June 23rd, 2005
By Charles Wyndham.
Unlike Gareth who has been busy in Israel, or Nicky who is celebrating his 60th birthday as far from the shores of America as possible, I was fortunate enough to be invited to the opening of the new De Beers LV shop in New York.
The previous evening saw the high rollers party held in some remarkable penthouse apartment overlooking Central Park, which on leaving a leaflet was put in my hand extolling its virtues, amongst which was that it was for sale for a modest $32 million.
Scoffing food from what is said to be New York’s top restaurant, Per Se, and washing it down with Dom Perignon was no hardship.
Neither was the fact that all the waitresses hovered over me as if I was some multi-millionaire invited to buy the Millenium Star.
The actual opening was graced by a desultory bunch of pinko’s shouting about the Bushmen of Botswana from the opposite side of the road of the store on Fifth Avenue, thankfully the traffic noise more than adequately drowned out their pathetic cries.
I didn’t see any poor Bushmen either, the afflicted clearly had better things to do.
Whatever one’s thoughts about De Beers, this particular populist attack is absolutely outrageous, the Bushmen is not De Beers’ problem or responsibility.
It is totally intellectually dishonest for any group to be attacking De Beers on this issue and diamonds in general when it is this commodity that has dragged Botswana from one of the poorest nations in Africa to one of its most successful. Go and moan to the government, that is what a democracy is all about.
Well, to the shop.
My visit was only fleeting as I was virtually crushed by the throng so I did not hang around too long, just time for one more glass of champagne.
By clever touches the impact of the new shop is completely different to the one on Bond Street or Piccadilly, which must be one of the greatest advertisements for how to ensure no one wants to buy a diamond known to mankind.
The turgid brown of London has been lifted by adding a liberal dollop of red to that mud signature colour. Floors were not exclusively dark brown and I did not feel that some hippo was going to come and offer to show me the 50 carater to the sound of jungle drums.
Whether the new format is going to sell diamonds, I am not qualified to say. No one needs a qualification to know that the London store won’t. But to have kept some linkage to what is such a disastrous formula and produce something which to my eye at least gives you a good chance is quite an achievement.
I suppose in these times of entente cordiale I must put it down to the success of the gallic touch.
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