Mo' Money: The Rich and Powerful Keep Playing in Monaco

It¿s cocktail hour in Monte Carlo and British jeweler Graff has transformed the Hôtel de Paris¿ Salle Empire into a garden of multicolored diamonds.

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WWD Scoop issue 09/29/2008
It’s cocktail hour in Monte Carlo and British jeweler Graff has transformed the Hôtel de Paris’ marbled Salle Empire into a garden of multicolored diamonds, glinting among palm trees swathed in green light. The centerpiece of the soiree  is The Lesotho Promise, a necklace featuring 26 white D-flawless stones, the most valuable on the grading system, carved from the 15th largest diamond ever plucked from the earth.

Graff, which throws a similarly lavish party every year during Monaco’s high social season in July and August, knows its guests—whose superyachts dominate the Port Hercule and whose Bentleys gleam outside palatial hotels— aren’t among the easily bedazzled. “If someone has made an incredible fortune, they come to Monaco and they expect this sort of show,” says François Graff, the jewelry company’s managing director and son of billionaire founder Laurence Graff.

Neighboring the Hôtel de Paris stands Les Casinos de Monte-Carlo, a majestic building that marked the creation of the Monte Carlo district back in the 19th century and, along with four other casinos, has defined the principality’s international image ever since. Today, so the advertisements tantalizingly promise, “In Monte Carlo, someone hits the jackpot every seven minutes.”

However, it’s tourism, not gambling, that brings in the lion’s share of wealth to this resort, where gross domestic product per capita neared 50,000 euros, or about $75,000, in 2006. Many of Monaco’s residents, who hail from 125 countries, descend here each summer to clock up the days necessary to qualify for tax breaks. Add to that some 350,000 hotel guests who come for entertainment— be it international sporting spectaculars like the Grand Prix and the Monaco Yacht Show or simply the yearlong display of unbridled opulence. Tourists snap themselves in front of some of the world’s largest superyachts, which were this season dwarfed by the Lady Moura, whose 344-foot, multiple-decked glory makes neighboring vessels look like tenders in comparison.

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