For serious collectors, the Biennale des Antiquaires is the grand dame of fine art, antiques and fine jewelry fairs.
The prestigious exhibition’s 26th installment took place from September 14 to 23, 2012 in Paris’s Grand Palais—with none other than Karl Lagerfeld acting as the official “scenographer,” presiding over staging and set design.
Only the crème de la crème from the world of haute joaillerie—just ten houses—showcase their newest designs at the Biennale, with 2012 participants including legendary houses like Boucheron and Cartier as well as younger marques like Wallace Chan (the first and only Asian jeweler ever to be invited to show). As one of the biannual fair’s busiest enclaves, it is widely considered the most important high jewelry client event in the calendar. No detail is overlooked and no expense spared: A single booth can cost up to $125,000 to construct, and each is designed to reflect the house’s signature style, from fine art to furnishings. Many houses, including Chanel and Cartier, elected to increase the size of their booths for the 2012 exhibition. Buyers can expect fantastical, whimsical, one-of-a-kind pieces, as designers bring only their rarest and most exclusive baubles to the show.
The Italian jeweler’s remarkable roster included a selection of slinky Serpenti necklaces—a house favorite—with diamond and emerald scales.
Among the most extraordinary designs is this boldly colorful pink gold cuff set with turquoise, tourmalines, garnets, amethysts and diamonds.
The storied French house, a Biennale regular since 1964, showcased a stunning 148-piece collection designed by Tristan Auer. Standout pieces paid tribute to the house’s signature panther motif, like this bracelet crafted from sculpted fossilized matter, onyx, diamonds and platinum.
Having made its debut at the last Biennale in 2010, Piaget followed up with its largest-ever collection of high jewelry, christened Couture Précieuse. Baguette-cut black spinels are paired with 142 dazzling brilliant-cut diamonds for a graphic Art Deco feel in this 18K white gold necklace.
CHANEL FINE JEWELRY
The house paid homage to Gabrielle Chanel’s 1930 fine jewelry debut with iconic motifs like constellations and lions (as an astrology buff and a Leo, both were dear to her heart). Pieces like this Constellation du Lion necklace with white and yellow diamonds and rutilated quartz are every bit as relevant, even more than 80 years later.
VAN CLEEF & ARPELS
Dubbed Palais de la Chance, the Parisian jeweler’s offerings for this year’s Biennale were inspired by animal motifs and talismans as far-reaching as unicorns, ladybugs and four-leaf clovers, divided into three smaller collections. This spectacular Zodiac Set Libra clip with diamonds, tsavorite garnets, coral, onyx and cultured pearls is part of a series of 12, all inspired by astrology.