Once upon a time Cleopatra said to Mark Anthony: "I'll bet I can eat the equivalent of the value of an entire country in a single meal." "Bet you can't," replied Anthony. He arrived at her place to be served a sumptuous banquet. Cleopatra took a large pearl from one of her earrings, crushed it, poured the powder into her wine and drank it. Her pearl was worth the equivalent of one million ounces of silver. What the wager was we shall never know, but it makes you think of pearls in other than Sloane Ranger terms. The necklace featured here is made from pearls from the silver-tipped oyster of Australia by Mikimoto. Kokichi Mikimoto is known as the Pearl King because he created the world's first cultured pearl, more than one hundred years ago.

Mikimoto's South Sea Island pearl necklace, pounds 125,000, from Mikimoto, 17a New Bond Street, London, W1, tel: 0171 629 5300.

Handbags came into their own a few years ago. From being just things to cart your stuff to school/work, they became status symbols - a quick way to update your wardrobe, or perhaps the only thing you could afford from a designer collection. This season Marks and Spencer has rocketed on to Planet Fantastic with its superb collection of bags. Once again, M&S has hit the nail on the head. This patent bag (style no 1031) is just one in a range of bags - there are bigger handbaggy styles and smaller "I'm having lunch" sort of handbags in mock croc. A bargain, a steal, a very good buy indeed.

M&S patent bag, pounds 18, from selected branches nationwide, tel: 0171 935 4422.

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