PIAGET IN PALM BEACH: Piaget, the high-end watch and jewelry company, plans to open two stores, bringing its store count to four. The first new unit is set to open in Palm Beach, Fla., in December, while a store in Beverly Hills is slated for early 2003. The Palm Beach store will be located in the upscale hotel The Breakers, which houses eight other stores, including Polo Ralph Lauren and Steuben, while the Beverly Hills location is slated for Rodeo Drive. Piaget’s existing boutiques are on Madison Avenue in New York and in Bal Harbour, Fla.

Piaget, which just began wholesaling its jewelry, also recently hosted the David Rodriguez fashion show at its New York boutique, where it launched its new collection of pearl jewelry called Pearlissima.

JEWELRY AS ART: There are museums now for everything from food to glass, so why not one devoted to jewelry?

A group of art and jewelry industry leaders are addressing this question with a new project called the National Jewelry Institute. A cross-section of industry executives and socialites came together last week for lunch at La Caravelle to kick off the budding concept.

Judy Price, the founder of Avenue magazine, who is spearheading the project, said: "There is no museum for jewelry. The problem within the decorative arts is that people have never looked at jewelry as an art form. However, jewelry is something people aspire to and it’s a fantasy, and we all have to have fantasies. Its important to have a place for jewelry to be shown."

Ashton Hawkins, formerly executive vice president of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is the chairman of the new NJI.

"The purpose of the Institute is to help create and support exhibitions of some of the most important jewelry from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries," Hawkins said. "The institute also aims to foster and support education for students of jewelry through scholarships."

The group plans to debut its first exhibit in about a year at the Museum of Folk Art, and Price said the organization is looking for a permanent home inside an art institution.

More than 140 people attended the kickoff luncheon, which also coincided with a lunch Price has every year called the Dejeuner de la Rentrée. Among the socialites attending the event were Ivana Trump, Helen Lee Schifter, Marjorie Gubelman, Kathy Hilton and Donna Hanover.

BULGARI’S TIME: Bulgari kicked off the retail launch of its new Bzero1 watch with a giant soirée recently at Studio 545, a space on West 45th Street in New York. Among the celebs on hand were model Gisele Bündchen, actress Chloë Sevigny, the rap singer Eve and ice skater Oksana Baiul. The Bzero1 watches have small round dials and are available with straps in a variety of pastel colors, with either steel or gold bezels and mother-of-pearl dials.

"This is one of our most ambitious watch launches," said Steve Shonebarger, director of wholesale operations at Bulgari. "So many companies now are offering large-size watches, so we thought it was time to show something smaller."

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