Tracking the elusive dream jeweller

A woman may long, say, for a pair of garnet earrings, but be reduced to trolling mass-market e-shops, and then give up, overwhelmed and underimpressed. So sometimes I'll get an e-mail, asking for help, which I enjoy. Today distills the essence of my advice: you have to look, learn and maybe pay some postage, but the resulting joy of use is worth it.

Today I've linked to sites and sources to find outstanding makers of handmade or artisanal jewellery, beyond Etsy and Instagram, also excellent but already well-known.

1. Professional and Trade Associations
Professional organizations are not just for jewellers; the public has access to photo galleries and contact information. I have listed one each from the US, Canada and UK, but you can also find associations, guilds and groups for regions and other countries.

The Society of North American Goldsmiths (SNAG) 
SNAG's site contains a huge directory that displays North American (and some international) artists; see "Maker Profiles". Go to the Member Profile Section; click on the jeweller's Gallery. If you like the style, click through to the web site.

Artisan Canada
A portal for artisans and the public to connect; similar to SNAG site, but dedicated to Canadian makers.

The Goldsmith's Company

This British site's directory lists over three hundred British goldsmiths and silversmiths, and is a selective organization, so they artists do not simply pay a fee to have their work featured.

It's here that I found one of my latest Dream Jewellers, Jinx McGrath, whose command of her talent lifts my heart. (She is also the author of a number of books on jewellery and technique.)

Photo: Jinx McGrath Jewellery

Those garnet earrings? When I clicked Dita Allsopp's gallery, I wanted to see more; on her web site, Dita Allsopp Jewellery, I found these beauties:

Photo: Dita Allsopp Jewellery

2. Galleries
These sites represent a number of jewellers, and some incorporate an e-store; for others, contact the gallery to inquire about prices or order. Again, just a sample; for galleries in your area, search "jewellery gallery"  plus your area.

A few sites I visit for inspiration:
Studio Fusion Gallery, London
Quirk, Richmond,Virginia
Facèré, Seattle
Galerie Noël Guyomarc'hMontréal

3. Jeweller's collectives
Though the website may look like a gallery's, collectives often provide more services, such as jewellery rental, and repairs.

Made You Look, a Toronto jeweller's cooperative, is an example of a collective that offers these comprehensive services. I'm entirely happy with two repairs they did for me.

Made You Look's e-store carries a wide range of pieces, from modestly-priced to serious splurges, and the jewellers can be contacted for custom work.
Photo: Melanie Leblanc at Made You Look

Shown: Bronze, sterling silver and citrine coin earrings by Melanie Leblanc; price, $CDN 105.

4. Craft show sites

Large craft shows' directories list their contributors, and many show photos. You can also check dates for upcoming events, because there really is nothing like seeing work in person.

Photo: Anat Basanta Jewelry Design

Shown, silver Ripple Necklace (price, $CDN 695) by Anat Basanta, who exhibits at the One of a Kind show in Toronto, and has an e-shop on her site. I've bought her pieces as gifts for two friends, who loved them.

5. Who made that?
Ask the woman wearing a piece you love; she will almost always tell you who made it (unless you look like a cat burglar) and you'll have a warm conversation as a dividend!

Here in the Passage, I feature work made by jewellers whom I admire, some of which I've learned about from you. I do not accept commissions or write sponsored posts. The downside of that is you get my opinions and taste, which you know by now: pearls, noble metals, and a crush on vintage and antique.

Once you immerse yourself in new worlds of design, your eye will change, and that may affect your choices.

If you like those minimalist 10mm bar studs, you will not have a hard time finding them. But if you discover a jeweller like Maiko Nagayama, you cross the threshold to high art. It's a dull trek back to generic simplicity once you encounter her rock crystal, opal, fire opal, moonstone, pearl, garnet, ruby, enamel and pink tourmaline Nostalgia Earrings. Oh, baby!

Photo: Maiko Nagayama

Even if you would not see these in your life (I would buy them and then figure out the life), spend at least least 20% of your browsing time looking at wild, thrilling work; it will hone your eye for extraordinary design at any price point.

Can quality make a comeback?

Balenciaga jean
A while ago, I decided to buy fewer but better clothes. This turns out to be a perplexing, meandering activity.

What "better" means depends on a woman's quality standards and means, but also the intersection of her values with her closet. If I had $595 to spend on these Balenciaga jeans, I could not do it.

