Fine Jewellery: The Last True Luxury Frontier?


Sophie Doran | September 30, 2014

The haute joallerie on display at the Biennale des Antiquaires 2014, if anything, again validated the market for the exceptional and expensive

The Jewellery Editor at The Biennale des Antiquaires 2014

La Biennale des Antiquaires opened in September in Paris with a collection of the world’s most impressive objets d’art and jewellery. The bi-annual event above all celebrated craftsmanship, but what the 2014 edition categorically confirmed is that the market for exceptional – and exceptionally expensive – haute joallerie remains stronger than ever.

Perhaps this is little to be surprised about. As we have mused before, there are less and less barriers to entry when it comes to modern luxury. Ultra high net worth individuals are forced to defend their territory in increasingly creative ways, whether it is a staged James Bond ‘mission’ costing £40,000 or an orbit of the Moon for two.

Graff’s Royal Star of Paris

And realistically, why not? In a world when middle class consumers can buy the same ‘luxury’ goods online at half price, or order a ‘chauffer’ using Uber, or fly private using empty-leg mobile applications, what really signals wealth? Or constitutes luxury?

Fine jewellery may just be one of the remaining luxury frontiers that remains inaccessible to the aspirational consumer classes. One of the last remaining luxury frontiers that cannot be imitated. Here, the value of iconic products will increase over time and remain relevant for centuries.

This was certainly the over reaching message from the jewels on display at the 2014 Biennale des Antiquaires.

“ Collectors can safely say that it will be never done again in their lifetime, or their children’s lifetimes ”

Take for example Graff’s Royal Star of Paris. The world’s most valuable brooch features the Graff Sunflower (107.46 carat Fancy Yellow cushion cut diamond) and the Graff Perfection (100.00 carat D flawless diamond). In total, 271 carats of a ‘product’ that is as rare as it is potentially impossible to imitate.

“Today, collectors really want something so extraordinary,” confirmed Francois Graff to Maria Doulton, speaking proudly about the world’s most valuable brooch. “We had to lose 100 carats of impure diamond surrounding the perfection that was left. [Collectors] can probably safely say that it will be never done again in their lifetime, or their children’s lifetimes.”


At Bvlgari, the focus was on Emeralds, as the house debuted a necklace set with 1,000 carats of emerald “pearls” and decorated with two gold Serpenti. Also on display was the famed Emerald necklace famously owned by Elizabeth Taylor, given to Taylor as a wedding gift from Richard Burton in 1964. The piece was sold at auction in 2012 for $6.1 million.

David Morris showed a single 60.15 carat Type IIA, internally flawless diamond from the Golconda mine. As The Jewellery Editor explains, "Like the Koh-i-Noor diamond that is set into Queen Elizabeth’s crown, this diamond has been classified as Type IIa or “finest water”, which refers to its superior transparency."

David Morris also showed a 70mm natural round pearl, which is claimed to be the largest of its kind in the world.

“ Bvlgari debuted a necklace set with 1,000 carats of emeralds ”

And then there was Wallace Chan’s collection, featuring “Vividity”, a brooch containing a 64-carat Elbaite tourmaline of deep pinky-red nestling in a burst of rubies, coloured diamonds and green tourmalines.

Not to be outdone by the Gabriella Rose necklace, which features the world’s largest flawless violet sapphire, weighing 169.39-carats, symbolizing femininity, harmony and tranquillity. This was shown alongside the ‘eight-figure’ creation ‘Paeonia Reverie’, featuring green tourmaline, black jade, pink sapphire, yellow diamond and rubies.

Wallace Chan

Overall the 2014 Biennale was bursting with exceptional pieces and stones only imagined in ones dreams. In an act of serendipity, just a few days after the event opened in Paris, Wealth-X confirmed that 155 new billionaires were minted in 2014, pushing the global population to a record 2,325.

The world is getting wealthier and consumers long for unique products. And more than ever, ultra high net worth individuals want products that differentiate them from their equally wealthy peers, which simultaneously represent an attractive investment opportunity.

And in that sense, the 2014 Biennale delivered.

To further investigate fine jewellery on Luxury Society, we invite your to explore the related materials as follows:

- In Conversation With Thierry Andretta, CEO, Buccellati
- Luxury Executives Expect Growth From UHNW Segment in 2014
- From Jets to Fine Jewellery, Luxury Is For Hire

Analysis | Jewellery