As a new wave of bespoke shopping experiences takes things to the next level, Grace O’Neill investigates how the one percent buy jewellery in 2019.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

As a new wave of bespoke shopping experiences takes things to the next level, Grace O’Neill investigates how the one percent buy jewellery in 2019.

Clockwise from top: Earring, Chanel. Ring, Messika. Ring, Pomellato. Ring, Chaumet. Bracelet, Moussaieff. Necklace, Chopard. Dress, Ralph & Russo 

Aprivate tour of Catherine the Great’s bedroom in Moscow; a vintage speedboat to take you art shopping on a Venetian island; shutting down the Tower of London for a one-on-one afternoon with the Crown Jewels. No, this isn’t the world’s most lavish Lonely Planet guide, but rather a taste of the varied bespoke experiences that Brian Purkis has created for his clients. As the newly appointed high jewellery manager at Bvlgari, Sydney-based Purkis is tasked with giving his clients the most luxurious shopping experience imaginable—a job that sees him fly high-net-worth individuals and their family first class to locales as far-flung as Italy, the UK and Russia. The relationship he builds with these clients is so close that they often consider him part of the family—he has stayed at clients’ homes and attended their children’s weddings all while helping them secure one-of-a-kind,kind, bespoke Bvlgari pieces, many with price tags well over $1 million. 

Welcome to the wonderful world of high jewellery, where, apparently, a glass of champagne at the checkout simply doesn’t cut it anymore. “When we go to Capri, London, Paris, or Moscow, these clients can afford to fly themselves there 10 times over,” Purkis explains from the high jewellery boutique in Sydney’s Bvlgari store. We are surrounded by hundreds of carats of diamonds and expanses of Italian marble. “What they don't have is the one-to-one experiences that we can offer them ater them at these events.” Much like Dolce&Gabbana’s annual Alta Moda festivals—days-long affairs where top-tier clients are wined, dined and given private access to a quasi-couture offering— Bvlgari hosts clients around the world for its annual high jewellery launches. “On those trips we are working with clients 24 hours a day,” Purkis says. “We co-ordinate everything, right down to their hair and makeup for galas in the evening—we do everything for them.”

This may sound excessive, but Purkis knows as well as anyone that this is the game in 2019. In an era when the personal wealth of the richest is at an all-time high,me high, experiences and, most importantly, access reign supreme. Just ask Cartier. The French house hosts similar high jewellery launches annually, where clients are given private access to new collections and get to rub shoulders with the likes of Monica Bellucci, Sofia Coppola and Naomi Watts at evening events. The highest-tier customers can also peruse a private collection of 300 archival pieces—including a $50 million diamond collar necklace from the ’20s made for an Indian maharaja and a diamond, emerald, sapphire and ruby brooch owned by Wallis Simpson (Cartier nabbed the latter for its private collection during a Sotherby’s auction for more than $3 million). 

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From top: Earrings, Dior. Ring, Louis Vuitton. Ring, Chopard. Necklace, De Beers. Hat, Erdem


A Singapore-based Image Consultant for 12 years, Julia Blanks says that there’s a big misconception that personal stylists only work with the rich and famous. A majority of her clients are mid-tier executives or people running their own businesses. She says: “A good stylist doesn’t just pick the best outfits for your body type; it’s someone who sees where you are now and where you want to be—personally and professionally—and helps you get there.” 


If you're strapped for time or need help picking an outfit an occasion, your best bet would be to engage the personal shopper services of a department store (like Robinsons or TANGS) or even a shopping mall. Marina Bay Sands’ Shopping Concierge service is available at $250 per session (for a maximum of three hours).


Rental fashion services like Style Theory let you enjoy an ever revolving wardrobe without the exorbitant cost. With packages that start from $69 per month, pick from an array of brands from Alice McCall to Zac Zac Posen. They’ve also just launched a designer handbag rental service that allows you to tote the latest It bags from Chanel, Dior, Gucci, Saint Laurent and more.

Elsewhere, the rise of the personal shopper is adding an extra level to the bespoke experience. Threads, a personal shopping service with offices in New York, London and Hong Kong, specialises in helping customers track down hard-to-find designer goods. Fine jewellery is among its fastest-growing markets. “Our customers are a lot younger than other retailers’, and they aren’t shopping how people think they are,” Sophie Quy, Threads’ fine jewellery manager, told Australia’s The Sunday Times. The bespoke, one-of-a-kind experiences she’s created for her largely millennial client base include flying Lorraine Schwartz (creator of the jewellery favoured by Blake Lively and Beyoncé) to meet a Middle Eastern client at home, and having jewellery designer Maria Tash set up an ear-piercing station at a party.

Gabriel Waller, a Sydney-based personal shopper who rose to international prominence when Rosie Huntington-Whitely praised her services on Instagram (it’s a long-winded story that involves an oversized Céline coat), says jewellery makes up an expanding part of her business. “I’ve had a huge amount of interest in Chanel and Dior jewellery in the past couple of months,” she says, noting that these pieces are often fashion jewellery rather than fine jewellery. “The ‘CHA’/‘NEL’ earrings have been massive—alongside everything else from the spring/summer [2019] collection.” Waller says that while some of her clients use her services to secure rare items, many simply use her as a means to outsource the shopping experience. “A lot of my clients don’t have time to sit flicking through their phones or go into stores hunting for a piece that they want,” she explains. “Many will just send me a screenshot from Instagram and their size, and I’ll do the rest.” Sometimes these screengrabs won’t even contain details of the designer, season or person wearing them. “There can be a lot of detective work involved,” she says with a laugh.