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RED BANK: STAR-POWERED MONKEY JEWELRY

Jewels given by Michael Jackson to Elizabeth Taylor are on display in Red Bank for the next three weeks. (Click to enlarge)

By DANIELLE TEPPER

She was a silver-screen goddess with a taste for bling. He was a global pop-music phenom who, well, wore a jewel-encrusted glove as a trademark.

Now through May 13, movie and fashion fans can hold in their hands a piece of Hollywood history that connected them: Elizabeth Taylor’s iconic “monkey necklace,” a gift from her friend and fellow artist Michael Jackson.

The set has found a temporary home at Leonardo Jewelers on East Front Street in Red Bank.

The necklace and matching earrings are encrusted in diamonds, emeralds, and rubies, and filled with delightful details, as in the way the emeralds have been carved into small leaves, the clasp is a gold pineapple, and the monkeys’ faces have perfect, tiny smiles.

The exotic set was designed by Baron Enrico “Ricky” di Portanova – a jet-setter who once described the best things in life as “sun, sex and spaghetti”   – for his wife, Baroness Sandra di Portanova, Leonardo partner Michael Zeik tells redbankgreen.  After their deaths, the set was sold at auction by Christie’s, and eventually ended up with Jackson, who gave it to Taylor.

The price he paid is a mystery, but the set went for $260,000 as part of a Christie’s auction of Taylor’s jewelry in December, according to one report.

But “it’s not about that,” said Zeik. “You need to know that kind of thing if you were to try to sell it, but that’s not what we’re doing with it. This is an investment piece. The craftsmanship is beautiful and you have two national cultural characters attached to it, both of whom are now deceased. Everything about it is phenomenal.”

Customers are invited to look at, touch, photograph and even try on the baubles, said Zeik.

So how did Leonardo come to get it?

Well, it’s not exactly unprecedented, as Taylor’s jewelry seems to get around. Hamilton Jewelers on Broad Street in Red Bank late last year displayed two Taylor-owned pieces purchased by a store client at auction  from Christie’s, which had previously put her collection on tour. Earth Treasures, a jewelry store reopening next week in Eatontown, is advertising a display of “some of Elizabeth Taylor’s jewelry.”

In this case, Leonardo has partner that is “one of the largest purveyors of estate jewelry in the country,” said Zeik. “Now, when we offer estate, we’re talking about some real spectacular pieces. When we do estate, we don’t want to do it just halfway.”

“We hate the ‘sea of sameness’ you find in most stores. Everybody’s got the same bracelet, the same necklace. That’s why we got involved in estate, to set ourselves apart. We figured this would be a great way to let our customers do something they can’t do anywhere else.”

Remember: Nothing makes a Red Bank business owner happier than to hear "I saw your ad on Red Bank Green!"
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