Quality criteria include materials, construction, durability; could you wear this for at least five years? It also includes consistency in delivering that quality.

It does not consider other factors such as style, size range or access. I began to think of quality in terms of four categories, clockwise from top left:

Level One: Inspiration
High quality; you might never buy it, but it represents the best of ready-to-wear
Example: Tomas Maier striped cashmere sweater.

Level Two: Investment 
Very good quality; you would buy, or buy on sale/resale
Example: ça va de soi "Bercy" merino tunic

Level Three: Acceptable
Decent quality, at least for some items; may be inconsistent 
Example: J. Crew merino sweater-blazer

Level Four: Low
Quality is either deliberately low ("fast fashion"), or has slipped from Acceptable; can look pretty good, especially if you don't plan to wear it long
Example: Zara oversized acrylic-nylon sweater

Grown women fit into a bell-curve distribution, with the majority buying at Levels Two and Three; and a few outliers at the other ends of the quality continuum. Women who depend on Level Three, Acceptable are always asking, What happened to the quality?

Three reasons for the erosion of Acceptable quality:

1. New ownership, often from a family or privately-held firm to private-equity firms. Land's End, now majority-owned by Sear's top shareholder, ESL Partners, and Talbot's, owned by Sycamore Partners are but two examples. This kind of "rescue deal" always presages a quality drop.

2. Financial stress: Look behind the attractive web sites or shops to results, and you will find financial turbulence; last spring, J. Crew's debt was around $2 billion. That translates into more acrylic in your sweater, and ever more goods produced in China and Vietnam.

3. Pressure from the bottom. When Level Four brands H&M or Forever21 remerchandise their stores every three to five weeks, Level Three feels the heat. Short cycles equal cheap manufacturing. Fast Fashion is the bedbug: nipping, causing misery, and not going away.

This means you can't trust brands you once relied on. (Remember when Anne Klein made covetable  clothes? When a Coach bag would last for a decade or more?) One of the axioms of Marketing 101 was "A brand is a promise", but some of the best-known now have their fingers crossed.

When a brand renowned for quality slips, it's work to find a substitute, especially if moving up to Level One isn't possible. The high-low thing never really works; a Liberty neckerchief on a badly-cut top that closes with the now-ubiquitous exposed zipper will not elevate the top.

Liberty of London neckerchief

Faint hope

One hope is the rise of Level Three e-tailers like Everlane (apparel), Warby Parker (eyewear) and Coclico (shoes). They promise to fuse quality to accountability, and though not every company aiming to hit the sweet spot of ethics and quality will make it, the model appeals to me...and so do these gold booties:
Colico booties

Such brands are aimed at young adults, but often the sizes or cuts are not right for mature bodies. (How to produce a $100 cashmere sweater: cut out the retail presence, but also, crop it very short.)

And many in their target market find their prices out of reach. Becky, a friend's 28-year-old daughter, is unimpressed by Everlane et al. She says she'd rather buy at Level 4: just get something cute, at H&M, don't expect much, bin it after a season.  

I am dismayed by that, but Becky's tactics are easier to apply: no navigating web sites, no sending stuff back—and I can't even say to Becky, "But, look at this, the quality is so good!" because the 'this' is so much harder to find. She will borrow her mother's Jaeger coat without a glance at the bound buttonholes, but maybe she will feel the difference.

The quality so long missing from North American sports and casual wear (rarely made there anymore) is making a last stand in small niche brands, but unless the sizes and cuts satisfy older as well as younger buyers, they will be buried under the low-priced manufacturers offering a trend-driven selection of inferior goods.


Restaurants: Putting fair in the fare

Because our immediate and extended family includes cooks, oyster shuckers, restauranteurs and a sommelier, we've seen the restaurant business up close; it is not known for fair, let alone laudatory, employment practices.

As of this year, several Canadian provinces (and some US states) are increasing the minimum wage for restaurant workers. Happy Hour for them? Depends on where you're seated. Many think that employers will try to cut jobs or reduce hours, while still trying to increase the average cheque, the plasma of any operation.

What does this mean for us, as customers? Tips will still be customary, and form a significant part of the North American server's salary, even with a $3/hr pay increase.

