PARIS — Bold jewelry, worn and purchased by a new wave of wealthy Asian clients, stole thunder from the blue-chip paintings and antiques at the opening gala for La Biennale des Antiquaires in Paris on Tuesday night.
Hong Kong socialite Emily Lam Ho turned heads with her statuesque beauty — and a sculptural Wallace Chan necklace nearly as big as a life vest. It turns out the piece is made of titanium, which is one-fifth the weight of gold, making it less hefty than it appears.
Although she wed last year in Dior couture, Lam Ho donned a lacy column by S. Nine designer Susanna Soo to whisk through the stands of the Grand Palais, decked out in a garden theme courtesy of French interior designer Jacques Grange.
“I like to mix and match and wear Hong Kong designers when I travel,” she said, flanked by her mother, Chinese actress Tse Ling-ling.
“Everything in this building is amazing,” said Becca Cason Thrash of the scale of the jewelry many women were wearing, especially a canary diamond she described as “bigger than a lemon on steroids.”
She could have been referring to the Graff Sunflower, one of two diamonds weighing in the region of 100 carats that London-based Graff Diamonds set into a brooch-cum-pendant dubbed the Royal Star of Paris, designed to celebrate its return to the fair after a 12-year absence.
Juliette Binoche and Peter Marino arrived at the Bulgari booth at the same time, clogging the entrance as photographers jostled for a photo.
“Watch my hair,” she said to the American architect as he attempted to peck her on the cheek, his leather policeman’s cap at risk of ruffling her swept-back hairdo.
“Heavy metal” is how Marino described the sculptural cabinets he displayed amid works by Matisse, Picasso and Warhol in the Dominique Lévy booth. “They’re unliftable.”
Marino also designed the interior of the Chanel booth, where the star attraction was “The Birdcage,” a one-of-a-kind clock featuring two lovebirds crafted from rock crystal and pink quartz and set with diamonds and tsavorites. It was promptly snapped up by a collector for 1.25 million euros, or $1.6 million at current exchange.
Coco Brandolini negotiated the tightly packed tables in a Dolce & Gabbana couture dress — and one papaya-size fuchsia earring composed of velvet petals and diamonds. “I have two, but I wear only one,” she explained.
Former Hong Kong actress Cherie Chung was among the VIP guests at Chaumet’s table and said she now devotes her efforts to environmental causes, including the pollution in Mainland China.
Testament to jewelry’s clout was the Cartier stand, the biggest of the fair at 2,700 square feet. Highlights there included the choker-style Reine Makéda necklace, featuring rows of ruby beads and diamonds setting off a 15.29-carat, oval-shaped ruby from Mozambique.
Other brands in attendance included Christian Dior, Boucheron, Van Cleef & Arpels and Piaget.
Among newcomers were Giampiero Bodino, who showed his Baroque-flavored collections alongside some of his paintings, ahead of an upcoming exhibition in Milan. London jeweler David Morris marked its debut by showcasing the Cullinan Cushion, a 60.15-carat flawless diamond that took nine months to cut.
Alexander Reza was back at the show after a 14-year absence with pieces that put the focus on exceptional stones. It was the first commercial show for Olivier Reza, the son of the founder, who left a banking career to take over the company.
“We have this wealth of stones that allows us to be generous, and instead of taking three stones and making three pieces of jewelry, we’ll take the three stones and make one piece of jewelry, if the combination of those three stones just makes sense,” he said.
Among the hot topics at the fair was the unexpected ousting in July of Christian Deydier as president of the Syndicat National des Antiquaires, which organizes the event. Thousands of invitations had to be reprinted at short notice with the name of his temporary successor, Jean-Gabriel Peyre.
But most of those present had their eyes set on the long term, viewing the Biennale as an opportunity to showcase their brand heritage and craftsmanship.
“I see the biennale not as a commercial opportunity — I see it as an opportunity to make available to a great number of people the savoir faire of Boucheron,” said Pierre Bouissou, chief executive officer of the brand.
“These are people who will probably not be able to buy these pieces but who will be able to understand the know-how, expertise and creativity, giving them an accurate picture of the Boucheron house,” he added.