Las Vegas, Big Spenders love gems

Las Vegas knows no bounds when it comes to bling. It’s the diamond and colour gem centre. Size does matter and the bigger the better when it comes to serious baubles. Sin City is vibrant and youth oriented and as a jeweller told me, “it’s a city that’s anything but mature. Even those between 40 and death think young.”

Once considered the bad taste city, this desert oasis has been resuscitated with new sleek and chic hotels all with shops and all featuring gem emporiums.

New on ‘the Strip’, is Wynn Las Vegas Resort and County Club. It’s a Wynn- win situation on the in-door airy ‘boulevard’ with hand chosen jewellery stores amid designer boutiques like Chanel, Dior, Oscar de la Renta, to name a few.

Wynn & Co. with creamy walls inlaid with mother of pearl are so suitable for the up-scale items that shine and beckon from the many vitrines.

International jewellers which are represented, have been hand picked and can’t be found anywhere else in Las Vegas. The very first showcase features watches by Patek Phillipe. “It’s the finest watch made,” says Douglas Bradstreet, the store’s director. The price range from US$10,000 up doesn’t seem to scare off consumers. “We can’t get enough of them to keep up with the demand,” says Bradstreet. Trying to encapsulate the pulse of the consumer, I’m told that Asher and emerald diamonds are favoured. “The Asher is an ideal cut and maximizes the brilliance of the stone,” states Bradstreet.

Classically designed and renowned is Vendura with shops outside of LV only in Palm Beach and New York. Although the jewellery is new, these gems are produced from the designs of the 20s. “The big theme is the exceptional colour and the highest quality stones,” says Bradstreet as he hands me a stunning Byzantine-styles neckpiece of white topaz and pink tourmaline. However, the staple of this collection has been and still is, the jewel encrusted Maltese cuff.

Few names conjure up jewellery greatness as does Buccellati, the best selling collection at Wynn & Co. “Every piece is hand crafted down to the rolling of the gold and the hand engraving. Nothing is made by machine. One error while the piece is being engraved and it’s scrapped,” says Bradstreet. What makes these designs unique is that they often don’t feature huge stones. The theory is to ‘build’ the design then find the stones to fit versus designing around the stone.”

Certainly the most innovative, stunning, trendsetter, fashion forward collection is by Milanese born Vhernier who recently won best design at the Las Vegas couture show. His combination of ebony with the smoothest pave set diamonds in one series of conical shapes…elongated earrings, neckpieces that lay perfectly on the neck and have hidden closures- are show stoppers. Vhernier’s articulated bracelets when worn, display gems stones at the links . Pave diamond rings are lined inside with coral or ebony. Another innovative statement are Vhernier’s rings made up of three layers of stones. For example the first layers is mother of pearl, then a thinly sliced lapis lazuli is added and finally clear quartz. The effect is singular and sensational.

For the younger crowd, designer Rhonda Faber Green is the queen of stacking of small diamond pendants and bracelets while Laura Munder’s showcase is eye candy with her series of coloured stone items. “The younger generation want a lot of pizazz for a little money,” Bradstreet says.

Asked about pearls which are part of this year’s fashion statement, the answer is surprising – “we do very little with them. This is a glitz city,” he says frankly.

One serious one-of –a-kind big ‘B’ bling is by Ambrosi of Italy. A collier and earrings in black and white diamond clusters of flowers are encased in the rear of the store, a light shining down on this $500,000 set.

Although multi- coloured pearls are featured in the revolving window vitrine (for the client’s privacy while inside) at Graff, store manager Robert Bozora emphasizes that Graff is known mainly for their diamonds, especially the range of yellow gemstones. Graff controls 65% of the world’s yellow diamonds. Graff owns a private diamond mine in South Africa (where? Bozora won’t disclose this fact). The mine yields fancy coloured diamonds.

“We have 300 cutters and polishers and work from the rough stone to the finished design. Since Graff’s latest location opened in April 2005, they’ve sold a rare red diamond and a 50 carat Asher cut. “Our clients usually want D flawless and will wait until we get the size and shape,” says Bozora. The uncluttered diamond, is their signature. It’s the centre stone that creates attention and Graff doesn’t want to distract from this.

As for brooches, they just don’t sell. “Any woman who has the option of spending $300,000 on a diamond would rather have it hanging from her neck, on her ears or finger rather than the lapel of her jacket.”

Meanwhile, in the complex around the corner of this bright, crowded indoor ‘avenue’, is Cartier. Their big seller is exclusive to Las Vegas. Dangling from the an 18 karat gold bracelet are charms – gaming chips, dollar signs, dice, roulette wheels, all with enamel and pave diamonds.

The first celebrity to ever borrow jewellery for an Oscar event was the actress Jennifer Jones in 1944. Since then the mega award shows, all seen on TV, have dazzling divas who have gems on loan. Fred Leighton, Rare Collectibles Jewels, at Bellagio’s, an hotel down the street, sells more product per square foot than any other retailer on Via Bellagio. “Our store has consistently exceeded our expectation,” says a sales person. Leighton, who does most of the designing, sees loaning jewellery as a great investment since a piece shown on a well known actress will become an instant best seller. Salma Hayek, Jennifer Lopez are only two names who have walked the Red Carpet with jewellery borrowed from Leighton. Catherine Zeta Jones’ 10 carat engagement ring was bought from Leighton.

Antique- styled designs as well as the originals are front and centre. Again coloured stones and diamonds are of major importance. Hard to miss are the exceptional original and important Art Deco and Moghul jewel pieces.

In Las Vegas, bling gets a new definition. Nothing succeeds like excess.