PARIS — The couture may be suffering an identity crisis, with the number of houses plying the haute craft on a downward spiral, but the rarified baubles of high jewelry are booming as never before.

A handful of jewelers piggybacked on the couture shows last week here to present their creations. Some houses even saw spillover from high-spending couture clients.

Chanel, for instance, said it sold three of the pieces from its new collection — including a bracelet costing more than 250,000 euros, or $320,000 at current exchange — to a Turkish woman before it could show the pieces to the press.

“We definitely benefit from the couture,” said Philippe Mougenot, president of Chanel’s watch and jewelry division.

These days, though, it’s the million euro mark that seems to be the magic number, with a plethora of houses reporting a steady stream of million-plus sales in recent months.

“It’s been a record year so far,” said Stanislas de Quercize, president of Van Cleef & Arpels, which will present three high-jewelry collections this year to celebrate its centenary anniversary.

“We’ve had million euro [$1.3 million] sales in the last months,” he said, as he previewed the Day in Paris collection the house will present to its clients this fall.

“The world is getting richer and richer, and there is more and more money to be spent,” he said.

Jean-Christophe Bedos, president of Boucheron, said the PPR-owned house had million euro-plus sales in both May and June. He said one of the remarkable characteristics of the current high-jewelry boom is that clients are getting younger, with a wide diversification of nationalities.

“We’ve seen clients that are 30 to 40 years old,” said Bedos. “And they are from all over the world.”

Quercize believes the boom will continue, since much of the jewelry market remains unbranded, presenting vast potential for Paris’ top houses.

“There are a lot of new markets emerging,” said Chanel’s Mougenot. “Like Russia, China is developing fast. Mainland Chinese clients are growing. There’s a lot of untapped opportunity out there still.”

This story first appeared in the July 10, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

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