Despite Palm Beach’s balmy tropical climate, each winter, the exclusive coastal enclave experiences an ice storm. In fact, diamonds have become one of the most enticing components of the annual Palm Beach Classic: The International Fine Art & Antique Fair.
This winter’s exhibition—at the Palm Beach County Convention Center in West Palm Beach from January 31 through February 8— will feature the world-renowned Rembrandt painting Portrait of a Man in a Red Doublet, priced at $25 million, along with paintings, sculptures, furniture, tribal art, and tapestries. The impressive roster of about 80 elite international dealers will include a number of the world’s premier jewelers displaying their own glittering masterpieces. Unlike old masters paintings or furniture, jewelry is one treasure that you can purchase and flaunt right on the spot.
“Couples like to browse the show together and leave with important jewels, because Palm Beach is about big jewels,” says Henri Barguirdjian, president of Graff, the diamond jeweler. “Women feel secure wearing big jewels in Palm Beach, and they’re always in need of jewelry since there’s a black-tie affair almost nightly.”
Vivid’s flawless fancy vivid blue diamond ring. (Click image to enlarge)
Among the riches that will be unveiled at this year’s exhibition are Graff’s 5-carat flawless fancy vivid pink, cushion-cut diamond and Vivid’s 2.85-carat flawless fancy vivid blue diamond ring. While these may seem relatively small, any connoisseur knows that a colored diamond of such intensity and quality is an exceptional and rare discovery worthy of a museum exhibition.
In fact, it is not uncommon for these prestigious jewelers to save some of their finest items specifically for the Palm Beach event. In the diamond arena, for instance, Graff will fly in its best and biggest diamonds—stones in the 30-carat and higher range—from around the world. Similarly, Vivid will showcase its most extravagant jewels, including the Juliet necklace with more than 200 carats of D-flawless diamonds and a 51-carat D-flawless, Asscher-cut diamond ring. British jeweler David Morris will unveil a new suite of fancy colored diamond jewelry that includes a flexible bracelet with 33 carats of colored diamonds. The jeweler’s scion, Jeremy Morris, searched the world for more than a year to assemble this collection of extraordinary stones.
Just for the occasion, Gioia has created a collection of rose-cut diamonds, which Rafaela Amini, owner of the Gioia jewelry boutique on Park Avenue in Manhattan, describes as refreshingly cool and modern. “These everyday diamonds appeal to the younger generation that has recently joined the Palm Beach collectors’ circle,” she says.
For those in the market for signed vintage designs, the century-old jeweler Richters will present signature pieces from venerable houses such as Van Cleef & Arpels, Harry Winston, Tiffany & Co., David Webb, and Cartier. Standout designs include an important Van Cleef & Arpels 1960s necklace with 155 carats of diamonds, and a pair of 1950s diamond chandelier earrings from Harry Winston.
“Some clients come to the fair with a mission to upgrade an engagement ring or buy chandelier earrings,” says Erin Morris of David Morris. “Others simply fall in love with something that speaks to them, like a fantastic Kashmir sapphire, and then they must have it.” Among the jeweler’s cache this year is a 12-carat peachy-hued padparadscha sapphire ring and a pair of sugar-loaf cabochon-cut Kashmir sapphire and rose-cut diamond chandelier-style earrings.
Unlike the fine French furniture or antique tapestries, jewelry plays a leading role in the bustling social scene that surrounds the fair. For the past few years, jewelers have savored this opportunity to mingle with collectors and clients who truly appreciate the rarity of fine gems and the art of jewelry design. “They recognize unusual and rare jewels,” says Gioia’s Amini. “The Palm Beach social scene is wonderful in that women enjoy wearing and talking about their diamonds; they don’t keep them locked up in their safes.”
Amini adds that in this festive atmosphere, seemingly indifferent husbands may casually browse the jewelers’ booths with their wives only to return secretly to purchase an admired piece. “Everyone gets wrapped up in the romantic and easygoing spirit of Palm Beach,” she says.
Graff’s Barguirdjian agrees. “When they come here, they’re on vacation, they’re relaxed and in a wonderful spirit.” On the eve of last year’s opening gala, he recalls, one client was so taken with the celebratory mood at the show that he secretly visited Graff and purchased an elaborate white and yellow diamond suite worth more than $2 million. On the way to the gala benefit for the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, he presented his wife with her surprise.
“This show brings out the best in jewelry collectors,” says Morris. “One client, who visited our booth with her husband, insisted that they buy a rather extravagant diamond ring. She was sure that she owned this diamond in a previous life.”
Palm Beach Classic, 561.209.1338, www.ifae.com