Karl Lagerfeld at the Biennale des Antiquaires, for which he designed the interiors.


PARIS - Every alternate September, Paris hosts an exquisite antiques and fine art fair at the majestic Grand Palais. It’s called the Biennale des Antiquaires and it’s currently taking place in high-octane style. While the event is dedicated primarily to antiques and art, the glamorous world of precious jewellery has been playing an increasingly important role. This year sees the biggest and most impressive jewellery section to date.

First staged in 1962, the exhibition’s original organisers hoped the beauty of the objects on show would rival the beauty of the women who came along to stare at them in wonder. Trust the French.

This year, Chanel creative director Karl Lagerfeld has designed the interiors. The jewels are quite probably the most rare, most spectacular and most (reassuringly) expensive in the world. And talk is focused almost as much on the striking displays as on the jewellery itself.

Bulgari’s stunning 165-carat sapphire necklace.

Bulgari’s palatial booth incorporates marble flooring. Richard Burton once said of his wife, Liz Taylor: “I introduced Liz to beer, she introduced me to Bulgari”, and their stunning 165-carat sapphire necklace is inspired by her adoration of their pieces.

Dior has pieces with lace detailing on the back evoking 1940s couture dresses. Cartier’s 148 new jewels, delectable bejeweled handbags and sumptuous high ceilinged luxurious apartment with its own entrance hall, all created specially for the event, took an entire two years to produce.

Van Cleef & Arpels Fortuna clip.

“It is the most important fine jewellery exhibition in the world,” claimed Harry Winston’s chief executive, Frederic de Narp recently.

Behind the scenes, the pressure has been full on. Word has it elaborate pieces from the Souffle des Nouages collection by Van Cleef & Arpels left the workshop just in time for the opening.

If you miss the Paris Biennale, fret not. Jewellery highlights from the Biennale go on show at Harrods from 1 to 14 October – even if all you can do is stare at them in wonder.

Claire Adler writes on jewellery and watches for the Financial Times and Sotheby's. She consults as a writer and speaker for De Beers, Boodles and the World Gold Council.