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Joaillier President Keeps Up With Times

Is there a Beverly Hills look in jewelry? Have gold chains passed into the great abyss? What status symbol speaks the loudest here?

The answers are: no, yes, Rolex.

After 10 years on Rodeo Drive, Henri Samuel, president of Fred Joaillier, has formed a few opinions. And Fred’s customers in Beverly Hills, he says, buy no differently than those in Monte Carlo, New York or the Paris flagship store.

“We are not surprised,” Samuel said. “Before we opened here, the big question was, are we going to make any sales? But we stocked the store with duplicates of our best models in Europe, and the results were beyond our projections.”

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Worldwide, the single most popular items are watches, sales of which account for 40% of Fred Joaillier’s business.

“You used to receive a watch between 12 and 14 for the communion or bar mitzvah and kept it all your life, or sometimes you wore your father’s watch for life,” he said. “Today, the watch is like a car. Everyone wants the watch that is in.”

The Mercedes of watches, he said, is a Rolex--be it diamond covered or stainless steel. “The movement in the Rolex is obsolete. It’s not quartz. There is a fluctuation of two to three minutes a month--if you are lucky. But it’s the watch,” he adds. “You can’t explain it.”

Where do all the Rolex wearers go? They don’t mix in Don Tallarico’s circle, Tallarico being the owner of the nearly-2-year-old Tallarico jewelry store on Canon Drive in Beverly Hills.

“My customers’ status symbols are the jewels they wear. Watches are not an important part of any of my customers’ lives,” he maintains.

“I’ve never seen a chic woman concentrate on a watch, and the likelihood of a woman wearing an important watch drops when the occasion is formal. I don’t have a friend or customer who wears a watch to a dressy party, and I’m out six nights a week,” Tallarico said. After some thought, Tallarico’s wife, Judy, interjected: “If I were a doctor, perhaps I’d wear a watch at night.”

First and foremost for the Tallarico customer are earrings and necklaces. “When you’re sitting down at a dinner table, people don’t look at your wrist to see if you have money. They notice what you’re wearing from the neck up,” says her husband.

Jewelry--and that includes watches, clocks, minaudieres, cigarette boxes and compacts--is the subject of an extravagant new book, “Van Cleef & Arpels,” published by Rizzoli International at $75.

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Philippe Arpels says for the last seven years his father, Jacques, son of the firm’s founder, has been on a shopping expedition of sorts for important Van Cleef jewels. Besides attending jewelry auctions, he tracked down customers, or children of customers, to see if they were interested in selling.

“One day he realized we were missing pieces so characteristic of the ‘20s, ‘30s and ‘40s,” explained Arpels, who runs the company’s U.S. operations. “When a piece of jewelry comes out of a workshop, it’s almost impossible to say, ‘That piece is so representative of the present that we’re keeping it.’ ”

Among the styles included in the book are flowered brooches made of “invisibly” set precious stones, enameled and jeweled cigarette boxes and Art Deco vanity cases.

Except for the invisible mountings, most of the techniques represented have been priced out of existence. “We have someone in Paris who can repair boxes, but that’s all,” said Arpels.

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It’s summertime, and that means it’s time for sun screens. To merchandise a new line of sun-care products, Reponsif (which is available at Bullock’s), has hooked itself up with an astrologer.

Get it? Sun screens and sun signs.

The astrologer is Karon Christian (“as in Dior”), a platinum blonde with long, shocking-pink nails who says every purchase of a Reponsif product will be accompanied by a taped recording of her astrological forecast (for the sun sign of your choice) during the month of July. “It’s my voice over music,” she explained.


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