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Raising the Red Lantern

NEW YORK — Take a little bling bling, add a charitable cause and give it a final shake with the current craze for anything Asian — bar SARS, that is — and New Yorkers are ready to party. <br><br>That’s what happened on Tuesday,...

NEW YORK — Take a little bling bling, add a charitable cause and give it a final shake with the current craze for anything Asian — bar SARS, that is — and New Yorkers are ready to party.

That’s what happened on Tuesday, when some 800 socialites, designers, actors and other night owls crowded Cartier’s Fifth Avenue mansion to celebrate its new Le Baiser du Dragon jewelry collection, which was held in honor of the New Yorkers for Children charity.

Robert Isabell transformed the mansion into a Chinese-themed nightclub, with dangling paper lanterns; walls adorned with gold and dark red silk brocade; bowls of star fruits; kumquats and Japanese pears, and dim sum by Jean-Georges Vongerichten. The Cartier mansion was closed that day to make the transformation.

“Half a day ago, this was the Cartier boutique, now you are in China,” said Bernard Fornas, chief executive officer of Cartier worldwide. “You are transported into another world, and that’s the magic of Cartier.”

Le Baiser du Dragon — which translates into “the kiss of a dragon” — is inspired by the awakening of a sleeping giant, and the collection uses a traditional Chinese color palette of red rubies, black onyx and gold. The 30-piece collection has a distinct Art Deco feel, and looks include a ring, which is an interpretation of a Shintoist Tori arch with dangling ruby pearls; pendants strung with dangling silk cords that can be tied into wish or love knots; a white diamond dragon ring with a ruby eye, and a series of jade rings set in a geometric diamond cage.

Prices for Le Baiser du Dragon start at $2,800 for a gold wish-knot pendant to $73,500 for a padlock bracelet, but limited-edition high jewelry pieces can go up to $80,000 for a vanity case.

Among the guests who roamed the party’s themed rooms were Julia Stiles, Benjamin Bratt, Rosie Perez, Anh Duong, Oscar and Annette de la Renta, Anna Wintour, Denise Rich, Donald Trump, Muffie Potter Aston, Nicole Miller, Lillian von Stauffenberg, Aerin Lauder, Philippe Junot, Ghislaine Maxwell, Tiffany Dubin, Anne Brancroft, and Jacqueline Anderson. Many followed a Chinese dress code, among them were Cynthia Rowley, who wore her grandmother’s green cheongsam dress, but turned it into a mini by lopping off two feet of material. “I’d have to start breaking the piggy bank to buy Le Baiser,” she quipped.

“I am always ready to look at a few baubles,” added Michael Kors, who, at 14, saved up and bought himself a Cartier Tank watch. “Of course, I had a little help from my mother.”

Zac Posen, meanwhile, rubbed shoulders with P. Diddy. What could the two possibly be talking about? Shmattas? Curls? “It’s all private,” sniped Posen. “It’s friends talking, this is not industry. You can put that in the paper.”

Puffy, for his part, was willing to part with more enlightening wisdoms. “I like jewelry,” he said. Cartier, too? “Yeah, a lot of watches and stuff like that.”

“These are my favorite,” quipped model Karolina Kurkova as she took one or two or more — at such speed, it was easy to lose count — of Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s infamous sweet pork buns.

Stanislas de Quercize, president and ceo of Cartier in the U.S., noted, “It’s important to have the worldwide launch in New York. This is where where East meets West. It has that magic touch.”

In tough times like these, does Cartier expect magic to help sales a little, then?

“It’s already selling like magic,” countered de Quercize.