The Jewels of Paris

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Courtesy of Van Cleef & Arpels

A sketch of a new design from Van Cleef & Arpels.

The haute couture is no longer just about handmade clothing that costs upwards of $20,000 a piece. Nowadays, with the $217 billion luxury market growing at 10% a year and millionaires being minted every minute in emerging markets like China and Russia, Paris's Place Vendome has become a veritable shopping mall for the big spenders who are in town for the shows this week. Fine jewelers like Van Cleef & Arpels, Chanel, and Boucheron are seizing the high luxury moment, showing collections of unique often over-the-top pieces.

The venerable French jeweler Van Cleef & Arpels opened their doors Wednesday to present their newest fine jewelry collection, Atlantide. Many of the pieces were just models since most of the collection is still in production up in the ateliers. If all goes according to plan, the Atlantide collection will travel from Paris to Hong Kong in the fall and land in New York City just in time for the holidays. Based on the mythic stories of Neptune and his queen, Cleita, the Van Cleef creative team explored the deep sea, using smatterings of pearls to depict ocean spray and rare aqua colored tourmaline's to evoke the ocean depths. One stunning pendant is composed of onyx and set with diamonds and white gold coral-shaped branches. Other pieces include sea nymph pins encrusted with sapphires and a Poseiden-like creature made of yellow gold and fashioned into a pin set with yellow and white diamonds and a 7 carat spinel.

Mikimoto, famous for their cultured pearls, is also stepping up its fashion week presence here with a new collection called "Stormy Weather," designed by Yohji Yamamoto, who was inspired by the variations of grays on the house's pearls and the "forms and colors trailing in the wake of a boat in stormy weather." The collection includes a $55,000 necklace made of 28 white gold discs, each containing a pearl and each representing one of the 28 phases of the moon.