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Millionaire fair in Moscow flaunts small indulgences

MOSCOW, Oct 23 – A diamond-studded saucepan was attracting plenty of interest at Moscow\’s top annual luxury fair, offering the usual array of sparkly bling, fast cars and vast price tags.

Displayed in a glass case, the saucepan has a handle and lid encrusted with 270 diamonds and is decorated with 750-carat gold, brand manager Natalya Oreshkina said.

Made by German cookware brand Fissler, the utensil is not really suitable for cooking, Oreshkina added, shuddering at the idea of putting it in an oven.

"It is for serving food beautifully," she explained as crowds packed the Manezh exhibition centre in central Moscow on opening night Friday.

At 150,000 euros, the pan costs roughly the same as a Porsche Cayenne SUV, but is better value, Oreshkina claimed in a practised sales pitch.

"A Porsche Cayenne turns into a pile of metal once it leaves the showroom. This is an investment."

An annual celebration of conspicuous consumption, the Moscow Millionaire Fair, has been held in Russia since 2005, crisis or no crisis.

Russia’s economy is rebounding after it contracted a record 7.9 percent last year during the global financial meltdown.

Economists say recovery from deep recession remains fragile but appears to be picking up speed due to government efforts to boost private consumption.

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So the emphasis at this year\’s luxury fair was, fittingly, on little indulgences.

A German range of skincare products called BB Royal comes packaged in containers decorated with 5,000 Swarovski crystals. It markets itself as the world\’s "most high-range" cosmetics brand.

"I think everyone would like to look younger, but of course you need a bit of money. Each bottle costs around 3,000 euros," said the brand\’s owner, Boris Bartel.

Or what about a 110,000-euro glass piano, which plays by itself and pipes an accompanying orchestra through a top-of-the range sound system?

"It\’s for rich people, who usually buy them for their homes," said Irina Davydova, a manager at the Moscow store that sells the German Schimmel pianos. "Sales were worse last year, but this year, everything has already stabilised."

While previous events have featured concerts by big-name stars including Bryan Ferry, this week\’s fair promised a more modest performance by British DJ Mark Ronson.

Organisers boasted in a statement that he is the brother of the ex-girlfriend of Hollywood star Lindsay Lohan.

With just one helicopter on display and a handful of sports cars, including an orange Lamborghini priced at 729,000 dollars, this year\’s opening was comparatively low-key.

The sparkliest — and largest price-ticket items — on sale were swirly mosaics to hang on the wall made of thousands of Swarovski crystals.

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An intricate picture of a child\’s eye was selling for three million dollars, while a black-and-silver butterfly was a snip at 1.25 million dollars.

The mosaics were designed by artist, Sharon Jones, who travelled to the fair from Perth, Australia.

The artist was bringing the Swarovski-crystal mosaics to Moscow for the first time in search of wealthy Russian clients, said her business partner and husband, Garrick Jones.

"In Australia, we live too far from everything, that is our problem."

"They\’re not cheap," said Jones. "It\’s not an everyday thing that people can say, \’I\’ll have one of those.\’ It\’s for the wealthy."

Among the members of Russian high society attending and posing for the cameras were ballerina Anastasia Volochkova and society portrait painter Nikas Safronov, known for his flattering renditions of heiresses.

This year\’s event runs till Sunday. Organisers are based in the Netherlands, where the fair was first held.

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