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Friday, December 16, 2011

Elizabeth Taylor’s Paper Jewelry Finds a Home with a Virginia Jeweler

Elizabeth Taylor's paper jewelry suite sold at Christie's auction to the owners of Jewelry By Design. Photo Credit: Anthony DeMarco

Out of all the outrageous prices paid for jewelry belonging to Elizabeth Taylor during the two-day auction at Christie's New York, the biggest head scratcher had to be the $6,875 paid for a suite of paper jewelry that had a high pre-auction estimate of $300.

The “jewelry” was a gag gift from Malcolm Forbes to Elizabeth Taylor. She apparently loved the spirit of the gift and recounted the story of it in her 2002 book, My Love Affair with Jewelry.

Jenny Caro, who, along with her husband John, owns Jewelry By Design, a jewelry retail store in Woodbridge, Va., explained why they bought the gift and how they are using it.

Forbes would have been proud of the couple’s marketing savvy.

“Fortunately due to you and other people in the press our purchase of the suite of paper jewelry has turned into a bonanza of free press,” she said.

After purchasing the paper suite, she was interviewed by the BBC outside the auction house. Stories about the purchase have already made the local newspapers. Two Washington, D.C. television stations are scheduled to make the 20-mile trek south to Woodbridge to interview the couple at their store. And now she has a story on Jewelry News Network.

Jenny Caro being interviewed by the BBC about her purchase of paper jewelry. Photo Credit: Jewelry By Design

For a business that advertises on local cable, the purchase has paid off big time in free publicity, particularly the week before Christmas.

It doesn’t end with just the immediate publicity. While taking the train back to Washington, D.C., they purchased two of Taylor’s jewelry pieces through the Online Only Auction that Christie’s is hosting. It will be used along with the paper jewelry in an Elizabeth Taylor display at the store.

John and Jenny Caro.
Photo Credit: Jewelry By Design
“We’re a good example of a business doing things, being different and taking risks to help our business grow,” she said. “What many people see as foolish can be wise.”

She compares her purchase to the purchase of the 33-carat Burton-Taylor diamond by the Korean-based E Land Group, who said they are going to exhibit it at “E World,” an amusement park in Daegu, according to published reports.

“You couldn’t go by the intrinsic value of jewels, because the truth is everything was selling so high that what you bought you couldn’t turn around,” she said. “The South Korean who bought the Burton diamond bought it for a business reason. What is $8.8 million when it comes to advertising worldwide? What’s $6,800 when it comes to local advertising.”

The couple arrived from Washington, D.C., by bus to the black tie gathering on Tuesday night and stayed at a hotel on Rockefeller Square.

“We were there for Tuesday night and at first I was insecure, expecting people dressed to the nines and a thoroughly eloquent affair,” she said. “But people were dressed in all manners and all kinds of people were there. It wasn’t exactly a luxury experience. It was very much of a no nonsense experience at the auction with the seats crammed together.”

It wasn’t necessarily the couple’s goal to purchase the paper jewelry suite. They wanted to buy fine jewelry that Taylor was pictured wearing to use for store promotions. With a line of credit of $50,000, they focused on the opera charm necklace, a gift from Edith Head, a costume designer and very close friend of Taylor. It was the third lot of the evening and had an estimate of $1,500 to $2,000. It sold for $314,500.

It was obvious they were not going to buy anything that night and Jenny said the folding chairs were uncomfortable.

Photo credit: Jewelry By Design
“As the night went on we could see what was happening,” she said. “We left early. You can only watch so many millions be spent like hundred-dollar bills.”

They returned the next day for the second and final day of the jewelry portion of the four-day auction.

“We stayed hopeful but prices were very high (again),” she said. “Ninety percent of the sales went to people on phones. Who knows who they even were? Kim Kardashian? The businessman from South Korea?”

It wasn’t until the afternoon session they found something they could afford: the paper jewelry suite. But it wasn’t easy as they found themselves in a bidding war as the price flew past the $300 estimate and finally sold for $6,875, including auction commission.

“Everyone was looking at us, laughing almost,” she said. “We were thrilled.”

The couple was interviewed by the BBC outside the auction house. Then they decided to skip the bus, feeling that they earned a bit of luxury and took train back to Washington.

Coral branch, multi-gem, cultured pearl and gold necklace purchased online by the Caros. Photo credit: Christie's

But they were still working as they won bids on two items on the online auction: chandelier earrings and an ivory necklace. The winning bid for the necklace was $8,000. In what Jenny describes as an “obscure book,” they found a picture of Taylor wearing the necklace with George Hamilton.

“It’s a very different, interesting necklace,” Jenny said. “She was young when she bought that and you could definitely see how her taste refined over the years and how it became more sophisticated. We are mainly a jewelry store for self-purchasing women and we see our customers develop their taste and sophistication.

In addition to the publicity and the Elizabeth Taylor display, the couple has more plans for the Taylor purchases.

“We look forward to having fun with our customers and we will develop a line of custom jewelry based on what we bought.”