Rich Nigerians embrace jewellery's "King of Bling"

Wed Nov 30, 2011 7:37am EST
 
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By Joe Brock

ABUJA (Reuters) - A bizarre mix of pop stars, oil moguls and politicians swigged champagne and danced into the night in Nigeria's capital at a launch party for Chris Aire, Nigerian jewellery designer to the stars, nicknamed "The King of Bling."

On Tuesday night, Aire launched his first boutique in Africa's most populous nation, where many live on less than $2 a day, allowing the growing number of Nigeria's super-rich to access diamond jewellery worn by top U.S. stars like Oprah Winfrey, Clint Eastwood and Angelina Jolie.

The red carpet was rolled out at the most expensive hotel in Abuja, in a rare event for Nigeria. U.S. rapper Shaggy flew in to mix with Nigerian music favorites 2face and Duncan Mighty and dozens of models and businessmen at an exclusive party.

"Please look around at Chris's, the 'Iceman's' the 'King of Bling's' amazing work here. Buy something for your wife, if not then your girlfriend or your mistress. It's all good," the party organizer told guests, standing in front big screen televisions showing images of U.S. stars wearing Aire's jewellery.

Aire recently sold a $20 million diamond dress, while a necklace on his website is going for a touch over $7 million.

Nigeria is Africa's largest crude oil exporter and while the majority of the country's 150 million residents live below the poverty line, there are hundreds who have a large share in billions of dollars from the continent's biggest oil industry.

It is easy to see why luxury goods businesses like Aire's are eyeing up Nigeria, as the developed world slips further into a financial crisis.

In the commercial-hub Lagos, yachts float on dirty waterways and super cars line driveways of grand houses which sit beside shanty towns. A lack of proper irrigation and pot-holed roads mean the vehicles are impractical status symbols.   Continued...