Saturday, July 18, 2009

Diamonds by daylight

s. asked, in a comment: "Is it vulgar to wear big diamonds on a day to day basis? I always cringe when I see massive "ice" at 10AM in the local Starbucks - I was raised that honkin' jewels are to be worn only for evening occasions - but maybe this is just an antiquated notion on my part. Or maybe I'm cringing because many of these women seem vulgar in countless ways, and the bling is in fact the least offensive of their crimes."

I've seen that too.The diamond rings worn for day seem to have grown bigger; what's the cause of carat creep?

When I was a tween, a my sister's friends who received a half-carat engagement ring got "Ooooh" reactions.

By the time I graduated from university, the 1ct ring ruled. There will still plenty under that, but a full carat was the hand-grabber ring.

Decades passed, y
oung women watched Sex and the City, read about JLo's double-digit carats, and the ERs got even bigger.

One woman told me her brothers had a little chat with her fiancé and told him, "Go big or go home." She showed up at work waving a nearly 3ct boulder, and earned the nickname Nugget Girl.

The women with under 1ct ERs got
upgrade fever. One told me, "I don't want to have to replace the diamond again." In anticipation of "diamond shrink"- when the ring that once thrilled now looks bitty- jewelers offered a deal: buy the modest ring now, and trade-in for purchase value when you upgrade to a bigger stone.

Vulgar is in the eye of the beholder. One definition of vulgar is "Lacking in cultivation, perception, or taste; ostentatious or excessive in expenditure or display." A five-carat skating rink is going to get you noticed as you hoist your caramel frappachino. I live in a big city,so wonder about the wisdom of wearing the ring on the street or in the subway.

Not everyone is captivated by size. Jennifer, deeply a ladyperson, deterred her fiancé from buying a rock, and chose a vintage three-stone ring, a modest but very fine emerald flanked by two diamonds. Her guy could have taken his pick of Tiffany's finest, but Jennifer knew elegance is not measured by carat weight.

Some people can pull off bigger diamonds in daylight. My GF Iris, married to a true Mr. Big, is one. Iris wears only a plain gold wedding band on her hands, no ne
cklace or bracelet... but if you look closely under her chin-length bob you will see a pair of D flawless 2ct studs, worn by day with her sober Armani suit.

How big
to wear by day? (Not a dilemma I'll ever face.) It's a matter of taste, personal style and what message you want to send to the world. Genevieve Dariaux, in her charming book, "A Guide to Elegance" (written in the early '60s) advises women not to wear furs and big jewels by day, lest they look like a mistress, and telegraph to the world their louche status.

But Rihanna can buy her own bling, merci, and rocks this daytime travel ensemble of denim, diamonds and fur.

Though we don't have to think, as RiRi may, "What size diamonds shall I wear today?", there is still plenty of pressure to bling out. The beleaguered diamond industry bellows that size of stone equates to depth of love, and Beyoncé sings, "If you liked it then you shoulda put a ring on it"- and
hers is the size of a small country.

So, s., this is not an exactly an answer, but a reflection on why some women want, and therefore wear, diamonds bigger than a Venti lid.

21 comments:

Deja Pseu said...

I'm constantly surrounded by women in the "go big or go home" camp, and I'll confess that from time to time, I experience a little bit of "rock envy." But my almost 1ct stone is an heirloom from my husband's family, a mine-cut stone that's estimated to be 150 years old, so trading it in would be unthinkable.

I have a pair of CZ studs from Talbot's that are always being mistaken for the real thing. They're a pretty impressive 2 ct each.

Duchesse said...

Pseu: Context is everything; here 2ct cz studs would most likely be taken for costume, but where you live, you see a lot more rocks, so people could take them for real. I too wear an heirloom ring and love it. Though, saw a chicklet-sized emerald-cut at my jeweler's (someone's wedding ring being made) that about made me faint.

metscan said...

I have to admit that I´m impressed about those 2ct studs. Mine are half the size. Jewelry should be in proportion to your features, your size. I too prefer wearing less at a time. A big no, no for a set ( earrings,necklace,ring ), especially if they are match- match.

Duchesse said...

metscan: Iris is quite petite, funny how those studs seem just the right size (LOL). She is truly a minimalist, has about 6-8 8 pieces of jewelry.

s. said...

Bless your heart, ma chere Duchesse! I think I will always find fur and jewels tacky when worn in daylight by younger women. However, there is something about a white-haired doyenne sporting mink and 3 carat ring that makes me grin at any hour. It seems like it ought to be one of those (all-too-few!) privileges reserved only for our most senior of citizens.