You may notice that when a bunch of women 50 or older enter a restaurant, a waiter can deflate like a twenty-minute old soufflé. There's a stereotype that women are lousy tippers, as well as fussy, inattentive (so specials have to be repeated), and prone to leaving bags in a server's way. One of my favourite cartoons shows a waiter stopping by a table full of women to ask, "Is anything all right?"

When the cheque comes, usually someone asks what I'm tipping—but I'm not the woman you want. Mothers of restaurant workers—even former ones—view every worker as Someone's Child and thinks, Has she paid her rent this month?

No matter what you decide to add, be alert when using payment systems. When you use a credit or debit card and enter the tip by percentage, that percentage is calculated on the entire bill, including tax. It's easy to choose the 15% option, the rule of thumb for a tip for good service here, but you're actually paying more. (In the fine-dining category in large North American cities, 20%-25% is the norm, a figure that blows the minds of my European visitors.)

But if I order only, say, a $4 cappuccino in a café, I tip more, because leaving only sixty cents feels really cheap for the at least two trips to the table.

Another intangible powerfully influences ordering and tipping behaviour: the sense of how good a time you had, and you may even be psychologically manipulated. Not talking about that extra glass of chardonnay, either.

That happened to me at a posh bistro. A girlfriend and I settled in. The waiter approached the table, and, after greeting us, said to me, "Isn't this the most gorgeous evening? Such a marvellous night to be out! You two sure know how to have fun!" As he said that, he touched the back of my shoulder in the lightest, glancing way. He said, "You've been in before!" and smiled widely when I said yes.

And I thought, Holy Smokes, he's using Neuro-Linguistic Programming techniques on me, specifically those of pacing and leading. He was pacing by using those positive emotional words ("gorgeous", "marvellous", "fun") and tying them to my experience (the touch, the nod, the smile) and leading me further: to think of myself as a favoured, carefree patron... who will just naturally order the bottle of premier cru he has pointed out.

Though never an NLP practitioner, I had learned enough to spot it.

Most waiters only go as far as trying to up-sell extra drinks or a dessert, which can easily net    another several hundred dollars in tips a shift on a busy night. (This annoys me; if I wanted whipped cream in my hot chocolate, I'd order it, dammit.)

Tips aside, expect to see other changes on the heels of the mandatory pay hikes. Industry consultants such as Michael von Massow predict smaller portions, more vegetarian options, and fewer exotic or out-of-season ingredients on plates.

All of these strategies will please diners who have long thought that serving sizes were too big, or  who long for more meatless choices, but don't expect restaurants to lower the prices.

Frugality bloggers routinely tell readers to eschew dining out altogether, but either by necessity or by habit, forty-two percent of Canadians buy takeout or eat in restaurants once or twice a week, according to a 2017 Dalhousie University study.  (Source: Global News)

Danny Meyer, one of the industry greats and author of "Setting the Table",  has said that his mission as a restauranteur is "to make money while giving the impression of generosity", a job that just got harder. Meyer calls tipping, "one of the greatest hoaxes perpetrated on the American culture", adding that it lets restaurants get away with underpaying. As of 2017, he includes gratuities in the bill (following the European model) and most of his restaurants have a revenue-sharing plan.

These days, I look for a place that serves what we can't replicate at home, in an enjoyable setting, which is rarely the hot place to be seen. And if everyone in the house is being paid decently and treated with respect, that's the icing on the cake.

Jewellery value: Greenbacks and green amethysts

Sometimes, on blogs I enjoy, I see jewellery featured and I think, Nooooo, not because it isn't pretty, but because I am my mother's daughter. Why, I wonder would you spend $2, 500 that way?

Example: These are new Pomellato earrings, 8mm prasiolite studs set in 18k rose gold. The price on  TrueFacet is $US 2,305—okay, if that sum is beer money to you. You do get the Pomellato cachet; they use juicy stones, often in interesting cuts. The bezel setting is cool because you just see the stone on the ear...but still.


Why am I calling this poor value? Prasiolite is also known as "green amethyst", it's a quartz, and nearly all of it is created by heating amethyst or yellow quartz. Amethyst is a very reasonably-priced stone, and though some hoity-toity jewellers avoid the stone, I love it in a rich, grapey hue. Though I hesitate to say prasiolite is "dirt cheap", I would not expect to pay this much for 8mm faceted material.

Pomelatto are owned by Kering, the luxury-goods conglomerate headed by François-Henri Pinault.

Let's drop by Etsy to look at several pairs of green amethyst earrings, also set in gold.

