Rich and Famous: Bejeweled and Bewitched

Looking the Look and Talking the Talk:

A Primer Into the Glamourous World of Jewels

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One important factor of being rich and famous (in short being celebrated) is based on appearing to be rich and famous–outward appearance, superficial though it may be, matters a lot. Well that is why people like my mother still have their jobs, despite clothes they design now cover less than half of what they should be covering. What they lack in sartorial coverage, the rich make up with jewelery one. Here are the names they mention (and drop) when they talk about jewels: 
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Operating 17 salons (7 in the U.S alone) is Harry Winston Corporation, the current fad-favorite accessory provider for the celebrities and actresses. Harry Winston designers also work closely with another American diamond behemoth, Tiffany & Co., whose clientele is more refined: it include famous US families (the Astors, the Vanderbilts, the Morgans, etc), Hollywood stars, and European royalty. Tiffany & Co. is also the patent owner of its signature Tiffany blue color. [On the left is the famous Tiffany blue box which contains a surprise every woman dreams to acquire.] In Truman Capote’s short story, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the protagonist Holly Golightly mentions Tiffany & Co. as “the best place in the world, where nothing bad can take place.” 
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In 2004 film, The Phantom of the Opera, the protagonists performed under a chandelier composed of Swarovski crystals (right). Swarovski is now the luxury brand name when it comes to crystals, glass and crystallized jewelry–the rich and the famous are sporting Swarvoski-studded accessories, which range from sunglasses to magazine covers. Yes, magazine covers. 
The fashionable jewellery reaches its pinnacle with Chopard, Geneva-based company which also has a considerable gravitas in watchmaking too. Chopard became the name after it started sponsoring the Cannes Film Festival in 1997, and redesigned the festival’s top award, Palme d’Or. Through its cooperation with William Goldberg Diamond Corporation (NY), Chopard dresses every celebrity on the red carpet at Cannes with its jewels and watches. 
Yet, the time-honored firm for the aristocracy in Europe has always been the Parisian firm, Cartier–which is appropriately referred as Joaillier des Rois, Roi des Joailliers (Jeweller to Kings, King of Jewellers). It is now not only the official royal warrant holder for many a royal court of Europe, but also the number one seller of luxury jewelry  in the world. Its famous slogan “Les Must de Cartier” (Cartier, It’s a must!) paid off. 
Another Parisian firm Baccarat is the late comer into the jewelry business, but it has been supplying glass and crystalware to creme de la creme o Europe since the days of Louis XV. In Paris, it boasts the Musée Baccarat which displays many of its finest productions. Italian firm Bulgari is quite a reverse story; started by a Greek (in the days when most well-regarded jewellers are Mediterranean in origin). Bulgari’s jewels, watches and accessories are very bold, minimalist and brutal (in one word, distinctive) thus making it more of the most counterfeited luxury goods in the world. (A tip: Genuine Bulgari items have a unique serial number registered with the company.)
In the olden days, people go to AntwerpHatton Garden (London) or 47th Street (NY) to peer behind the drab facades of the imposing buildings to scout diamonds; since 2001 they don’t have to. In that fateful year, the diamond behemoth (and former monopoly power) De Beers entered into a retail joint venture with Louis Vuitton to establish De Beers diamond jewellery company. Like De Beers, the House of Graff symbolizes the highest craftsmanship when it comes to diamond, and it still prroduces polished diamonds from rough stones. 

Christian Bernard Group is the leading manufacturer and distributor of watches and jewellery in Europe. The skill of its jewelers (especially in its diamond section, Damiani), quality of materials and faultlessness of design render it not only accessory of fashion but also its legislator in Europe. The group’s wide-reaching range (its products are on sale in 4000 boutiques worldwide) helped too.  
It was once considered improper to wear pearls in the daytime or to afternoon-evening tea parties. However, it has changed since the days of Wallis Simpson, who like pearls so much that she defied the snobbish society (as she would later do again with her marital choice) by wearing them to daytime activities. The Duchess of Windsor would approve of Mikimoto, the name when it comes to pearls. The originator of the practice of cultivating spherical pearls, Mikimoto is also a shrewd business model too. When Japan was facing oversupply of pearls, Mikimoto decided to expand its markets to Europe and America, but popularizing pearl in the Occident. Now, it is the official jeweller of Miss USA and Miss Universe.

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These are the exceptional jewel firms, but there are very few legendary firms, but one of them is Van Cleef and Arpels, Parisian jeweler whose output is very limited but whose designs and concepts are creative. It has won particular acclaim for a groundbreaking gem-setting procedure known as the Mystery Setting. My personal favorite? Its ‘Snowflake’, to which appellation jewellery is an understatement akin to dismissing van Gogh’s Starry Night as a mere painting.  [Snowflake, right]
If jewels are like paintings, you need to know the masters too: Jeanne Toussaint of Cartier and Renee Puissant of Van Cleef and Arpels once dominated the jewel world. Oher who’s who of jewel fashion include Suzzane Belperron, Seaman Schepps, David Webb, Fulco di Verdura, Paul Flato, Raymond Templier, George Fouquet, Jean Schlumberger, Andrew Grima and Fred Leighton. No one but fashion gurus can remember those names, so the tip is to just remember the firms, not the designers.

 

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