Jewelry: Tuning your taste to the times
Happy announcement: Last Friday our son Etienne and his wife Tash welcomed their 9 lb. 11 oz. dumpling, Emile. Our daughter-in-law had to postpone her planned marathon last fall, but ran one in the delivery, and superbly. Sure beats a t-shirt at the finish line!
I watched several women browse a large fine jewelry store recently. Each was attracted to certain pieces, and barely glanced at others. I could pretty accurately guess where each would pause, from her overall appearance. I began to group the jewelry—and the clients—into three broad categories.
1. Serenely classic
24k gold hoops (price, about $1,200), not at all concerned that identical pairs live on other lucky ears.
She would also admire how she can wear them with everything, and that their high-carat colour will endure and deepen over time.
2. Singularly striking
Annette is an art gallery partner whose eye has been honed by her career. She is knowledgeable about advanced techniques and admires the workmanship involved. Annette, in exuberant colour from fuchsia glasses frames to forest-green boots, is the antipode of Lorrie.
She would adore Cambridge MA artist Daniel R. Spirer's anodized silver, 18k gold, and sapphire earrings (price, around $480), and be especially pleased that they were made in a limited edition.
(Note: Mr. Spirer writes an interesting blog about jewelry here.)
|Photo by permission of Daniel M. Spirer|
3. Sophisticated and elegant
Lorrie's sister, Diane, glamourous yet minimalist, is always impeccably turned out. She will will join us for a Sunday am. run to Ikea in a crisp white shirt, tailored trousers, kitten heels, coral lipstick. When I say "glamorous", I don't mean glitzy; rather, her soignée polish seems entirely natural—think Grace Kelly. She would want a dash of drama displayed via uncluttered, well-resolved design.
What to choose?
Like the women I watched, you will be drawn to certain pieces, and of course, will factor in your budget. But here is the Big Reveal, the kicker: try something outside your niche. Bend it by twenty or thirty degrees.
Ask permission to put on a new piece and spend at least 15 or 20 minutes in it in the shop. Take a photo of yourself. (Most vendors will allow one if you explain your reason. Occasionally, concerns about copying yield a "no".) Study that photo later, because you can quickly forget the proportions and overall effect, and think about whether you would wear it with your wardrobe. I've also known jewelers who let an established client take a piece home for a day or two.
You could also borrow from a friend to assess a new style or how you look in different materials, even if you only wear it while you're at her place for lunch.
Whichever way you manage your tryout, even a short test spin delivers benefits:
1. You may get ideas for restyling things you own.
2. You may be able to trade your Frida Kahlo hoops (seemed like a good idea in Acapulco but not back home) for a friend's silver mesh bracelet, the one she's allergic to. Donation is noble, but swapping recoups your investment neatly.
Or, you might be motivated to finally sell your little-worn piece to fund the new. (The fine jewelry you don't wear isn't like a once-worn lipstick; there's unrealized value there. )
3. You will, even if you make no change now, build your eye for what compliments you, which definitely shifts as you mature. An item you coveted might turn out to be not nearly as pleasing on you as you thought.
The updating of a jewelry collection lags behind clothes; once we think a five-year-old jacket suddenly looks démodé, poof! it's banished, but we don't bother with those fifteen-year-old earrings, stuck in the back of the drawer. Maybe they're still fine, but as times change, older contemporary pieces can look too girly or generic.
|Victorian cameo earrings, Beladora|
Whether you're in a luxe boutique or funky friperie, play a bit, and look at yourself with new eyes. If you feel a magnetic repulsion, stay away, but if you have never worn Tahitian pearls or a Victorian cameo, take a moment to try the unusual.
There's no better way to find a magical bijou that's going to delight you for years.