If you want solid 14k rose gold, and do not mind prongs, similar 8mm prasiolite studs are only $US 250 from Etsy seller Teresa Pytell:

Photo: Teresa Pytell on Etsy

If I wanted a pair in that modern bezel, I would be very tempted by the Nepal-based BlackLotusDesigns' crisp, elegant 6mm studs set in 14k yellow gold, for about $US 245.

Photo: BlackLotusDesigns on Etsy

If you like simple gold or silver settings for earrings or rings, see BlackLotusDesigns "Made to Order" section. You'll also enjoy the jeweller Rachel's story.

When I look at inexpensive stones, I figure, here is where I can get some real estate. I like big stones, and prasiolite is not ruby, so bring it on, honeybunch.

At MarieWoo Designs, I found a pair of graceful gold vermeil branches holding lavish (21 x13mm) marquise prasiolites in a deeper green (I prefer this colour to the paler Pomellatto) for about $US $250, about nine times less.

Now, they are vermeil, but in an earring, vermeil holds up well and Mom says the price difference will pay for that car repair you've been putting off.

Caveats: You'd have to see the earrings to assess the quality: is the colour even? Does the saturation please you? Is the setting substantial and secure? Many jewellers do not, understandably, accept returns on custom orders, so ask to see more photos or ask for the weight of the gold used in the setting.

Should your head be turned by a luxe label, stop and look around. Sometimes the luxury brand does provide elevated design and materials. Then you might open your purse, or patiently wait for your dream piece to show up on a resale site.

This year, the Passage will dress it windows in gems (including pearls, of course) that combine beauty, value and artistic expression—and always, I am interested in your own projects and thoughts.

Accused: My story

I waited, almost impatiently, for the #MeToo backlash, generally voiced as "But what if some men are wrongfully accused?"

As I pointed out to more than one worried man, there are laws pertaining to libel and slander that provide recourse. A video clip of Courtney Love, in which she is asked if Harvey Weinstein assaulted her, contains her fear-filled response, "I'll get libelled if I say it!"

My initial response, which arises in me more often than I like to admit, is Boo f-in' hoo, guys. Too many times I'd heard a man boast of a sexual encounter and knew that it never happened. Uncountable times I've heard a man make explicit comments about a woman's body or sexual history, with no thought about consequences to her.

I was reacting to witnessing fifty-five years of frequent, casual misogyny, which some of the accused say was "programmed into them" and "part of the culture".

But let's say a man is falsely accused. An online search pulls up a number of resources, depending on whether the alleged behaviour is workplace-related or private, and vary by jurisdiction. I wish those wrongly accused success in their redress, and acknowledge that once accused, the taint of wrongdoing lingers.

I know what this is like. Thirty-five years ago, when I was thirty-four and single, my boss accused me of sexual misconduct.

I worked in a large corporation. Eddie and Stewart, two colleagues from the UK office, came to Toronto on a two-week assignment. They shared a hotel room; both were married.

At the end of the stay, Eddie's wife would arrive on Friday to join him for a week's holiday; Stewart would book his own room for one night, before he flew home Saturday. Stewart came to see me at closing on Friday, embarrassed that he didn't have enough money for the room; he'd spent his trip cash and his wife had maxed their credit card. I think he had about $25 in his pocket.

He wondered if I could get him a pay advance, but that wasn't possible. Nor did he want to ask Eddie for money; Eddie was running short too, so his wife was bringing extra cash. (This was the era before international ATM networks and personal e-mail.)

I immediately offered the sofa bed in my living room; he gratefully accepted. Stewart bunked in for the night. On Saturday morning, I gave him $40 for cab fare and lunch.

Weeks later, my boss, "Marion", a whip-smart 40-something executive (and one of the few women at that level), reviewed both Eddie and Stewart's expense accounts.

Marion asked me why there was no hotel charge for Stewart for Friday night. I explained the situation. She immediately accused me of engineering a sexual liaison, and said, "You put your own needs ahead of the company", and "His wife is pregnant, how is she going to take this?"

She did not ask me, she told me it had happened, and also said that I had "gone after him", implying harassment.

I replied that her accusation was entirely false, that I had helped him in an emergency, and that if I'd lived alone, I might have thought about it, but because I had a roommate, I didn't view my hospitality as improper. (In hindsight, I wish I'd called Marion to apprise her of the situation.) When I said he'd been stranded without even enough money to get home, she said, "That's his problem."

