Monday, August 12, 2013

Questions America Wants Answered: How Much Necklace Will a Million Bucks Get You?

From Barron's Penta (as in $5mil) blog:
In the thrall of a New York City heat wave, Penta pounded the pavement to answer a seemingly simple question: What does $1 million buy in a necklace these days?
Not as easy as it sounds. After rounds of phone calls and a significant amount of wrangling, five boutiques in New York agreed to open their drawers, with Harry Winston and Cartier declining to participate. We have cherry-picked one piece from each boutique.

Double-Wrap Serpenti. $1.13 million
In Elizabeth Taylor’s book Elizabeth Taylor: My Love Affair with Jewelry, she recalls visiting Bulgari often while on the set of Cleopatra, “Undeniably, one of the biggest advantages to working on Cleopatra in Rome was visiting Bulgari’s nice little shop. I used to visit [then CEO] Gianni Bulgari in the afternoons and we swapped stories.” Gone are the days of Bulgari family control. In 2011, the French haute conglomerate LVMH (ticker: LVMHF) purchased the family’s 50.4% remaining stake for $5.2 billion, a 61 percent premium to its Milan-traded shares.

The brand under LVMH continues its mix of bold color and unusual combinations of precious and semi-precious stones, splattering, for example, the deep blues of sapphires among a selection of milky-blue turquoise. That bright mix is somewhat anathema to more “understated” jewelers and not typically worn by the faint-of-heart, but they are show stoppers.

Bulgari’s Double-Wrap Serpenti necklace, pictured, has a snake motif, a throwback to a Bulgari creation originally conceived in the 1940s. Its wild length, at 30 inches, means it can be worn as a belt or necklace, wrapped once or twice around, with the snake’s head in the front or back. It shimmers and moves like a snake, and each individual scale has four or so diamonds of gradually increasing size. The work contains 3,318 (215 carats) brilliant-cut diamonds, which means they are circular, cone-shaped stones.  The necklace is set in white gold and the head sports two pear-shaped diamond eyes of 0.85 carats.