An on-again-off-again legal battle over a diamond that belonged to Elizabeth Taylor is back on again, as the late actress’s estate filed suit Thursday in New York against Christie’s auction house.
The heart-shaped “Taj Mahal” diamond was a gift from Richard Burton to Taylor on her 40th birthday. It was among the vast jewelry and art collection sold off by Christie’s for $183.5 million after Taylor’s death in 2011.
The diamond sold to an anonymous bidder for $8 million. Months later, the buyer demanded to cancel the sale, apparently upon learning there was some doubt as to whether it was in fact owned by Shah Jahan, the 17th century emperor who built the Taj Mahal.
Christie’s sought to rescind the sale, but the trust that oversees Taylor’s estate refused to return the proceeds. The trust alleges that the auction house was not obliged to cancel the sale, as it never guaranteed that the emperor had owned the diamond. The trust contends that Christie’s was instead doing a favor for the buyer — a valued client.
The trust alleges that Christie’s has failed to turn over proceeds from the $2.9 million sale of a Bulgari ring in an effort to “strong-arm” it into refunding the sale of the diamond.
The trust filed a federal suit over the matter in 2015. The two sides later agreed to suspend the litigation so that the issues could be handled in mediation.
“Both parties believe the other owes them money as a result of the auction,” Christie’s said in a statement. “We have been discussing this matter for some time. The Trust apparently decided to cease discussions and instead pursued legal action without notice. Christie’s believes it is unfortunate that this issue cannot be resolved through mediation, especially given the success of the sale held for the Trust’s benefit.”
The trust alleges it still has not received payment for several other items that sold at auction, including silver-plated Girandole ear clips, a pink layered tulle evening gown, and a brown evening bag by Valentino.