The chairman of Christie's Europe and one of the world's foremost jewelry experts talks about the soaring demand for high jewelry, his favorite pieces, and the way he likes to see them on women...

It's not that everything he touches turns into gold. It's just that everything he touches seems to go up in value. International jewelry specialist Francois Curiel, chairman of Christie's Europe and auctioneer extraordinaire, is credited as the driving force behind the worldwide success of the venerable auction house. Thanks to his technical expertise, tireless energy and personal charm, Christie's has become a global leader in the jewelry and precious stones market. In 2004, it sold a stunning 2.3 billion dollars worth of jewelry (compared to 1.8 billion the year before) and in the first six months of 2005, it beat out its fiercest competitor Sotheby's by ringing up 128 million dollars more in sales! Are consumers simply in a mood to spend more? Or has Francois Curiel reached the top of his game? The 57-year old Frenchman began his glittery career in 1969, when he joined Christie's in London as a trainee in the jewelry department. Since then, his profession has taken him around the world and back, from London to Madrid to Paris to New York to Geneva and in 2001, to Paris again, where, in less than two years, he transformed France into a world leader in the auctions market. Along the way, Curiel sold some of the most extraordinary jewels from some of the most extraordinary people: clients have included Salimah Aga Khan, Joan Crawford, Doris Duke, Mary Pickford, Merle Oberon, Mouna Ayoub and Nelson Rockefeller, among others. Yet, Curiel's success goes far beyond rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous. This industry pioneer effectively revolutionized the business by making auction rooms accessible to a greater public. He developed events and exhibitions to attract more customers, wrote biographies of major jewelers and firms to fuel interest, and even changed the way jewelry is displayed, by organizing pieces by theme rather than by chronology, as was the practice at the time. As the son of a Paris dealer in antique silver and precious stones, Curiel's expertise was practically cultivated from birth. Yet, despite a lifetime examining the world's most exceptional jewelry, Curiel claims he's still to see the perfect piece. Hard to believe? Perhaps it's what keeps him going...

What is your definition of luxury?
Having the freedom to do whatever I want. If luxury were an object, what would it be? For someone like me who travels incessantly and has very little free time, it would be a private plane for my work.

If luxury were a place, where would it be?
Well, it would definitely be in Asia, a sea resort in Asia, which is where I find the best in luxurious accommodation and personal attention. In my opinion, Asians understand best the notion of high quality service and standards. Do you have a specific sea resort in mind? A villa at Amanpuri in Phuket, Thailand.

If luxury were a person, who would it be?
Karl Lagerfeld or Hubert Givenchy, because of their creativity and stature in an industry which they represent so well.

And if luxury were a moment?
The time I have alone with the person with whom I share my life. It is a rare occasion.