Never be the timid tourist where kings and queens, princes and prime ministers, presidents and chairmen of international corporations do their shopping.
While these establishments, some in business for a century or two or more, may prefer to serve the wealthy shoppers who have made them what they are, in recent years many stock items that sell at less than $100 or so for the convenience of the less affluent traveler.
It would be a shame to miss the treasures on sale within these exceptional emporiums catering to the very rich. A good many of the things shown are the finest works of yesterday's and today's greatest artisans.
In these shops, most of the older pieces have stories with them of royal owners, of favored ladies, of wealthy imaginative collectors, or of artisans whose talents were fostered by regal patronage.
Even newly created pieces have a special quality about them, making them rare heirlooms the moment they were produced by the few great craftsmen able to make them.
Asprey & Co. at 165-169 New Bond St. in London was established about 200 years ago and is primarily silversmiths and goldsmiths. They have created some of the most fascinating objects for the homes of the well-to-do as well as for palaces and mansions. In 1984 the company opened its first branch store on Fifth Avenue in Trump Tower in New York City.
Typical of the objects created by their artisans is a black cat created from smoky quartz with navette diamond eyes and an 18-carat gold and diamond collar with a gold bell. The cat is sitting on a cushion made from lapis lazuli. The price is about $34,000.
In the Asprey store in the Trump Tower is a sterling silver model of a Rolls-Royce 1907 Silver Ghost. It was created one-twelfth the size of the original car, and is 15 inches long and weighs 138 troy ounces. It has 245 pieces fitted together by 137 bolts, 44 screws and 82 nuts. In the distributor alone there are 22 pieces of silver soldered together.
To create this, 300 specific photographs were taken of the original car because drawings of it did not exist. The doors of the model car open and close, the cushions can be removed as can the rear carpet, and it is necessary to remove the rear carpet to fill the petrol tank.
The most fascinating details are in the engine and transmission. The engine carries two plugs per cylinder and all are wired in correct sequence. A set of tools contains two wheel braces to fit the nuts on the wheels (which may be removed), a plug spanner, a pair of pliers, a screwdriver and even a tow rope, all proportionately one-twelfth size. The price is only $97,000.
Boucheron at 26 Place Vendome in Paris is one of the world's fabulous jewelers. Among its most magnificent original pieces is one of the famous "mystery" clocks that some of the great jewelers of the world enjoy creating.
The hands on the clock on most of them seem to float in space and the whereabouts of the mechanism seems a mystery. This table clock is a masterpiece of the Boucheron craftsmen, with five beautiful rock crystal birds with coral beaks and onyx eyes. The clock is made from rock crystal, mother of pearl, lapis lazuli and diamonds and has a quartz movement. There is not another like it in the world, and it sells for $78,600.
Alfred Dunhill Limited, 30 Duke St., London, is the world's most famous creator of table and pocket lighters. Perhaps the most famous it created and offered is called the Lighthouse Lighter. It is made of 18-carat gold and stands two feet high. It is designed in the shape of a lighthouse and is set on an island base of amethyst.
The windows in the lighthouse are also of amethyst. The lantern portion of the lighthouse contains a removable lighter and incorporates a battery-powered flashing light that operates every six seconds. The cost for this lighter is about $55,000.
The Schaffhausen Watch Corp. in Schaffhausen, Switzerland, has been quietly in business since 1868, making very fine but not fancy pocket watches. It is easy to find an expensive bejeweled watch in all of the better jewelry stores. In these instances, the decorative aspects contribute most to the price tag.
Not so a watch produced since the 1920s by Schaffhausen. Called the Grande Complication, it is a masterpiece that is perfect to the last detail. It has an 18-carat red gold case and a movement with 1,300 parts. The optical display shows hour, minute, second, day of the week, date and month, a perpetual calendar and a seconds chronograph.
4 or 5 a Year
Acoustically, a finely adjusted repeater will strike the hour with quarter hour and minute increments. No more than four or five of these watches are made each year, and each costs $150,000.