for being a part of TBT Fashion link up and hope to see you soon!


Jill said...

Hi Alice, it's always a pleasure to join your growing community! xx