RETAIL TRADE: Blue Chips to Live With

Manhattan society turned out in black tie this week at the opening of an antique shop: the plush new quarters of French & Co., oldest and largest U.S. dealer in antiques. What the champagne-sipping Manhattanites saw was a $10 million display of furnishings ranging from Boucher tapestries valued at $175,000 to a Louis XV desk insured for $250,000. French's splashy housewarming was only part of an antique boom that has sent a stream of pre-1830 European furniture to the U.S. (1957 imports: $14.2 million), has even sent European buyers scurrying here to shop.

Part of the appeal of antiques is...