By Chris Michaud
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Can't spare a few million for one of Elizabeth Taylor's world renowned rocks at the December auction of her jewelry?
You aren't alone. Less well-heeled fans of the late screen star are consoling themselves by snapping up lavish, limited edition sets of catalogs for Christie's upcoming auction of Taylor's jewelry, clothing, art and memorabilia. But even the books aren't that cheap.
While catalogs from individual auctions of her memorabilia can be had for as little as $60, the crown jewel for collectors is an ultra limited edition, boxed set of the gem sale catalog accompanied by a signed copy of Taylor's out-of-print 2002 book, "My Love Affair With Jewelry."
Packaged in a lavender presentation box, it's going for $2,500. Only 25 are available, with profits going toward Taylor's AIDS Foundation. The same set, minus Taylor's signature, is available for $600.
Another 20-lbs. boxed behemoth of all five catalogs will set a buyer back $300. A "jewelry set" of two catalogs detailing the gem auctions and selling for $150 has been another hot seller.
"We're almost out of the boxed set," Heather Barnhart, project director for the Taylor sales, told Reuters. "People just really want the whole thing, they see it as a collectors item."
"Not surprisingly," she added, the jewelry set "is the (individual) one that's selling the best."
Christie's said printing the catalogs constituted one of the auction house's most monumental publishing projects ever.
A GLIMPSE OF OLD HOLLYWOOD
Taylor's jewelry collection was world renowned with iconic rocks like the 33.19 carat diamond ring that was a gift from the days of Taylor's storied romance with Richard Burton.
Estimated to sell for $2.5 million to $3.5 million, it will likely sell for far more, like most other offerings.
A 10-day exhibition of Taylor's legendary jewels, clothing and memorabilia open for public viewing on Saturday and comprise "a great historic record," Barnhart said.
"It captures a moment in time, and it captures the history of things that you may never see again," she said. "It's the story not only of her, but of the jewelry, fashion and more."
Indeed, when Taylor died earlier this year of congestive heart failure at age 79, many held her up as the quintessential star of Hollywood's Golden Age.
Visitors to the exhibition, who must buy tickets in advance, get a glimpse into the life of one of Hollywood's biggest stars, who was beloved for being down-to-earth even as she lived a glamorous life far removed from that of many fans.
The exhibition's walls are lined with blowups of Taylor at her most iconic, posing in her noteworthy film roles or at gala openings.
A mock-up of her dressing room is filled with jewelry boxes, many of them well-worn because they were kept at home, not in a vault, and all labeled with Taylor's home label maker according to who gifted the gems to Taylor, whether it was Burton, Mike Todd, Michael Jackson or Elton John.
Her Louis Vuitton luggage -- a pile of it -- bears Taylor's personal luggage tags. The laminated, lavender tags read simply: "Mine!" And yes, they're "original."
And a replicated accessory closet is carpeted in her signature color lavender.
The New York exhibition, which sold some 1,000 tickets on Tuesday alone, also displays Taylor's eclectic collection of haute couture by designers Pucci, Versace, Valentino and Chanel, as well as her signature caftans in a dazzling array of sparkly, embellished prints.
Her Oscars, two competitive ones and one for her humanitarian work, are also on display, though not for sale.
At the other end of the spectrum, and perhaps one that best speaks to the personal style of the woman who wore pants when she was made a Dame by Britain's monarch, is an exhibited postcard Taylor sent to her parents after Burton bought her that 33-carat diamond.
"Dear Mom and Dad," it reads. "Did you hear about my ring? It's fab! Love you both, wish you were here!" It's signed "Elizabeth + Richard." And next to her text is a child-like sketch of the huge gem.
The auctions of Taylor's belonging kick off on December 13, starting with her greatest passion -- at least in terms of material things -- her jewelry.
(Reporting by Chris Michaud; editing by Bob Tourtellotte)