Crystal, Porcelain Promenade

Merin is a New York City free-lance writer .

In Paris, no shopping street glitters more brightly than Rue du Paradis, the city's sparkling crystal and porcelain promenade.

This four-block span, lined with discount shops selling top-quality porcelain and crystal by Haviland, Bernardaud, Villeroy & Boch, Baccarat, Daum, Saint Louis and other famous French manufacturers, is heaven for people who fancy the accouterments of fine dining.

Rue de Paradis is in the Tenth Arrondissement, a bit off the beaten tourist trail.

Take the Metro to the Gare de L'Est station, and Rue de Paradis is a short, pleasant walk from there.

Retail competition on the street is so keen that you're guaranteed good buys. If you don't see what you want at the right price in one shop, go next door for a better deal.

Most of the shops offer tax rebates (12% and up) on goods purchased for export. They'll ship purchases to your home. Insurance costs extra, but you need the protection against breakage.

Excellent Selection

Here are some of the best shops:

Cristallerie de Paris (1 Rue de Paradis) has an excellent selection of Haviland (a five-piece setting of Pamplemouse pattern costs about $112), Villeroy & Boch, Bernardaud and other fine porcelain tableware, as well as exquisite and less expensive, hand-painted faience de charolles .

You'll also find crystal from Saint Louis, Daum and Baccarat. The shop offers a 15% tax rebate. In general, prices here are slightly higher than in other Rue de Paradis stores, but the selection is comprehensive.

Boutique Paradis (1 bis Rue de Paradis) presents a gleaming world of tableware featuring Haviland porcelain (a five-piece setting of Pamplemouse pattern costs about $108), Saint Louis gold-trimmed wine goblets and colored cut crystal. The shop offers a 15% tax rebate on exported goods.

Maurice Lubliner (2 Rue de Paradis) has a tiny, cluttered shop with a startling, almost deafening front-door bell (don't drop anything when it sounds or you'll pay for it). There are some unusual hand-painted porcelain pill boxes (about $35 and up) in the shapes of hearts, eggs and fans, as well as more ordinary circles and squares.

The miniature flowers and birds painted on the boxes are perfect. Some of the boxes are decorated with miniature portraits of fantasy courtiers. The shop also has figurines, assorted plates, platters and vases at reasonable prices.

Great Savings

L'Art et la Table (3 Rue de Paradis) offers great savings on Haviland's Pamplemouse and other patterns (pieces are sold individually; a four-piece setting costs about $110), and top-quality porcelain tableware. Akil's beautiful decorative plates (about $35 each) with bird and other nature motifs are good buys. The tax refund on exported goods is 15%.

L'Argile (5 Rue de Paradis) is an unusual shop. In the midst of the Rue de Paradis porcelain, it sells beautiful hand-thrown pitchers and canisters, flower pots, vases and bowls. These modern and rustic styles have the appealing rough-hewn quality of handmade and decorated earthenware. Priced at about $15 and up, they make lovely and unusual gifts.

Limoges Unic (8, 12, and 58 Rue de Paradis) has three popular shops offering a marvelous selection of stemware and drinking glasses, porcelain place settings and silverware.

The prices are reasonable and the selection encompasses all the top brands and patterns. In addition to the beautiful crystal glassware by Baccarat and Daum, the shop carries unusual crystal clocks (about $350 and up), paperweights (about $45 and up) and figurines from these fine manufacturers.

There are also sets of imported Italian Venini glasses (about $55 for a set of six), patterned with colors swirling through the glass.

Porcelain lines include Haviland (the popular Ananas pattern sells for about $1,400 for a 56-piece set), Bernardaud and a marble-bordered pattern by Lafarge.

Limoges Unic also has its own lines of handsome and relatively inexpensive faience, bordered with hand-painted patterns of flowers and fruit (individual place settings cost about $40 and up), plus other faience by Leonard. The shop offers a 15.7% tax refund on exported goods.

Imported Tableware

Porcelaine 8 (8 Rue de Paradis) carries fine French porcelain lines, and stunning tableware imported from West Germany.

There are also specialty plates lettered with "couscous," "moules a la Bordelaise," "la Raclette," "la Latue" and other names of popular recipes (about $15 to $20 each). The shop's collection of practical baking dishes (about $10 and up) is impressive.

Porcelaine Savary (9 Rue de Paradis) has selected settings by Villeroy and Boch (serving bowls and soup tureens go for as little as $23 each) and other leading manufacturers. They include Lanternier's blue grapes pattern (44-piece setting for about $1,100), plus its own fine lines of porcelain tableware, including a gold-and-blue-bordered pattern (44-piece formal setting for about $1,200), and another with white field and flower petals around the border (six dinner plates or soup bowls for about $125, six dessert or salad plates for about $118).

The shop sells Baccarat and other crystal stemware and glasses, and some lovely tea sets. Another Porcelain Savary shop is at Palais des Congres in the Seventeenth Arrondissement. Both shops offer an 18.6% tax rebate on goods for export.

Arts Ceramiques (15 Rue de Paradis) has a huge assortment of Villeroy and Boch, Bernardaud, Raynaud, Haviland, Lafarge, Baccarat, Cristal Sevres and other tablewares at competitive prices.

Cristallerie Paradis (17 Rue de Paradis) sells Baccarat, Saint Louis and other top French manufacturers, as well as crystal from other sources.

This shop is the showplace for dozens of pieces imported from West Germany and Czechoslovakia, and presents a good opportunity to compare quality and price. The imported pieces stand up pretty well, and cost about 20% less than comparable French products.

Decorative Elements

Standing Decors (21 bis Rue de Paradis), an interior decorating shop, has all sorts of decorative elements.

There are huge cast plaster heads of Egyptian pharaohs, colored gold and turquoise, monumental porcelain giraffes (about $200 and up), animals, other objets d'art, furniture and lamps.

The ceiling is a sea of antique and modern crystal chandeliers of all descriptions (about $350 and up) and some famous name crystal and Limoges for table tops.

The Baccarat (30 bis Rue de Paradis) name signifies perfection in crystal. The company, founded in 1764 by order of King Louis XV, began making lead crystal in 1817 during the reign of Louis XVIII.

Since then, Baccarat has supplied goblets, decanters, chandeliers and other items of full lead crystal to the royal houses of Europe. You can buy them, too.

The retail division at Baccarat's Rue de Paradis headquarters is extensive, with an array of pieces in famous Harcourt, Capri and Massena patterns. Prices are not discounted, but the 15% tax rebate affords savings.

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