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Peaking at the Paris Gems

Growing up, my mother taught me the value of ownership of certain kinds of possessions as compared to others. “Forget buying the stereo,” she would say. “Buy jewelry, instead. It’s worth more the next day, not less.” This must be an old Jewish proverb…when they had to hide their valuables and be ready to transport them from one “schtetl” (ghetto) to another.

I didn’t complain, I just collected. And so, as you might imagine, I ended up without a taste for music, but instead with a yearning for diamonds, emeralds, sapphires and rubies set in platinum. Oy vay…it’s a more expensive habit than collecting CD’s!

The Métro is not conducive for showing off an acquisition or two, so you don’t see a lot of extravagant jewelry on the streets of Paris, except perhaps in posh neighborhoods (like the 16th) where they wouldn’t dare take public transportation (reported in a recent study by the City Hall, the western districts make use of the bus and train quite a bit less than the rest of the city!). I’ve adopted the low-key demeanor, too, and leave the baubles locked up in the bank vault for another time or another life.

Meanwhile, I still love to ogle the “goods” and so one can do so quite contently at the Bijoux de Stars exhibition at the Musée Carnavalet on from now until May 7th.

The Musée Carnavalet is in itself, a jewel on the city landscape. It houses an enormous collection of works depicting the history of the City of Paris within one could easily get lost for days among its maze of 140 rooms and thousands of displays from prehistory to modern times.

The museum occupies two of the Marais’ most illustrious Hôtels Particuliers — The Hôtel Carnavalet built in 1548 for Jacques de Ligneris, who was president of the Parlement, designed by architect Pierre Lescot, adorned by the sculptor Jean Goujon, later remodeled by François Mansart and lived in by La Marquise, Madame de Sevigné — linked to the elegant Hôtel Peletier de Saint-Fargeau. The formal French gardens are stunning examples, which can be seen from the street if you peak through the gates on rue des Francs Bourgeois.

Peaking at the 200+ pieces of jewelry worn by American celebrities and presented by the National Jewelry Institute of New York was even more exciting for a starry-eyed devotee of precious gems like myself. With pieces dating from the end of the 19th-century to the end of the 20th, some of the finest and most prestigious jewelry design houses are represented…Tiffany & Co, Van Cleef & Arpels, Bulgari and others…worn by such luminaries as Joan Crawford, Loretta Young, Grace Kelly, Mona Bismarck, the Duchess of Windsor and Jackie Kennedy.

I drooled over the diamond brooch circling amethyst flowers, the diamond-studded turn-of-the-century necklace set in filigreed platinum, the fiery opal dragon belt buckle, the rose-gold flower adorned cuffs, the black opal beaded necklace…oh, la, la!…to dream of life in Paris, languishing in the back of a limousine driving down the Champs-Elysées (I leave the Métro tickets at home), wearing white fox and dripping in gems. Can’t you just see me now?

By Métro or limo, either way…go have a drool and see for yourself. Worth a visit to both the exhibition and the museum. For more information, visit: http://www.v2asp.paris.fr/musees/

Musée Carnavalet
23, rue de Sévigné
75003 Paris
Tél: 01 44 59 58 58
Fax: 01 44 59 58 11

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris
Email [email protected]

P.S. Be sure to mark your calendar for next Tuesday

‘s Parler Paris Après Midi from 3 to 5 p.m. at La Pierre du Marais. Visit /parlerparis/apresmidi.html for more information. See you there!

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