Luxury goods and masculine wines

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Antique clocks can give as good a return as any bank, according to dealers, and they are also lovely things to have about the house.

'If you buy a good quality clock and it doesn't go up 20% in value over five years, I'll eat my hat,' says Mark Rackham of Gem Antiques in Sevenoaks, Kent.

'I once bought a clock for 60 that I sold on the following year for 10,000, though I admit that only happens once in a blue moon.'

As more people want to buy antique clocks, and as there were only a certain number made, investing in them is practically risk free.

'Even if the whole economic roof comes in, as it did in 1991-92, people will still make good money on quality clocks,' says Rackham.

The golden rule is to buy something you like, and to the best quality you can afford - penny pinching doesn't work.

'You should expect to pay upwards of 1,700 for a small 30-hour clock and upwards of 2,500 for the painted dial eight-day longcases.

'If anyone offers you one of the older brass dial clocks for under 3,500, I'd be very suspicious indeed,' says Rackham.

Wine

According to Mark Connor of Decanter Magazine, now is not the time to invest in fine wines.

'Everything is over-priced at the moment and the market cannot support it. A lot of merchants have large stocks of un-sold 1997s, for example, so prices will soon fall. You are better off toasting the arrival of a fat bonus with something you will really enjoy drinking.'

Connor suggests Chateau Latour 1961, which is up for auction at Christies next month.

A case of six magnums is expected to fetch between 8,500 and 10,000.

Michael Broadbent of Christies says: 'Chateau Latour is the most powerful and masculine of all the clarets. The style of the wine can be attributed to both its high proportion of cabernet sauvignon and its unique terroir and microclimate. It's a huge, packed, fleshy, austere but magnificent wine - almost chewable.'

The Latour vineyard, smallest of the grands crus, covers 60 hectares and is said to be 'exceptional in the depth of its gravel soils and the excellence of its drainage'.

Jewellery

A diamond is pure, or nearly pure carbon. It is the only gem mineral composed of a single element, and is the hardest transparent substance known to man.

Carats refer to the weight of the stone, while VS refers to the clarity grade.

These Tiffany & Co diamonds contain very slight crystals, feathers or clouds, but these are not flaws visible to naked eye.

F-G refers to the colour grades - in this case they are on the cusp of colourless and near-colourless.

But it is the cut of a diamond, more than any other factor, that determines its brilliance and beauty.

Most diamonds are cut to maximise weight, but a for optimum brilliance, precise proportions must be achieved.

At Tiffany's, a classic round diamond is cut with some 58 facets, all in precise geometric relation.

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