Nancy (nanflan) said...

Mine is less than a carat, but very high quality and emerald cut. It's on the plainest of bands but gets plenty of attention because emerald cut isn't that common. I'm torn about what to do for the wedding band, minimalist or one of the beautiful stone encrusted ones I see in Santa Fe? I guess we'll know the right one when we see it.

metscan said...

I´m so with you `s´. Maybe I´m old fashioned, but I´m always happy to see someone older wearing `real´jewelry. I´d even accept them wearing a complete`set´. My mother had fine jewelry and croc bags when she was in her fifties. Then she suddenly gave them all away, I never know where to. In the end, she only had artificial stuff.

Imogen Lamport said...

My great aunt was married to a jeweller and never left the house without 10ct of diamonds and a plethora of other stones, rubies, saphires etc. I think most people thought to wear that much they must be costume! She didn't look ridiculous, she wore it well.

I have a friend who blings up daily and it suits her, but on me I feel ridiculous in it so can't pull it off.

The other day, a friend of mine from New Zealand came to stay, she's 20 years old than me, and was wearing 2ct diamond earrings, and someone else though they were cz, as they assumed that they were costume, as most in this part of the world would get around in cz for everyday. My friend said afterwards she thought it was funny - and said - I bought them for myself as a present after a rather trying time in her life.

materfamilias said...

I never wanted an engagement ring -- for a hippie-ish young woman, the diamond seemed too . . . predictable? mercenary? whatever -- and I just wanted the plain gold wedding band, which is all I ever wear on my fingers, even now. My MIL made Pater buy me an engagement ring with pearls, a teeny emerald (my birthstone) and a teeny ruby (his) and I wore it for a year or two before tucking it safely away.
Pater bought me diamond studs a Christmas or two ago after I'd expressed some interest -- diamonds no longer seem "too" to me, but rather "just right," classic. And now I admit that I wish he'd gone a bit more spendy and got bigger ones for more impact. But I'd like to help get all my kids into their own homes and we're still helping two with school (education and homes seem worthwhile heirlooms to pass along), so I'll rock my little rocks for now . . . (although I have wondered if there are jewellers who would let me trade them up, as with the engagement rings you discuss . . .

Deja Pseu said...

Having looked closely again at my CZ studs, I realized they're probably more like a 1ct size. They're cut much shallower and wider than my ring stone, which is cut much deeper. Which makes me wonder, is part of the reason for the modern cuts to make the stones appear larger?

One note about settings, I tend to like more clean, modern channel settings, so that's how my ring was made. I've since learned that this type of setting unfortunately does not show off deeper mine-cut stones to their best advantage. So I have been thinking about re-doing the setting on my ring.

Duchesse said...

s. and metscan: That's how I feel too: precious or not, real jewelry is the prerogative of the mature woman.

nanflan: For me cut is way more important than carat; my favourite diamonds are the ones you can see from across a room. Maybe you would show us your latest sewing project, worn with your ring?

Imogen: I have had friends deliberately choose smaller size for studs b/c no one would believe bigger ones were real.

ma: For the same reasons, also did not have an ER. Perhaps same jeweler would allow trade in? Many years ago received studs I thought were big, felt self-conscious wearing- now seem smallish. That's 'diamond shrink'!

Pseu: IMO resetting your stone would be satisfying, worthwhile project. Some vintage-style settings are still very clean and simple. Set in platinum to fit the era of the stone.

Jewelers will say a diamond 'spreads like 2ct' when the weight is less- more typically found in diamonds produced for the European market. Other cuts like the Asscher require more weight, so it will not look as large as round brilliant cut even though the carat weight is the same.

CompassRose said...

I've never had much use for diamonds; I guess I am inherently vulgar, as I prefer coloured (and mostly semi-precious) stones. I would love to own an estate alexandrite, the sort my ex and I looked at when we were considering whether to get me an engagement ring or not: larger than what's generally available now, and with a clear and strong colour change.

My scorn for diamonds was solidified when my ex (who makes jewellery) explained that the value of diamonds is almost entirely artificially created by the diamond monopoly and very good marketing ("Doesn't she deserve two months of your salary?"). Not to mention, the human rights violations practiced by the diamond industry in particular turn me off them.

CompassRose said...

(That makes it sound as though my ex was trying to talk me out of an expensive diamond! No, he wasn't, and those alexandrites cost MORE than diamonds. I actually talked him out of it, and we added the cost of an engagement ring to the downpayment on our house. Maybe the marriage would have lasted if I hadn't?)

Duchesse said...