I could feel myself losing composure. I said, "Look, if I wanted to spend the night with Stewart, I could figure out how to do it so no one would know." Then I was furious for digging myself in deeper by giving the impression I'd even imagine that scenario. (In four years, I had never dated anyone in the company; when I took that job I vowed that no one there would ever see me without my clothes on. One of my girlfriends called this strategy Four Hundred Men and Not One Penis.)

I also said, "You know I have a boyfriend, you've met him!" You say all sorts of things when you're cornered and unprepared.

I left her office reeling, furious, fighting tears.

I did not take my case to HR because in her role, she oversaw the corporate HR function. I considered getting legal advice, but waited to see if she would pursue it further; the usual process was a disciplinary letter, at minimum. When she did not, I thought, Well, that's over—but I suspected she still saw me as guilty.

Less than a year later, she left the company because her husband wished to return to the US; I was promoted to her role. I found my file, with her handwritten notes that detailed the incident. My guilt was presented as fact, my explanation was absent. She had capitalized phrases like "INAPPROPRIATE SEXUAL CONDUCT" and "MARRIED MAN".

The irony is that during the four years when I reported to her, I fielded scurrilous rumours about her: "You know Marion and Ted are having an affair, don't you?" I always replied: "Were you in the room?"

When I visited the UK office the next year, I told Stewart about the incident; he was aghast. He had never heard about it, from her or his manager.

He apologized profusely and wanted to speak to Marion. But she was gone by then, and if she didn't believe me, would she believe him?

Times have changed and I have, too. Today, I'd ask for an immediate investigation, because now I view her behaviour as bullying, and bullies thrive where no one can witness their moves. Following the investigation, I would demand removal of any notes concerning the incident, and ask that she be formally advised of the legal repercussions of slander and libel.

I am no longer so naive, and more attuned to how things can look to a person who assumes the worst—the corporate buzzword is "optics".

When someone raises concern about unjust accusations, I listen and remember. There will be accusations driven by retribution, confusion or psychological issues, or cases like mine in which a person is accused by a third party.

At the time, I felt nauseous when I thought of an investigation, viewed it as invasive; now I would see its purpose. We should address each charge and seek the truth, because to deny the prevalence of harassment is to support it.

Old Enough

You may have read a recent New Yorker article on ageism, Tad Friend's "Why Ageism Never Gets Old", or possibly flipped past it, not wanting to entertain the ominous thought, Do they mean me?

The summary: The ageist person does not like to be around the old, because it reminds them of loss: of competitive zeal, hair, stamina, and ultimately, life. The old are a buzz kill.

An ageist person may like specific individuals: charming Aunt Stacey, or the super-elder whom she met while hiking the Camino del Santiago—but as a group, we are not magnetic.

The astute American writer Edward Hoagland wrote an essay in which he described his fury at becoming hominum ingratum. At family party that involved a recital, a young woman thoughtlessly moved her chair in front of his, blocking his view.

Hoagland found her callousness deeply insulting, but did nothing, unless you count his essay. It is the accretion of such small acts that wears one down.

I say now, I'm old. I could use the euphemism aging, but everybody is agingSeventy, which I'll officially hit in July, is generally accepted as Oldland. Once you can collect every senior's discount going, why be coy about one's age, or insist that seventy is the new fifty? If you think it's the new fifty, try getting a job interview.

Sure, Hillary wanted to be President at seventy, and the current President is seventy-one, but political life seems to be its own planet, inhabited by Supreme Court justices who make seventy look mid-career. But those are old people too; there's much variation in capacity at this age.

But I digress, another sure sign of hitting seventy: everything reminds you of something else.

If some younger persons don't like me because of my age, that is not my problem, though if you're in the workforce, especially in certain occupations, the notion that your value is inverse proportion to your birth date is worrisome. And costly.

Could the next cultural uprising be #OldToo?

Friend includes a study's three possible solutions to ageism, which includes the caveat that they are unlikely given Western culture:
1. Having the elderly live among us and fostering respect for them,
2. Bolstering self-esteem throughout the culture to diminish the terror of aging, and
3. Calmly accepting our inevitable deaths.

That's a tall order for the already-stressed young ones, so those of us over fifty could take the lead.

