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Last Updated: Friday, 23 November 2007, 12:02 GMT
Spending tips for Russia's richest
By James Rodgers
BBC News, Moscow

A Mercedes car coated in Swarovski diamonds
Standout items include a diamond-encrusted Mercedes

A trip to Russia used to be the style equivalent of being sent to Siberia.

Now there's such a market for luxury goods that Moscow hosts an annual "Millionaire Fair" to show the wealthy how they might choose to spend their cash.

Ladas are no longer the limit.

There are big cars for top tycoons, and toys for the rich boys.

If you don't want to risk getting stuck in Moscow's ever-worsening traffic jams, there are plenty of helicopters to choose from.

Flaunting wealth

All the gold and glitz might not be to everyone's taste, but in today's Russia, if you've got it, you flaunt it. Understatement seemed to be an alien concept.

On the opening gala evening, stilt walkers added to the air of extravagant pageant. Waiters glided between the stands with trays of fine wine and shots of premium vodka.
When they take out a wine card they always pick the most expensive one, and they think it's the best. Well, it's not
Yves Gijrath

The man behind the Millionaire Fair insists it's about more than just money.

He seems to be on a mission to bring a sense of style for those who can easily afford it.

"The development of taste takes a lot of time," Yves Gijrath told me.

"First of all, taste is very personal. Secondly, the Russians when they take out a wine card they always pick the most expensive one, and they think it's the best. Well, it's not. That's why we are here - explaining the stories behind the brands, explaining what luxury is all about. It's not only about what's expensive."

Nor is it about what's cheap.

Lure of property

One of the gold and diamond mobile phones on the "Gold GSM" stand was priced at 15,000 euro. If you want to head for the real top end, though, you need to look at property.

"The Ultimate property collection is the very best luxury properties we have throughout the world - ranging from properties in central London, Chelsea, Knightsbridge, new developments," explains Daniel von Barloewen, from estate agents Savills.

Having flown in from London to look for oligarchs in search of a luxury home, he was flicking through a brochure he'd brought in the hope of persuading them to part with some of their millions.

"We have the Ambassadorial entertaining at Windlesham in Surrey which is in excess of 70m. That's actually been on the market for a couple of years."

I wondered if he thought a trip to Moscow might net the elusive buyer.

"I think hopefully, yes."

The booming luxury goods market doesn't mean all Russians are rich. Food producers recently agreed to freeze the prices of some basic foodstuffs because inflation threatened to put them beyond the pockets of the poor.

At the other end of the wealth scale, the sky's the limit.

There was one stand offering private and corporate jets.

But, if you're stuck for a Christmas gift for the oligarch in your life, how about coffee table supported by Siberian mammoth tusks?

It looked like a comparative bargain at around $270,000.


James Rodgers Leaving for good
Our correspondent's valedictory entry before departing Moscow

MAY - OCT 2008

SEPT 2007 - APRIL 2008



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