Back for its fourth year, Masterpiece London opens its doors on 27 June 2013. One of the highlights of the year for me, there is nowhere else on earth that you can see such a diverse range of beautiful jewels all under one roof - part of a gathering of original creations from 150 exhibitors from worlds as diverse as motoring and design, fine art and furniture. Altogether 23 exhibitors will be showing gems and even some watches.
Set in a custom-built pavilion in the spectacular grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea in London, you might come across a snarling marble Roman lion at one turn or find yourself face to face with a custom-built Harley Davidson or ancient Indian head ornament at the next. It's an unprecedented opportunity to view - and buy - some of the most unique pieces ever created, which together celebrate innovation, craftsmanship and design from the past and present.
Though it is easy to be distracted, we will be making a beeline for the watches and jewellery dotted in amongst the exhibitors, where the calibre of goods on offer is, as always, exceptional. The full-line up of jewellers is A La Vieille Russie, Bogh-Art, Chatila, David Webb, Didier LTD, Fred Leighton, Hancocks, Hemmerle, S.J.Phillips Ltd, Sandra Cronan, Siegelson, Susan Ollemans, Suzanne Syz, Symbolic & Chase, Theo Fennell, Verdura, Veronique Bamps and Wartski.
The man behind this eclectic selection of rare objects is Thomas Woodham-Smith, Creative Director of London's Masterpiece. "We make a pointed effort to give people a surprise at every turn," says Woodham-Smith. "It teaches them not get locked into one genre or period. We aim to surprise and delight in equal measure. It is too dull if we are one or the other."
"People wouldn't want to go to just a jewellery or a picture show," continues Woodham-Smith. "In this era of the ultimate eclectic buyer, or the new Medici if you like, the key is that the super-rich don't have any particular focus on one area of collecting. So we offer the best of the best from every discipline in the most salubrious environment we can conjure up."
From exquisite antique jewels and watches with hand-painted dials to contemporary designs from some of the best art-jewellers at work today, Masterpiece stringently vets all pieces before the fair opens to ensure that everything on display is nothing short of remarkable. Renowned Swiss watchmaker Vacheron Constantin will be exhibiting its first ever Metier D'Art collection of watches for women, featuring dials that have been individually painted by its very own master enameller. Somlo Antiques of London has an enticing selection of vintage watches, including a rare Rolex Prince with a striped brancard case and a curvy Patek Philippe 'Marylin Monroe'.
The breadth of jewels on display is always breathtaking. Look out for bold colours and unconventional materials from contemporary jewellers Suzanne Syz and Bogh-Art, while the fantastical German jewellery house Hemmerle will be showing a pair of earrings crafted from - yes really - a dinosaur bone. London jeweller Theo Fennell has a delightful collection of whimsical rings, each of which tells a story, including a miniature scene from 'The Wind in the Willows', whiskers, fur and all.
New York-based Verdura will be showing both original pieces by Duke Fulco di Verdura from the 1940s and 50s as well as modern versions of the jeweller's glamorous designs. Don't miss Coco Chanel's very own well-worn cuff bracelets, designed by Verdura, which were an integral part of her chic look. Head to Siegelson for out-of-this-world pieces acquired by New York's foremost purveyor of antique jewels as well as jewels by contemporary artist Daniel Brush. London's own Hancocks will be displaying its finest vintage jewellery, including a one-of-a-kind 1960s Harry Winston holly wreath necklace, as will Veronique Bamps, with exceptional jewellery from legendary brands such as Fabergé and Van Cleef & Arpels.
Time to stop for a quick bite at the Mount St Deli or a proper lunch at Scott's Seafood and Champagne Bar or Le Caprice, which have been miraculously recreated in the exhibition hall, complete with silver wine coolers and linen table cloths that, like all the catering at Masterpiece, is reason enough to visit. Because Masterpiece is all about the very best, expect nothing less from the venue itself, which stands head and shoulders above other exhibitions.
Suitably fortified, head to Wartski, which will be showing a particularly eye-catching selection of jewellery and accessories for men, as well as pieces for women, while Susan Ollemans has curated an extraordinary collection of antique - and, occasionally, ancient - Indian jewels.
Some of the jewels will be displayed amongst other works of art. Kentshire Galleries will exhibit jewellery alongside furniture, while Les Enluminures will be showing medieval rings and antique manuscripts. Add to that Montblanc - a new exhibitor for 2013 - and its one-off writing instruments including an emerald and diamond-set pen, and you can begin to appreciate the sheer breadth and diversity of craftsmanship on display at Masterpiece.
Whether you are a serious buyer or just browsing, it is an opportunity to meet the makers and learn from the world's leading luminaries. Alongside the existing exhibition space, Masterpiece London is for the first time this year teaming up with the Chinese Heritage and Arts Festival to create a new Hong Kong Pavilion, which will include highlights supplied by Hong Kong's Fine Art Asia fair's galleries. And take my advice: one day is simply not long enough to drink in all the marvels that Masterpiece has to offer.
Masterpiece runs from 27 June - 3 July 2013.