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The preview party for the 23rd annual Fine Art and Antique Dealers show hosted by The Society of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center on Thursday evening catered to connoisseurs of refined tastes with lenient budgets. It was a party for a mature crowd, and it began at 5:30, an hour normally reserved for the early bird special. The music at the Park Avenue Armory was ambient, the booths were well-lit, and the carpeted space was awhirl with waiters offering cocktails and flutes of Champagne.

“Drink up,” one Texan guest said as she poked her husband in the ribs. “It takes the edge off the price tags.”

This story first appeared in the October 24, 2011 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“This is called billionaire’s bacon,” one caterer explained of his silver tray of caramelized bacon strips, eyebrows aloft. “I just served a lot to Mayor Bloomberg.”

True enough, the mayor was on hand with Diana Taylor, surveying some of the more modern furniture booths. Jamie Tisch circulated nearby, along with Tory Burch, Jerry Lauren and Arie and Coco Kopelman.

Guests admired Fabergé trinkets, armor and antique weapons, turn-of-the-century jewelry and sketches from the Old Masters alongside furnishings from an age long before Occupy Wall Street. Which isn’t to say that everyone was eager to spend.

“Forty-eight thousand dollars?!” Devon Aoki squealed, grabbing Amy Fine Collins’ hand, in flight from one dealer’s booth. “That seems… excessive?”

They had been admiring a glass case filled with what looked like small gold desk accessories. The model, actress and new mother hurried away. Later, Aoki added, “Some things are beautiful and timeless and worth…what they’re worth. Some things aren’t.”

Stacy Engman appeared in purple taffeta and long brunette pigtails.

“You just missed the most amazing scene,” she said to a group of guests. Engman was wearing jewelry of her own design, a pendant, ring and dangling earrings that looked like diamond-encrusted razor blades.

“I was wearing a $1.5 million vintage Harry Winston necklace and I was just thinking, you know, ‘Where is a camera when you need one?!’” she went on. “Let’s go back and visit it. Field trip.”

She headed back to the vitrine, which held the biggest diamonds, leading a line of interested women.

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