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Chinese Love Their Bling Bling
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Chinese people love high-end jewelry collections and they are watch addicts, says Aude Bousser, marketing manager of Van Cleef & Arpels Asia Pacific.

The Frenchwoman was in town on Wednesday to launch the French jewelry house's "Centennial Alhambra" exhibition at its store in Plaza 66. Opened about six months ago, the store runs "quite well," according to Bousser. It is also the legendary Parisian jeweler's second store on the Chinese mainland after it launched its first in Beijing in 2005.

"Five years ago, we had the feeling that Chinese customers might not know too much about jewelry," she says. "Shortly after we launched our business here, we were surprised to find that customers here are so sophisticated and knowledgeable. They know everything about diamonds and brands."

Compared with the other new markets in the Asia-Pacific region such as Singapore and Malaysia, the Chinese mainland market is learning and developing the fastest.

Chinese customers are especially interested in high-end pieces such as the prestigious jewelry house's patented "mysterious setting" collections, in which prongs are hidden underneath each gemstone.

"Today, we have only five craftsmen in Paris who are expert enough to create such exquisite pieces," Bousser says. "About 80 percent of the mysterious setting collections are one-of-a-kind, which makes them extremely invaluable collectors' pieces.

"Chinese customers know all about it. We have already sold quite a lot pieces of this high-end jewelry," she continues.

Meanwhile, watches, especially collectors' pieces decorated with diamonds and gemstones and produced in a limited quantity, have also proved to be many Chinese people's favorites when they shop at the store.

"Another thing we have noticed is that increasingly women are willing to buy jewelry to reward themselves for their achievements," says the industry expert. "About 30 percent of our sales on the Chinese mainland are purchased by women themselves. Similar behavior only exists in US."

The exhibition at Plaza 66 features a selected collection of the brand's signature clover leaf design "Alhambra," popular among customers worldwide. Three new Alhambra lines, Magic, Lucky and Byzantine, are on display and are now available at the Shanghai store.

The new lines were created to celebrate Van Cleef & Arpel's centenary last year. The Alhambra collection dates to 1974 and was named after the Alhambra Palace in Grenada, Spain. The four-leaf clover motif, which symbolizes luck in the West, "became an icon in the jewelry world," says Bousser.

Adorned in white and gray mother-of-pearl and onyx, the Magic line features the iconic motifs of different sizes and the necklaces of different lengths. The Lucky line introduces four new shapes - butterfly, leaf, heart and star - to complement the clover leaf, which are made of colorful stones including turquoise, lapis lazuli, tiger's eye and malachite.

The Byzantine line celebrates the simplicity of yellow gold and highlights the emblematic motif through a sober, elegant design.

It targets young girls, as the prices are more accessible, starting from 11,250 yuan (US$1,461) for earrings and 13,250 yuan for a necklace.

Van Cleef & Arpels operates two stores on the Chinese mainland. It plans to expand its Beijing store at China World Trade Center Shopping Mall in July.

Another top-ranked jewelry house, Tiffany & Co, has launched a stunning new collection, the "Stars." VIP guests were invited to its City Plaza store to admire the new collection.

Diamonds are sometimes described as stars on the earth. Tiffany's has collected in the new designs almost every shape people could think of stars: five-pointed stars, stars within stars, star clusters, falling stars, and stars as glittering charms.

These celestial motifs have been used to create all kinds of necklaces, bracelets and earrings: the drop pendants with ultra-fine, diamond-studded chains, the bold single-star pendants, the starry Y necklace luxurious in length and lavish in detail, the single-star ring as well as the star brooches that generate a stunning radiance. The beauty of diamonds is further highlighted by the elegance of platinum.

(Shanghai Daily May 21, 2007)

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