We could boycott products that promise to "fight signs of aging"; avoid cosmetic procedures undertaken solely to obscure maturity (side benefit: you'll save money), insist the entertainment industry show some typical old people, not the stereotypes. (I liked "Grace and Frankie" well enough but who wouldn't recover quickly from divorce if she could do so on the deck of a Malibu beach house?)

We might refuse to live in age-segregated housing, and advocate for more services in multi-generational units. (Friend doesn't address the matter, but I find some of the most ageist persons to be old themselves.)

The "bolster self-esteem" part will be an enormous challenge, because modern life rarely does that for any adult; open any popular magazine and you'll be told you must get, upgrade or produce more.

As an old person, I've adopted a new mantra, I'm Old Enough For This. I'm Old Enough to get rid of "stuff" without thinking I should hang on to it; to sit in a park to watch the light change; to listen to every version of a favourite aria. I'm Old Enough to take the time I need to do a task as well as I want.

I am Old Enough to know from experience that age does not necessarily confer wisdom, and that old coots were equally miserable to be around when they were younger, but no one was willing to tell them.

We took our advantage in youth, let's take it now. We're luxuriously Old Enough to walk by a baby and stop to admire her without the parent thinking we are anything other than a person in awe of new life. We are Old Enough to read a hard book without worrying whether we will remember all of its complexity, and after reading, leave it in a bus shelter for someone to discover.

I hope we thank persons of any age who teach us about their world, and should those younger blame us for our mistakes—from introducing plastic shopping bags to getting rid of designated hitters—listen without reflexive defensiveness.

Then, there is #3. Everyone hopes for a good end, and when you are old, it becomes a more substantive matter. I read that Mother Teresa meditated daily, for five minutes, on her death. Personally, I am meditating about dying while taking a tango lesson, instantly and in the arms of someone named Javier.

These days, I am brought up short not just by lifetime guarantees, but even, as with the duvet I just replaced, a fifteen-year one.

In the meanwhile, there is plenty to do when you're Old Enough. So, Mr. Hoagland, tap that young guest on the shoulder and ask her to move her chair, now.

Shopping Value: 2017 Stars and Dogs

Happy New Year! And welcome to the eighth annual wardrobe value assessment.

In 2017, I bought few clothes, fewer than any other year in adult life, for two reasons. One, I need little since leaving a 'work wardrobe' world, and second, I decided now was the time to buy some jewellery I'd been thinking of for several years. And, this allows me to slide in another tradition: opening a new year with a pearl post.

Today, what I added in 2017; the grade is my assessment of value for the cost.

Two ultrafine cashmere sweaters 

Two from Eric Bompard bought on 50% sale* in late spring: a colourblock cardigan, and a black shirt. EB took the shirt out of production, so I jumped when old stock turned up.
Grade: B
Lesson: My tendency to feel the cold more as I get older makes a cashmere sale mighty appealing, but ultrafine is not warm enough for the record cold we've had this winter.

(*Note to non-EU buyers using e-commerce: On delivery, you will be charged import duties and taxes, which depend on your country's tariffs; some of you will be lucky enough to have a package slide in without any, but don't depend on it. However, for certain sales, you might be overcharged.

Here's why: For the "national sales"—the two government-approved six-week sale periods that begin mid-January (now) and mid-June—EB list the sale price on the customs form. For "promotions" outside this period (such as "VIP Days") they list the full price on the customs declaration. Once you have paid duty on that, you may then request an adjustment from your country's customs agency. This will involve submission of proof (e.g., credit card statement) that what you paid for your order was less than the amount listed on the customs declaration. Why EB list the full price is beyond me; I have contacted them and received no reply. Reader LauraH and I have received adjustments from Canada Customs.)

A flowy tunic

A last-minute purchase for my brother's memorial, for which his family specified purple attire; it is not purple but coordinated with a scarf with lots of purple in it.

I had a hunch I'd never wear it again, because I'd chosen expensive dresses for my parents' funerals, and could not even look at the clothes, let alone wear them. Inexpensive—about $35 at Winners, our TJ Maxx. It's not really my style, either, but I suspect nothing would have truly pleased me, given the occasion.
Grade: C
Lesson: For something you suspect will be a one-time wear, go to a discount retailer. (You could also try thrifts or consignments, but if pressed for time, hit the discount store.)

