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Van Cleef & Arpels sees flight to quality

By
Reuters
Published
today Jun 20, 2011
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June 17 - Van Cleef & Arpels is seeing buoyant demand for its most exquisite jewels from an increasingly international class of super-rich as it expands its presence in fast-growing economies such as China and Russia.

Van Cleef & Arpels
Van Cleef & Arpels

As the Paris-based luxury jeweller showed off its Bals de Legende collection, one-off creations in diamonds, emeralds and rare gemstones inspired by legendary balls of the 20th Century, CEO Stanislas de Quercize said the client base at the top end of the fine jewellery market was becoming increasingly international.

The pieces were on display in the sumptuous Lancaster House, St. James's Palace, in central London, which mirrored the grandeur of the historic balls, and ranged in price up to 6.3 million euros.

"We have more clients from different locations, and this is good: it means that there is a greater spread of culture, wealth and connoisseurship," De Quercize told Reuters in an interview.

In former times, traditional collectors of Van Cleef & Arpels jewels, which have been worn by some of the world's most glamorous women such as the Duchess of Windsor, Marlene Dietrich and Madonna, were from a narrower group of ultra-wealthy.

But now the emergence of fast-growing economies such as the BRICs - Brazil, Russia, India and China - has created opportunities for Van Cleef & Arpels, which started from a boutique in Paris's plush Place Vendome in 1906 and has since grown to become a global brand with outlets around the world.

This week Van Cleef & Arpels, a subsidiary of Swiss-based luxury goods group Richemont (CFR.VX), is opening an outlet in Hong Kong and expanding retail space in Moscow, De Quercize said.

SUPER-RICH IMPERVIOUS TO PRECIOUS METALS BOOM

Soaring prices of precious metals such as gold and platinum, as well as diamonds which have bounced back since the 2008 global financial crisis, are no deterrent to the super-rich.

"There is a flight towards quality," De Quercize said.

"People want signature pieces. People are looking for the best quality."

Among the standout pieces of the Bals de Legende collection, sparkling under the Lancaster House's chandeliers, were a pair of earrings featuring two supremely rare briolette-cut diamonds of the highest clarity, each weighing just over 20 carats, for 6.3 million euros

The collection was inspired by balls, such as the fancy dress Winter Palace Ball in St. Petersburg in 1903, attended by the doomed Romanovs, rulers of Russia, and an Oriental ball, an extravagant celebration of the East, in Paris in 1969.

Some of the pieces from the Bals de Legende collection had already been bought, sources close to Van Cleef & Arpels said, and it came as no surprise that Russian and Far Eastern connoisseurs had come forward.

(Reporting by David Brough; editing by Paul Casciato)

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