x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Bling, dong, merrily on high: the $11m Christmas tree

Emirates Palace Hotel unveils the world's most expensively decorated Christmas tree, bearing jewellery worth $11.5 million, which cost Dh50,000 to insure.

Deck the boughs with lots of lolly: the Christmas tree at the Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi is fake but the $11 million of jewels on the tree are real.
Deck the boughs with lots of lolly: the Christmas tree at the Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi is fake but the $11 million of jewels on the tree are real.
Hadwan Assaf, an Abu Dhabi jeweller, faced a challenge this year most holiday revellers never encounter - how to insure the decorations?

Not easily, as it turns out.

Mr Assaf supplied the lavish jewels worth US$11.5 million (Dh42.24m) which adorn the 43ft artificial fir at the Emirates Palace Hotel, which was unveiled on Wednesday and which the hotel believes is the most expensive Christmas tree in the world.

But the Dh3.5m diamond necklace and other gem-studded ornaments he contributed, which have already garnered extensive international attention, almost never made it out of the display case.

"The plan was agreed almost immediately, but having the insurance companies agree to insure the pieces took a long time," Mr Assaf said yesterday.

The negotiations dragged out for two months before the insurers agreed on a premium of Dh50,000.

"The idea of showcasing luxury jewellery pieces on a Christmas tree was relatively new for them and caused some hesitation before it was finally approved," he said.

Mr Assaf is the general manager of Style Gallery, which has an outlet in the hotel as well as one other store in the capital. Along with the diamond necklace, he contributed pieces including emeralds, gold, pearls and sapphires, with the least valuable of the items valued at Dh36,000.

The idea was to secure a place in the Guinness World Records as the world's most expensive Christmas tree. The record is believed to have been held by a tree in Japan worth $10.8m.

Hans Olbertz, the general manager of the luxury hotel, said: "It should coincide with the luxury of Emirates Palace - the Emirates Palace is gold and silver. We wanted to do something different."

The hotel, which cost $3 billion to build, this year installed a gold ATM vending machine selling gold bars in the hotel. "We are going to save the tree," Mr Olbertz said. "We've used it for the last few years already. It's decorated differently every year."

Mr Assaf is hoping the tree will help his jewellery business sparkle during the holiday season. "In the world of jewellery you have to always be in the picture and remind people you are there when it comes to creative ideas, why not?" he said.

halsayegh@thenational.ae

rbundhun@thenational.ae

Video: the world's most expensively-dressed Christmas tree