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Holiday Gifts Reduced at the UN: Pick Your Country

Wooden decorative dolls from Austria at the UN Gift Center.
Decorative wooden dolls from Austria, as tight-lipped as diplomats, at the UN Gift Center. The shop is offering a 40 percent discount on its wares before renovations in the lobby area force it to relocate by mid-2013 to another spot in UN headquarters. JOE PENNEY

The United Nations Gift Center is relocating, along with the UN post office and bookstore, to the Dag Hammarskjold Library building by April or May for the continuing renovation of the UN, including the lower lobby area.

The gift shop, post office and book store will still be accessible to the public in their new temporary quarters, but their spaces will be squeezed, so the gift shop is to sell UN souvenirs only. When it returns to its former quarters in about two years’ time, it is likely to sell its more lustrous goods — jewelry and decorative objects from all over the world — once again, said Hanna Shoukry, the shop’s longtime buyer.

So now is the time to take advantage of the 40 percent discount the store is offering to clear out its inventory and say bonjour to Shoukry, as she works the glass display cases, eager to describe in her Egyptian brogue the bracelets, earrings, pins and necklaces draped according to country. If jewelry isn’t the right gift for the folks on your list, the shop is crammed with other beauts, like sylphlike glass perfume bottles from Egypt, evoking Cleopatra’s every whim, or  wooden cuckoo clocks from Switzerland, surely carved by a tidy alpine workshop.

Objects are selling fast, says Carol Giovanelli, a saleswoman at the shop for 19 years: the blue-veined Moroccan vases are gone; so are the ornate gold chokers from Bahrain. As always, the pearl-laden jewelry from the Philippines, Giovanelli’s home country, remains the best-seller; native American turquoise pieces from the United States also sell like hot cakes. Why not try something off the beaten path this year? Cameos in 14-karat-gold settings from Italy could turn into a cherished heirloom gift, passed along generations. Or what about butterscotch-toned amber from Poland and Sweden, two very calm countries that just want peace and prosperity?

Prices for the jewelry range from $6 to $3,000 — with one of the best bargains hidden in a drawer, so you need to ask to see them: glass-beaded elastic bracelets from Turkey. They adjust easily to any wrist and glow like precious moons in a range of offbeat colors, from light greenish jade to dark purple amethyst to carnelian brick red. Their cost is $42, not including the discount.

The gift shop, accessible through the main UN lobby entrance on First Avenue at 46th Street, is open to the public Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Be prepared to go through a security check.



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