Palo Alto Weekly

News - February 5, 2010

Lavish love

Extravagant gifts for Valentine's Day can be found locally

by John Squire

Yes, it's a recession, but really, how much is love worth?

When the price of love is no object local businesses are ready and willing to supply plenty of "bling."

Here are some of their suggestions for the most extravagant Valentine's Day gifts in town:

Tesla Motors is going public — and right here in Palo Alto. For those who want to help get the new American auto industry off the ground, the sleek, all-electric Tesla Roadster goes from zero to 60 mph in 3.9 seconds for $109,000.

"It isn't something people consider to be extravagant. This is something a little different, a way of moving sustainable transportation forward," salesman Dan Myggen said.

The automaker's vehicles could be the gifts of choice for more people in 2012, when Tesla plans to roll out its Model S, a $50,000 sedan.

For the champagne and caviar set, Salon's 1997 Blanc de Blancs is "the cream of the crop," at $245, said Robert Williams, a wine consultant at Beltramo's Wine and Spirits in Menlo Park.

Although obscure, the champagne is definitely the connoisseur's choice, he said. Gift givers can throw in Caspian Osetra caviar, a natural complement, at $175 for two ounces, he added.

For big reds, Williams recommends a 1986 Mouton at $1,200.

"It's got 23 years and it's perfect to drink right now," Williams said.

The most expensive bottle in the store is a 1955 Macallan 46-year single-malt scotch at $8,500. It's both a fine spirit and a collector's item, he said.

Traditionally, nothing says "I love you" better than a big, shiny rock. Right now, the most expensive diamond ring at Tiffany & Co. in Stanford Shopping Center is a $440,000, G-graded rock weighing five-karats, according to Bebe Kokab, the store's director.

Shoppers on a budget will find a classic Tiffany setting costs around $85,000, depending on the diamond, Kokab said.

Cartier features Le Cirque Animalier collection, a limited edition of women's watches. The collection depicts diamond-encrusted circus animals holding onto the timepiece. For $156,000, there's a choice between a panda, an elephant and a tiger.

Aida Smailagic, manager at Cartier Palo Alto, recommended an extra-large Ballon Bleu for men. With a white-gold band and diamond inlays, it runs $60,000.

A beau on the more intellectual side might appreciate Bell's Books finely printed books and rare first editions. A 1770 edition of Plutarch's "Lives" would be a good option, said Faith Bell, manager of the Emerson Street store in Palo Alto. Bound in calfskin and Moroccan leather, the illustrated set is $1,500.

The intricate multi-colored woodcuts of local artist Tom Killian are the headliner in his oversized book, "Walls: A Journey Across Three Continents." Bell said he made a woodcut for each color of each picture in the $950 handmade book.

Perfume and cologne from the Tom Ford Private Blend Collection is the top of the line at $400 a bottle at Neiman Marcus.

The Jo Malone collection also stands out, according to Donald Mulderick, Neiman Marcus sales associate. The fragrances are unapologetically European, with much more floral scents than American colognes, he said. The Jo Malone colognes are perhaps the most accessible price-wise, at $100 for two ounces and $55 for one-ounce bottles.

And finally, there's the gift that keeps on giving.

If one's Valentine is a charitable person, then what better statement of love than a donation in his or her name, said Mari Ellen Reynolds Loijens, chief of staff for Silicon Valley Community Foundation.

"It really shows you understand them and know who they are," she said.

Loijens said she has the perfect and most timely gift in mind: a contribution toward the foundation's Haiti Emergency Relief Fund, which is now offering $229,000 in matching grants. Gifts can be made at siliconvalleycf.org.

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