A room of jewelry boxes that belonged to the late actress Elizabeth Taylor is seen on display. - Reuters Photo

NEW YORK: The legendary jewelry and fashion collections of Elizabeth Taylor, the so-called "Crown Jewels of Hollywood," went on glittering display in New York ahead of a hotly anticipated auction.

The actress, who died in March at the age of 79, had seven husbands during her glamorous life, countless admirers and a passion for jewelry.

The exhibition at Christie's auction house in Manhattan is the last stop on a world tour highlighting Taylor's treasures - and the first and last time that the entire collection will be gathered in one place.

Thousands of people have already bought tickets to the 10-day public viewing, which only starts Saturday.

The auction will then run from December 13-16, offering pieces like the 33.19 carat "Elizabeth Taylor Diamond" given to her by husband Richard Burton in 1968, and estimated to sell for between $2.5-3.5 million.

Running concurrently with the live auction at Christie's will be an Internet-only sale of nearly 1,000 items such as jewelry and accessories like designer handbags. Christie's estimates total sales of between $30 million and $50 million.

Another gift from Burton, who was twice married to Taylor, was the famous "La Peregrina" pearl from the 16th century, once worn by several queens of Austria, England and Spain. It is estimated at $2-3 million.

Hundreds of haute couture dresses from Chanel, Christian Dior, Givenchy, Valentino, Versace or Yves Saint Laurent, jackets, caftans, handbags and other accessories are on sale and they tell both the story of the star and also the changes in fashion during her eventful career.

The dress Taylor wore to her first marriage is predicted to go for between $40,000 and $60,000.

"It is by far the greatest jewelry collection to be offered in a century," said Marc Porter, chairman of Christie's Americas. "There is such a depth of quality."

Additional showstoppers include the Prince of Wales diamond brooch, estimated at between $400,000 and half a million dollars, and a ruby and diamond ring by Van Cleef & Arpels and an emerald and diamond Bulgari necklace both estimated at between $1 million and $1.5 million.

There's even a tiara, also encrusted with diamonds, and estimated to go for between $60,000-$80,000.

The scale of the auction is itself unusual. Meredith Etherington-Smith, curator for the fashion side, said she had "never seen so many clothes racks in my life and nothing was in order."

She described the dresses and other pieces representing "60 years of fashion and it is the very best of the best."

"I would have loved to have met her. She was so glamorous," Etherington-Smith said.

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