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Maybe She's Born With It, Maybe It's Caviar

Hot stone facials, fruit-based body scrubs and four-handed massages used to be the ultimate in spa services just a few years ago. They were treatments that most of us would love to indulge in. But nowadays, fruit scrubs, hot stones and even four hands kneading your body sound ho-hum compared with the latest breed of massages, facials and body treatments.

In a bid to be different, dozens of upscale spas worldwide today are fashioning fancy treatments that incorporate luxurious ingredients such as diamond, caviar and gold. Of course, getting a taste of this decadence means shelling out big bucks -- you'll have to pay up to four figures in some cases.

Milana Knowles, the vice president of day spas for Spa Finder, a worldwide organization for the spa industry that represents more than 4,000 locations, says that spas are increasingly striving to create a "wow" effect for their clients.

"As the beauty industry grows and the number of high-end spas grows, each place wants to distinguish itself," she says. "An easy way to do that is to offer up treatments that are the ultimate in luxury because of the rare ingredients they use."

They certainly sound extravagant, but whether these pricy services actually have some aesthetic benefit is the big question. The spas, naturally, tout their merit. Places offering treatments with gold, for example, advocate the metal's anti-aging potential. The spa at the Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas has a new Golden Body Treatment, and Patrick Huey, spa director there, says that there are proven benefits to using gold on the skin. "Gold is a major anti-oxidant so it combats free radicals, one of the major culprits in the aging process," he says.

Experts are slightly more skeptical. Dr. Jennifer Levine, a facial plastic surgeon in Manhattan, says that diamonds are known to refine the skin surface and many gems do have the mechanical properties of sloughing but that's about as far as it goes. "A lot of these treatments only sound glamorous," she says. "In science, there are no miraculous effects to using gems or other rare ingredients for beauty."

Whatever the merits may be, the free-spending set seems willing to part with the money to satisfy curiosity about this unprecedented kind of spa experience. An informal polling of 10 spas with these ultra-luxurious treatments revealed that these new services are among the most popular on their menus and, in some cases, are outselling all other offerings.

Here are five spots where hot stones just won't cut it. For those who can afford it, go ahead and indulge. The rest of us will have to settle with living vicariously though these descriptions.

Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas

Golden Body Treatment, 80 minutes, $240
Four products with gold are used in this service, which starts with a vigorous exfoliation using a body scrub with gold traces. After a quick shower, your body is massaged with a gold lightweight cream gel and wrapped in foil and a blanket for 20 minutes so the precious metal can work its magic. The therapist massages your face, scalp, neck and shoulders while you're in the cocoon. After being unwrapped, your body is massaged with a gold-flecked massage oil. Finally, a gold powder is dusted all over the skin. All products used are courtesy of Fleur's.

The Spa at the Peninsula Beverly Hills

Precious Ruby Massage, 120 minutes, $385
This is the first hotel spa in North America to offer services using Shiffa precious gem oils. In this two-hour rubdown, clients are drenched in oil made with genuine rubies. The gem represents passion and love, and supposedly brings about happiness and clears negativity. The spa says this massage will balance your energy. If you're not the ruby type, you can pick from massages using sapphire, emerald or diamond oil -- each gem is said to offer a different benefit.

Spa V at Hotel Victor, South Beach, Fla.

Evian Bath, As long as you like, $5,000
Yes, spring water is also considered precious. In this case, the 350-gallon, infinity-edge tub in the hotel's penthouse is filled with a 1,000 bottles of Evian water and sprinkled with Gerber daisies. For maximum pleasure, indulgers also get a bottle of champagne, a dessert and a choice of two spa treatments.

Ritz-Carlton Central Park, New York

Caviar Firming Facial, 90 minutes, $285
Proponents have long insisted that fish eggs are more than just a culinary delicacy, and boast a host of beauty benefits including lifting sagging skin and giving it a glowing appearance. With regular use, caviar beauty products may be anti-aging. This facial uses the ultra-pricey La Prairie caviar face and eye cream and promises that skin will immediately be more lifted, luminous and firm.

The Observatory Hotel, Sydney, Australia

Diamond Body Perfection, 120 minutes, $280
It's a triple whammy of precious jewels in this body treatment -- in addition to diamond, the service uses pearls and quartz crystals. The first step is a full-body microdermabrasion using a puree of diamonds, crushed freshwater pearls and crystals. Clients are then treated to a deep body massage. Finally, the body is slathered with a caviar body cream. The jewels are said to infuse your skin with an instant glow, and the caviar takes care of lifting any sagging body parts.

Shivani Vora is a New York City-based writer who writes for over a dozen publications on lifestyle trends, travel, food, health, culture and business.

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