CompassRose: Alexandrites, truly magical gems. Can cost morethan diamond, depends on quality. I did not want ER either, had other priorities at that starting-out time of adulthood.

All: For those who would enjoy diamonds now, and want to avoice 'blood diamonds': buy Canadian (your best bet, and you can get beautiful stones) or insist on Kimberly Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) documentation- though this process has recently been under review.

Mardel said...

This has been an interesting topic. I see a lot of young women sporting bigger and bigger diamonds (and some forcing their young men to trade up as well) but it doesn't always seem to fit. I'm inclined to think it depends on the style of the woman. But I have also seen quite a few women where it is not the jewelry alone that gives the an impression I would deem "tacky". Does anyone still use that word?

I didn't want a diamond when I became engaged. I did and still do prefer colored stones. I especially didn't want a solitaire as it seemed so standard and predictable and wasn't really my taste. I did get a standard diamond engagement ring of one carat, when most of my husband's colleague's wives were sporting much bigger stones and I wore it but never loved it.

I sometimes would experience "rock envy" as well, but I really don't want a big ring and I often just wear the wedding band and leave off the ring with the stone.

For our 18th anniversary my husband gave me a new set, an emerald which is bezel set in a wide band and I adore it. It is very simple and plain and modern and I suspect that is why I love it. When he noticed that I no longer wore the diamond (because I loved the other more) he reset the diamond for our 20th in a very modern setting which we both chose. Again, a very wide band with the stone bezel-set off center. I like this much more than the original, even though the bezel setting means the diamond does not stand out and sparkle as much.

People don't comment on how sparkly the diamond is anymore, which actually makes me happy. And someone one asked me if I regretted not having a diamond (when I wore the emerald to some event). Actually it feels kind of sinful to have both, but in a good way.

Duchesse said...

mardel: Wonderful (and romantic!) to have what you enjoy! I'm posting on restyling diamonds next week. Smart to have your emerald bezel-set as they are so much more fragile than diamonds.

Funny about Money said...

Hmm... Given that most of us can't tell, at a glance, the difference between CZ and diamonds, is it tacky to wear a big, flashy CZ at 10 a.m. in the Starbucks?

LOL! This conversation reminds me of the time my mother and I met an old friend who had just returned to San Francisco from Denmark, where her petroleum engineer husband had unexpectedly died. Over the lunch table we could see the headlight on her left hand, a diamond so vast mere mortals dared not speculate on its size. (This was in the days pre-CZ.) Driving home, my mother said to me, "That thing looked just like a piece of glass!"

And it did. It was oh-so-real, but in the context of daylight and a ladies' tearoom, it looked as fake as something picked up off the Buffums costume jewelry counter.

Maggie said...

Funny how as a young girl I never wanted a diamond (a la materfamilias)...the 60's counterculture seeping into my tastes willingly or not. But then I received one from my mother, and another from my soon to be husband. Two diamonds in the space of 6 months. The engagement diamond being 1 ct. caused quite a stir in 1972. But lately, as Duchesse noticed, the 1ct. is looking sort of puny. On the ears too one would suppose those large things are real, but then again the CZ's are looking like the real thing. So it remains a mystery to me. Maybe a tall imposing looking woman can pull off the 3 ct. ring, however, my 93 year old aunt sports one and she is just shy of 5 ft.

Belle de Ville said...

I remember the days when a 3 carat engagment ring was considered HUGE. Now you see growing demand for 5 carats and above.
When I work with a young man who is contemplating a big rock for his fiancee, I usually ask him what does he plan to give his future wife their 10th or 20 wedding anniversary if she gets the huge rock when she is 20 something years old.
And...I think that I would prefer a big Alexandrite to a big white diamond. White diamonds are not rare...even the big ones...while Alexandrites are truly magical.

Duchesse said...

Funny: Some real diamonds look like dried spit, and some transmit a quality unmatched by any cz. Quality is more apparent as size increases.

Belle: Good advice! Would rather see a fine diamond of modest size (like Eight Star) than a big dead rock. And love coloured gems! A pearl also makes a wonderful ER.

diverchic said...

I sort of class acquisitivness about diamonds in with square cut nails - a bit passé. My ER is also my wedding ring and came from India set in 22K gold, loaded with little diamonds and a modest big one. It is a gorgeous ring and ok for Starbucks or the opera. I would not buy another diamond, however if I had a chance to get a bigger coloured gem - or pearl. I have never understood the attraction to these small shiny things, when big, shiny coloured things are available.

Duchesse, I say again how much I love your posts and thoughtful insights!