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BARGAINS / GERI COOK

A Crystal Ball : The warehouse of Athena International in Venice offers glass objets d'art that represent some, well, smashing buys.

October 21, 1994|GERI COOK

VENICE — For the black-belt bargain shopper, there's nothing quite like a warehouse outlet of imported elegance at wholesale prices. Athena International ships its European crystal and glass objets d'art from a warehouse in Venice, a small corner of which has been transformed into a shimmering treasure trove of elegant crystal and blown glass, perfectly organized and beautifully priced.

Jenny Blair and Touch of Glass are among the names represented in the Athena International inventory, and there are always some first-quality pieces available at near-wholesale prices. A handsome egg paperweight, an example of the considerable skill of artisan Christopher Lucas, is from the Touch of Glass Bouquet. It wholesales for $32.50; a retailer would probably ask double. A perfume bottle from the Confetti collection, its design a blend of pastel forms, is $36.

A six-inch-tall perfume bottle, frosted glass with hand-painted designs in glowing colors, is from Jenny Blair's Impressions collection and is $20. A two-inch bottle from the Precious Collection, inspired by Victorian decorative arts, is encased in silver- or gold-plated filigree and wholesales at $44 in the silver and $48.50 in gold. These are the prices to the public.

A die-hard shopper will be in hog heaven in the seconds area, and will be hard-pressed to discover flaws that bring these prices down to below wholesale.

Here you'll find a variety of glass pyramids from $4 to $12. One second Jenny Blair perfume bottle that wholesales for $70 was tagged $35. Others started at $3.50. Also in the seconds area were a variety of prisms, perfect as Christmas tree ornaments, priced at $1.50; buy a dozen and that price comes down to $1 each. Seconds in Aurora Borealis tinted obelisks are $5, and some stunning glass shells imported from Austria are a buy at $15, when you consider that the wholesale price is $27.50.

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There are always a few of Athena's signature pieces--frosted globes--in various hues and designs. The top-of-the line globe on a brass caliper retails for $500 and sells here for $245. Others are priced wholesale and start at $20.

Unique jewelry pieces include the Millefiori pendants, earrings and pins. Made in Murano, Italy, small segments of multicolored glass rods are laid close to one another and fired in a kiln. After hand-polishing, the disks are set in sterling silver and plated with 24-karat gold. No two pieces are alike. Most of these pieces are wholesale. Pins are $10, earrings $22, and pendants range from $17 for the small size to $32 for a large one. Costume jewelry samples from Austria are incredibly priced at $5 for a necklace (retail $30), $3 for a bracelet (retail $20) and $2 for a pair of earrings (retail $15).

Moreover, starting Wednesday, owner Barbara Levin is having a sale. "We have to get ready for the new season, so we're taking discontinued items from the '94 line and discounting them even more," Levin says. How good can it get?

Geri Cook's Bargains column runs every Friday in Valley Life! Questions about shopping may be sent to her, in care of Valley Life!, Los Angeles Times, 20000 Prairie St., Chatsworth 91311. Letters will not be answered individually, but topics of general interest will be discussed in future columns. Geri Cook can be heard from 9 to 10 a.m. Saturdays on KIEV 870-AM.

Where to Shop

What: Athena International Inc.

Location: 606-A Venice Blvd., Venice.

Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, Saturdays between Thanksgiving and Christmas and Sundays, Dec. 11 and 18.

Cards: MasterCard and Visa.

Call: (310) 578-7312.

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