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Travel & Art
$6.6 Million Rare Kashmir Sapphire at M.S. Rau, New Orleans
2015-04-12 07:18:01
By Carole Dixon

While droves of party revelers pour into New Orleans French Quarter each year in search of a bar crawl on Bourbon Street, there is a refined and sophisticated side of the city – often overlooked, that is steeped in history, creative culture and nearly priceless antiques.

World renowned for American and European antiques since 1912, M.S. Rau Antiques on Royal Street envelopes an entire city block (over 10,000 square feet), that has been preserved by third-generation owner, President & CEO, the charming William (Bill) Rau. After spending a few hours immersed in his vast knowledge and stories of the industry, you’ll want to take a private tour of the space and possibly tag along on his next buying trip to Europe.

Upon entering the store, you are torn between veering over to the jewelry case or taking a closer look at the massive Reed & Barton 856 piece flatware serving set from 1950 in the style of Frances I. The stunning set comes complete with a felt lined wooden stand-alone chest that you would almost need a separate room to store – but think of the dinner parties you could throw with this cutlery on your three-pedestal Regency dining table – also available deep within the recesses of the store for purchase.

The front room of the showroom is loaded with delicately chiseled china and a rare crimson Wedgewood collection. Over at the jewelry counter, you can check out Oprah Winfrey’s former 72 carat diamond necklace or a 22.5 carat Asscher-cut Golconda diamond fit for a queen; but showstoppers include a 10.5 carat royal blue diamond and an 18.5 cushion-cut Kashmir sapphire ring, with two trapezoid diamonds weighing 2.08 total carats, valued at $6.6 million and ranked one of the world’s most desirable gems. This type of stone is only trumped in size slightly by the famed engagement ring owned by Princess Diana, and now, Kate Middleton. Both of the rings mentioned from M.S. Rau are so rare, they are often on loan to major jewelry exhibitions such as Basel World in Switzerland.

The paintings and objects d’art are museum quality from Monet, Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec and Chagall to Calder and Rockwell. They would all look lovely hanging above the 18th Century Georgian mahogany serpentine chest. We also found the most beautifully preserved Louis Vuitton steamer trunk, which would look wonderful at the foot of a bed or make a great coffee table, in addition to a home for Rau’s tome on the art world 19th Century European Painting from Barbizon to the Belle Époque. One could spend hours or days researching the bounty. It’s easy to see why the family legacy has continued even during past lean times for the economy, “After 103 years, this past year has been our most profitable year in history,” states Rau.

Giovanni dal Ponte (di Marco), Madonna with Child Enthroned 

Of course, when you do decide to brave a Bourbon Street crossing for a romantic dinner on the town, and to celebrate your purchases from the store, try Broussard’s for one of the classic old school dining rooms in the city since 1920. New chef Neal Swidler – who hails from Emeril Lagasse’s NOLA and Delmonico’s, blends French and creole flavors for barbecued shrimp with Anson Mills grits, crab croquettes and the artichoke remoulade salad. Signatures include the fried oysters Rockefeller with herbsaint creamed spinach and Applewood smoked bacon or the filet mignon Broussard stuffed with lump crab meat and Portobello mushrooms. Be sure to end with a bananas Foster made table side with a healthy splash of Bacardi151 rum. For something a little more casual – and lighter, head next door from M.S. Rau to Tableau at Le Petite Theatre – Dickie Brenan’s latest venture, for the French onion soup or a salad.


This exhibition runs until Monday, May 4, 2015
M.S. Rau Gallery, New Orleans, Louisiana