Friday, May 22, 2009

How can you tar electronics and jewelry with the same brush?

Nick Paumgarten's May 18 New Yorker essay, "The Death of Kings" has fans, detractors and others who have given it a mixed review, but by now many have read it.

I've been mulling over the notion of three categories of spending outlined in part of the piece, (Mandatory, Discretionary, Frivolous); "frivolous" includes electronics, jewelry, and art works.

The budget for "Frivolous" items pretty much goes out the window with financial wipeout. When every penny goes to keeping a family afloat, the last thing to spend on is a bauble or hottest iToy.

Today I dropped into Winners (our Century 21) to check for discount yoga wear. Passing the jewelry counter, I saw an eight-strand necklace of luminous small keshi pearls, strung with chunks of peridot, amethyst, topaz and citrine. I liked its design; the stones were bright and well-distributed. I tried it on. It was one of those "almost, but not quite" pieces. Part of me thought, "Only $75, it's close enough."

But it's not a bargain if it doesn't delight. I was sorry it just missed.

Styles change, but I'm hoping for at least 15 years of regular wear from a serious purchase. I can't put a dollar value on 'serious' but you know, you think about it, because you could do a lot of other things with the money. (Shown, Platinum and ruby art deco ring from Kitty Jewellery blog.)

For lower-ticket items like the Winners necklace, I look for that "Oh, I want to wear it tonight!" feeling, aesthetic pleasure, and the satisfaction of a good buy.

But that "frivolous" category is gnawing at me.
I suppose the term is apt, but I love the way a necklace or pair of earrings renews the clothes you've had for awhile, and I'm not alone, am I?

I know women who have no interest in accessories; I don't get excited about a new set of power tools like my GF Bonnie. Everyone has her delights. But more often, I notice how a woman is nourished by the beauty and artistry in a piece, and that she feels better when she puts on her favourite ring or watch.

Chanel said, "There is not a woman alive who does not know how to wear jewelry."
I think of my mother, pinning her enameled dragonfly brooch to her silk dress, lifting her head with confidence, and walking into a room to greet her guests.

Jewelry connects us to a deeply feminine aspect of adornment, to the sensuous celebration of every woman's beauty. Overdone, we look ostentatious and desperate. But that is rather hard to do, since piled-on is as prevalent as discreet these days.

Though jewelry is placed in the same "Frivolous" category as electronics, it is not the same thing. I don't care if I ever own an iPhone, but I do hope there is a new bracelet in my life before I leave, in pearls, for the sweet hereafter.

12 comments:

Someone said...

"Jewelry connects us to a deeply feminine aspect of adornment"

...I would argue, deeply HUMAN. Men (especially in the higher social levels) used to wear pretty major jewelry as well. It's just in the past couple of centuries that the practice has become so feminized / polarized.

That said, those who feel that all of us have (or should have) the same priorities in every circumstance are simply wrong.

As for myself, I don't care for gold or dinky "fine jewelry" - give me fun, gutsy semiprecious and silver, even costume - bling on a budget can feed that impulse to adornment if done well.

diverchic said...

I love your comment that "It's not a bargain if it doesn't delight". What a great reminder. In my more clear headed days, I had a purchase question I asked myself: If I didn't want it at full price, why would I want it a a lower price?

Thanks for your carifying reminder.

Duchesse said...

Someone: Thanks, I am always reminded of your point when I see magnificent armbands and breastplates, as well as other ornaments for men; alas, now in museums. Wonder if extensive tattoos, so popular with young men now, is a replacement for not wearing big jewelry like headdresses.

I like the same kind of jewelry you do, too!

divercvhic: Went back a second time, just to be sure. And bought a pair of yoga pants.

lagatta à montréal said...

Winners is a great source of exercise garments at affordable prices, though the stores are such a mess.

I've often looked at their jewellery (mostly silver) and had so many not quites...

But what bothered me about that statement, even more than the jewellery, was the casual decision to make deep cuts in purchases of arté Such a patronage shortfall can be utterly disastrous for artists, who also face deep cuts in public funding.

I'm not remotely interested in electronics, but I do need a computer for my work, and alas they become obsolescent all too quickly.

Frugal Scholar said...

I'm still thinking about those categories myself. Perhaps a little frivolity could go into the "necessary" (for mental health) category. When I was about 12, my 11 year old brother wanted a television for his room. At that time, tvs were very expensive. Eventually, my grandparents decided to indulge him. They said I could have a tv too. I said I didn't want one, but (you'll like this)could they buy me a pearl necklace instead. I guess they thought that was a frivolous request, because I didn't get one.

So...as you say...you get to make your own categories.

Duchesse said...

lagatta: Though no longer have article at hand I think the world (or meaning) was 'art works' by which I think the writer meant paintings, sculpture, etc. So yes, the work of visual artists would not command the same prices. Valuation of art is a whole other (fascinating, to me) topic.

Deja Pseu said...

I'm with you on the "don't buy it if you don't absolutely love it, regardless of price" train, at least aspirationally. It's so easy to rationalize, "but those earrings are cute and only $20" even though I know they're something I'll wear once in a blue moon, and they'll probably be tarnished next time I think to bring them out. I've been trying to not buy anything the first time I see it, and to force myself to make another trip for it. 95% of the time, I don't. There's something about clothing or accessories that are "close, but not quite" that like junk food just keep you wanting MORE.

As far as jewelry falling into the "Frivolous" category (or bags, or scarves, or an iPhone for that matter) I think beyond a few good pieces, one CAN hold off buying when times are tough (unlike bus fare to work or a new umbrella to replace the one that collapsed), while hoping for improved circumstances. That said, I haven't read the article, so I'm responding out of context.

Imogen Lamport said...

I'm so with you Duchesse - jewellery is not frivilous but instead and expression of our inner selves.

I love choosing a necklace to suit the clothes I'm wearing each day, it adds the finishing touch to my outfit.

WendyB said...

True that jewelry lasts eons... especially compared to gadgets that now seem to be outdated in a year or year and a half! Jewels are a much better investment, IMO :-)

Anonymous said...

I've been out of town and just catching up on the last week's entries. Thank you so much for every thought-provoking,insightful word. This is why I read your blog.

Belle de Ville said...

I'm so late to offer my 2 cents on the subject but no one has mentioned that fine jewelry is a liquid ASSET. It can easily be converted into cash.

In addition, when the world goes to hell, jewelry and gemstones save lives.
If you have to flee a warzone, the gems sewn into the hem of your clothes can save your life.

But Jewelry needs to be purhased at wholesale prices close to the intrinsic value. Anyone who is paying triple key is overpaying.

At any rate jewelry is not frivolous.

Duchesse said...

Belle de Ville: Jewelry might be a liquid asset but will depend (as you point out) on the purchase price and the desirability of the piece on the resale market. Many people are shocked at the resale value fetched by their diamond ER, for example.

I have read several accounts of how people are, in this economy, trying to sell jewelry. Am doubtful that, with the exception of fine and important pieces, they are enjoying rapid liquidity.

Perhaps you will to comment on how and where to buy investment quality at close to wholesale value.