"When Elizabeth Taylor's jewels went up for auction, I was the one on the phone; I was doing the dirty work. Luckily I’m well trained in that respect – I worked at Sotheby’s for 14 years and I was also trained as an auctioneer. But the great difficulty was one, how to estimate how much the pieces are going to go for, taking into account the celebrity factor. Just to give you an idea, Malcolm Forbes, knowing that Taylor liked a joke, once gave her a jewellery box containing a necklace he’d cut out from a magazine – a cut out of a jewel – and it sold for $7,000!
Then we had to decide what to bid on. Elizabeth Taylor wore her jewels with such conviction because they were her own, and you can feel it. We were finding more and more fantastic photographs of Taylor wearing the emeralds Burton gave her for her thirtieth birthday, so we went and chose the emerald necklace. But Christie’s are very clever, because she received that in two bits. First as a brooch in ’62 – she was seen wearing it on the set of Cleopatra, where Richard Burton was celebrating his birthday. She regarded it as her engagement gift. Then, when she got married in 1964 in Toronto, she received the necklace. So the day of her wedding, when she is wearing the fantastic, chiffon, yellow gown, she is wearing the emerald brooch. And then afterwards the brooch was adapted to be put on as the centre piece of the necklace, but of course they were two separate lots.
"Elizabeth Taylor wore her jewels with such conviction because they were her own, and you can feel it"
We were hidden in what Christie’s calls the sky box, which is a private room with mirrored windows, so I could see the sales room but I was on the phone. First, there was the brooch and that was really, really hard because the competition was atrocious but I got it. I was within my limit, but I mean limit to the cent. But having achieved that I had to make sure I was going to come home with the necklace, the other piece, because one without the other... But I managed it. Then I began to relax; I'd had quite enough!"
Amanda Triossi is the pioneering spirit behind The Bulagri Heritage Collection, Bulgari's impressive vintage archive comprising pieces dating back as early as 1924, during Sotirio Bulgari's original reign. Also an historian, Triossi was asked to write the first official book on Bulgari in 1994, and it was then that the idea of buying back key pieces struck her. "Most of the jewellery houses are now doing this, but it was not common practice then," she explains. "At the beginning it was quite hard to persuade Mr Bulgari of the value of buying back these pieces that were regarded as being old. I had to fight like mad." But after three years, she finally succeeded and set about the mammoth task of creating an archive virtually from scratch.
"I believe very much in the pieces that are representative of Bulgari in particular decades," Triossi says of the jewels she seeks out. "For example we bought a necklace that really represents Bulgari in the 80s, when they created these very structured collars, which of course were the perfect accessory for the power suit. In the 90s, with the much more fluid, deconstructed line of dress, you have much more deconstructed necklaces. I think it’s very interesting, ultimately fashion is the backdrop for jewellery, so a change in one determines a change in design of the other."
In what proved one of the more nerve-wracking moments of her career, Triossi was put in charge of purchasing Elizabeth Taylor's iconic emerald necklace and brooch set, presented to her by Richard Burton in their early courtship and sold at the vast Christie's auction of Taylor's jewels in 2011. The stunning set will feature in the V&A's upcoming exhibition, The Glamour of Italian Fashion 1945-2014, a highly-anticipated exploration of Italy's satorial past from the Second World War to the present day.
Text by Daisy Woodward