The doors of the Biennale des Antiquaires in Paris open on a bright early autumn day. The Biennale is host to 150 exhibitors, nearly double the 86 present at the last event in 2010. The 26th Biennale des Antiquaires runs from 14th September to the 23rd at the Grand Palais and alongside the world's most exclusive antique and art dealers are ten of the most desirable jewellers including Cartier, Chanel, Harry Winston, Boucheron, Piaget, Van Cleef and Arpels, Dior and for the first time ever Bulgari and Chinese jeweller Wallace Chan. All of these houses have created their most refined jewels for this event which is the most important high jewellery client event in the calendar that comes but once every two years.
This enclave of jewellers has created an avenue of gems that as always is one of the busiest parts of the show. Each house creates a 'mini maison' and though all are different in their style, and sometimes their wild creativity - last Biennale Van Cleef & Arpels took us on journey with Jules Vernes - they are all opulently appointed and temples to luxury. Chanel always has a comfortable sofa and art work to create a soothing atmosphere in which to gaze at their diamond creations while Harry Winston whisks you straight into a New York mood.
The big names this year aren't just on the show floor, but behind-the-scenes as this year organisers have lured fashion designer and decorative-arts lover Karl Lagerfeld to design and create the Biennale's fantastical scenography. The man himself said "I wanted to emphasise the immensity and the splendour of the glass roof, which will be like a protective sky… it is a place I adore". Lagerfeld sums up his approach when he says: "The era is different, I wanted to evoke, not reconstitute," said Scenographer Karl Lagerfeld. "The intended effect is "that the visitor immediately feels enveloped by the atmosphere as soon as he enters the Grand Palais."
Apparently, the deal with Karl Lagerfeld was a friendly gentlemen's agreement and Christian Deydier, Président of the Syndicat National des Antiquaires, explains the inspired venture, "Karl Lagerfeld's creative genius, sensibility, finely honed taste and stage sense are all reasons why I am thrilled that he agreed to shape the 2012 Biennale according to his own taste. He is also a leading collector, someone who loves rare and beautiful objects, which means that he will approach this unique task as a connoisseur". Although no images or mock-ups have been released, those in the know have been promised something truly special and anticipation is growing.
Many of the pictures you see here are from Biennales past, but they give an idea of the sort of wonders that are to be found in a setting as fantastical as this. Pieces such as Boucheron's Adam necklace, which takes their usual and playful animalistic design, incredible settings and a heavy does of biblical etymology to produce something so wickedly tempting. New York giants Harry Winston will once again be the American in Paris, having had a boutique there since 1957 and a place at the Biennale since 1974. "At Harry Winston, we share in the same values of authenticity, exclusivity and a quest for the exceptional. We look forward to sharing a selection of our rarest and most spectacular designs with all the devotees of fine jewellery and art who will attend," said Frédéric de Narp, President and CEO of Harry Winston, Inc. Expect to see this delicious sapphire and diamonds necklace stunningly realised this year, with 13 pear-cut sapphires, 146.71 carats; 225 brilliant, marquise, and pear-cut diamonds, 42.49 carats, all in a platinum setting.