Cashmere scarf, secondhand

I walked by a consignment store with icy wind blasting my neck, and was a goner when I saw a Royal Stewart tartan scarf in the window for under $30. The only impulse purchase I made all year!
Grade: A, wearing almost daily.

Jewellery: Three pearly pieces

My Achilles' tendon, which consumed nearly all my budget. (I also divested several pieces no longer worn.) This was a spree, but also planned for several years.

Left: Kokass by Céline Bouré "Les ailes du désir" silver ring with gold South Sea pearl, yellow sapphire and Swarovski crystal. Céline has won prizes for her work in pearls, and also makes gorgeous jewellery set with coloured stones.

I wanted a piece by her to commemorate a "decade birthday", which is not till mid-2018, but she was here in December, so I jumped the gun. A Susanfriend and I arrived at her booth at the annual holiday arts and crafts show, Salon des métiersthe first half-hour it opened. I wanted to take photos, but she was swarmed with clients trying on and buying, and I was not going to come between those women and their gems!

Céline, based in Quebec City, exhibits at some shows, and has an e-store on her web site.

Upper right: Janis Kerman silver dangles with stick pearls, iolite, purple spinel and pink sapphire. At her 40-year retrospective, "Reminiscence" last spring, I was taken with these, paid a refundable deposit, slept on it for a couple of days, and cracked. They are low-key compared to some in the show; Le Duc calls them my "Janis Kerman starter earrings". OK, fella!

Janis is both a renowned jeweller and generous mentor to the upcoming generation, including Céline Bouré. She is represented by galleries in North America and other locations.

Lower right: Vivienne Jones made this bracelet last January, using my pearls and tiny diamonds; many persons have stopped me to ask about it. Vivienne's work is available in a few galleries in Canada or by appointment at her Toronto studio. I could close my eyes, pick anything she makes and be happy.

I paid for my jewellery just like any other client, which may not matter to you, but is essential to me in terms of writing an objective post.

Glasses: #1 expense

Vinyl Factory "Cooper"
The biggest-ticket item was new glasses, solid tortoise frames fitted with my first progressive lenses. I'd held off for several years, but it sure is nice to see who is on the other side of the street. I could have put new lenses in my old frames, but they aren't strong enough to cart around.
Grade: B+ because these frames are dark. I might buy a second pair for spring/summer in a lighter colour, if I find some on sale.
Lesson: From a friend who got hers at the same time: If not happy with the lenses, take them back within three months. (And make sure to deal with opticians who have this policy.) From me: Think about whether frames will look good year round.

Thrift: Thrills of the find

I've posted before on my thrift finds; here they are again, because the total cost was $27! 
Grade: B (I have not worn the jacket or turquoise sweater that much, but will in spring)
Lesson: If I counted the cost of my time, these would be pricey, but hey, I'm retired!

The savings I gained by finding things I needed (except the scarf) helped to fund the jewellery.

Overall Grade for 2017's clothing: B, because I have not yet worn the EB sweaters; I'll use them  in late winter.  I like them, but this assessment is about value, not aesthetics.
Eternal lesson, for any year and budget: You can buy "perfect" things, but if they sit in a drawer, your  money is wasted.

For the jewellery, A. Artisanal jewellery is still a world where you can have something beautifully hand-made and even bespoke; unless you have very deep pockets or can sew confidently, just try that with clothes. I also had the pleasure of supporting three sublime women artists!

What's next?

I thought a cool challenge for 2018 would be to shop for clothing entirely from thrifts, but because I need a long inseam, I can't find trousers and skirts are too short.  The clothes look like what they were: someone else's.

I could also resolve to do no shopping except for say, socks and underwear. Note that "could": it's scary. To learn how one woman spent a year without buying any clothes, and more crucially, how it shifted her awareness, read novelist Ann Patchett's "My Year of No Shopping" in The New York Times.

One of Patchett's most moving observations:
"Once I got the hang of giving shopping up, it wasn’t much of a trick. The trickier part was living with the startling abundance that had become glaringly obvious when I stopped trying to get more. Once I could see what I already had, and what actually mattered, I was left with a feeling that was somewhere between sickened and humbled. When did I amass so many things, and did someone else need them?"

In 2017, I got rid of more than I bought. A flip through the notebook where I've recorded all purchases since 2009 shows I've dramatically whittled back my shopping, but I have but no regrets about a single pearl.

If you made either mistakes or especially wise buys in 2017, please join in and tell us about them!