By Michelle Graff
michelle.graff@nationaljeweler.com

The jewelry industry loves billionaires. After all, how many regular
old millionaires can plunk down $250,000 for a new necklace or a fancy
ring? Apparently, the jewelry industry breeds billionaires, too. A good chunk of the people on Forbes'
recently released list of the world's 947 billionaires in 2007 have some connection to the industry.


Ranked at No. 2 (behind Bill Gates) is Warren Buffett,
worth $52 billion, whose company, Berkshire Hathaway, owns several of the
country's top jewelry chains, including Helzberg Diamonds, Borsheim's
and Ben Bridge Jeweler. Of course, Buffett has his money in just about every industry out there. Fellow Berkshire Hathaway shareholder Franklin Booth Jr., worth $2.1 billion, comes in at No. 458 on the list. The company's vice chairman Charles Munger, worth $1.9 billion, is ranked at No 538.


With only half the fortune of Buffett, Bernard Arnault
ranks No. 7 on the list. Worth $26 billion, Arnault owns 51 percent of
LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior, and serves as
chairman of both companies. LVMH owns a bevy of luxury brands,
including TAG Heuer and Zenith.


At the other end of the retail spectrum, the country's largest
jeweler, Wal-Mart, appeared responsible for the most members of
the billionaire's club, including Jim Walton (No. 23, worth $16.8 billion), Christy Walton and family and S. Robson Walton (tied at No. 24, worth $16.7 billion each), Alice Walton (No. 26, worth $16.6 billion), Helen Walton (No. 29, worth $16.4 billion), Ann Walton Kroenke (No. 336, worth $2.7 billion) and Nancy Walton Laurie (No. 407, worth $2.3 billion).


Francois Pinault,
worth $14.5 billion, appears at No. 34 on the list. Pinault is the
majority shareholder of luxury goods group PPR, which owns Gucci,
Boucheron and Bedat & Co. He also owns Christie's auction house. A side note (because I'm a gossip junkie): Pinault's son Francois-Henri Pinault, who is chairman and chief executive officer of PPR, just announced his engagement to actress Salma Hayek, who is pregnant with his baby. Will keep you posted when I get details on the ring.









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