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Vertu Phones Cell for Big Bucks

At this new Rodeo Drive shop, jewel-encrusted models cost $5,000 to $300,000.

If you wince at the sight of an iPhone or cringe at the thought of a Blackberry, then Vertu's Signature S model may be for you. Priced at $105,000, it features a diamond keypad with ruby bearings and an 18-carat gold casing encrusted with diamonds and sapphire crystals.

"Everyone can have an iPhone, but not everyone can have a Vertu phone," said Raymond Malekan, a sales consultant at the new Vertu store in Beverly Hills. "It's about individuality and having something that no one else has."

Opening on the 200 block of North Rodeo Drive last month, Vertu is the London-based pioneer of handcrafted, luxury mobile phones owned by Finnish manufacturer Nokia. Vertu's entry-level line, the Constellation series, starts at $5,100. It features models cased in hypoallergenic, non-corrosive surgical steel with scratch-resistant screens made of sapphire crystal. All Vertu phones play music composed by Academy Award winner Dario Marianelli. Some of the more exclusive Vertu phones cost $300,000 or more.

The Vertu shop's minimalist exterior attracts curious tourists along Rodeo Drive. Some stop to look at the phones in the display window and even pose for photographs. Adam Kenworth was touring the street with his mother when he stopped in front of the store.

"These phones are definitely worth aspiring for," said the 19-year-old from Illinois. "They are an exclusive style statement...maybe someday I can own one."

Those who venture inside Vertu are met with a sleek interior housing bejeweled cell phones in glass display cases.

"These phones are meticulously crafted—using cutting edge technology—and are more like works of art. But I don't know if I would spend thousands of dollars for them," said visitor Alex Hope, 34, from Dallas. "A phone is a phone after all. I use it to store my information, and the iPhone works perfect for me."

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