Business: Gilt-Edged Auction in Monaco

Antique furniture becomes very big casino

The crowd in the chandelier-hung room at Monaco's elegant Winter Sporting Club was certainly stellar, stippled with the rich (Greek Shipowner Stavros Niarchos, London Merchandising Millionaire Sir Charles Clore), the royal (Britain's Princess Alexandra) and the pop (ex-Beatle Ringo Starr). But the real stunners were the prices being paid for the glittering collection of French antique furniture and objets d'art that were on the block in what Sotheby Parke Bernet hoped would be the auction of the year.

So it was. On sale were 201 antiques from the...

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