LONDON - The ultra-rich have crammed into Masterpiece fair at the height of the London design season to shop for an extraordinary mix of paintings, one-off jewels and vintage home furnishings.
The glitterati, who visit London in their droves in June to attend sporting events from Ascot to Wimbledon as well as design, art and antique fairs, have adopted the five-year-old Masterpiece in chic Chelsea as a staple of the social calendar.
As several hundred people chattered over champagne and canapés at the private preview last Wednesday night, standout items ranging from Impressionist paintings to unique diamond and sapphire jewels stood out on exhibitor stands.
"People are looking for exceptional objects for their homes," said Stephen Wild of Raffety Fine Antique Clocks.
"Interior designers also come here to choose unique items that would suit their clients' various homes."
Raffety showcased an elegant Queen Anne-period 18th century clock in walnut by Daniel Quare, available for 145,000 pounds ($246,200).
ART AND JEWELS
The dearest items at Masterpiece are paintings and jewelry.
One Claude Monet landscape oil painting was available for 3.2 million pounds; a Camille Pissarro country scene had an asking price of 1.85 million pounds, which is now roughly enough for a two-bedroom apartment in Chelsea.
A large L.S. Lowry oil painting depicting the approach to Manchester railway station could be had for over 3 million pounds.
These are accessible prices for the visiting troupe of shoppers at Masterpiece.
Traditionally collectors of Lowry paintings of industrial scenes in northern England were mainly British, but now a huge surge of international wealth creation has stimulated the interest of foreign buyers.
"Now American or Asian collectors who have seen the history of industrialization in their own countries are developing a taste for Lowry," said Simon Carter, director of the MacConnal-Mason Gallery in London.
At the patrons' evening on Tuesday, Laurence Graff, the "king of diamonds" who is passionate about gems and has diamond jewelry shops around the world, was spotted among the throng of visitors to the fair.
This was a clue that some spectacular diamonds were on show.
Bond Street jeweler Chatila presented an outstanding super-sized African white diamond ring of just over 100 carats, for 5 million pounds, and a purplish-pink diamond ring for 3 million.
Jeweler BOGH-ART offered an extremely rare 200-carat yellow sapphire necklace for 1.1 million pounds.
Masterpiece 2014 runs until July 2.
($1 = 0.5889 British Pounds)