Welcome, spring!

As a native New Englander, I’ve grown up in a world that revolves very much around the seasons. We slog through tough winters, squelch through wet springs, sigh about humid summers, and stumble around the leaves of fall. Seasons also have nicknames — “mud” or “tourist” or “black fly” — that often describe the shared misery of the region in its respective states.

May typically brings with it the transition out of our winter boots and hats, and into shorter hemlines and brighter colors. It also brings another round of gift-giving occasions: Mother’s Day, graduations, weddings, showers, and of course birthdays (ahem, like mine!).

I’ve been asked more often than I can count to recommend a gift, and typically I’m happy to oblige. But lately it seems that my gentle questions — how old? style? hair length? current or dream profession? hobbies? — go unanswered, simply because the buyer is totally unprepared for them. One notable interaction ended when a customer realized she wasn’t entirely sure if this was for a high school or college graduation, and left to call her sister for more information.**

So if I may, a little advice from one who truly wants to help you select a perfect present, but needs a tad more information in order to do so:

1. Know the basics. Gender, age, and basic physical description help. Bonus points for hair & eye color; double bonus for skin tone.

2. Know (at least one of) the specifics. Favorite color, preferred metal type, ear piercings, lefty or righty, birth month, sports team, degree, hobby, pastime, career.

3. Know the occasion. While it doesn’t always dictate the gift, it can help with direction (and, to a certain degree, price point). Bonus points for details like wedding color(s), school colors or mascot, religious symbols, family traditions, etc.

4. Diamonds, pearls, watches. Repeat this, mantra-like, to yourself as you shop during this time of year. You’ll see these items placed front and center in advertising due to their immense popularity and widespread appeal, so you might as well consider them. Lockets, charm bracelets, and money clips are all great options as well, and often customizable to boot.

Friends and family (and perfect strangers), do you have a gift-giving conundrum? Ask away, free of charge! 🙂 Also, feel free to share a story of a memorable gift you’ve received — everyone loves a good tale for inspiration.

**As it turns out, it was neither: the giftee had been cast in the leading role of her school theatre production. The gifter returned just to tell me this and promptly left, saying she “didn’t feel it merited a gift” after all. Break a leg, kid!

Following Up: Girls in the World

A few weeks ago, I wrote my own response to the current hot-button issues surrounding the ridiculously poor representation of women in my industry. And then I let it go.

Oh, not that I decided to suddenly ignore the problem, or cease to care that my own gender can’t seem to shatter the glass ceiling of business leadership despite decades of policy and social reform. I simply decided to let my feelings simmer, and step away from the rapidly-overheating kitchen argument that the internet can often turn into a firestorm.

But thanks to a deeply-felt and insightful weekly meeting by our (Millennial AND female) owner and a commentary article by JCK Editor-In-Chief Victoria Gomelsky, I decided to briefly revisit the topic that had caused a “mild sensation,” as Gomelsky understated.

It seems that she shares many of my own sentiments, particularly regarding the assignment of blame. As she rightly points out, top-whatever lists are not scientific rankings, but rather a general gathering of people across as industry who wield certain types of power: influence, money, authority, etc. It is blindingly obvious to me that more women would make the list if there were more women out wielding that kind of power, which brings about the inevitable sad conclusion that we simply don’t have it yet. Emphasis on yet.

It’s easy for me to sit here and discuss the members of my gender in the second person — we don’t have it, we need to work hard to get to the top, we need to lead, etc. — but sometimes I fill in that nominative with a silent they instead. In other words, I fall into the exact same trap that many women do, which is to count myself out of an elite group of powerful individuals because I’m not already one of them. Sure, I pay lip service to having “career goals” and “leadership aspiration” but what have I done lately to put my money where my big, hopeful mouth is?

In truth, I haven’t done enough. I wake up and force myself to repeat overused empowerment phrases and pithy mantras, but we all know that if wishes were diamonds, we wouldn’t bother to sell them because the market would be saturated. (Isn’t that how the saying goes?)

Well, forget it. I’m not going to sit back and watch other women become powerful while I sit and watch. I’m going to cheer them on while I run beside them, straight up the seemingly-endless staircase, winding our way to the very top. Together. And I’m not going to just continue to say things like that in an online blog that almost nobody reads. Sooner or later, I’m going to prove it to myself and everyone else. How’s that for empowerment?

I invite your thoughts about this whole subject, because I agree with something else important from Gomelsky’s article: only through honest discussion can these issues come to light, and perhaps, find a path to solution.

P.S. Picture is of an actual fortune cookie I received just after I found out I’d be going to my first show. True story.

Ring, Ring!

Clients often ask me when “engagement season” is. I’m not sure why they want to know (it’s usually not an engagement customer doing the asking), but my answer is the same: it’s always engagement season.

While it’s true that more proposals happen during the winter holidays, the rings themselves aren’t necessarily purchased between November and January. We simply see an uptick in foot traffic during that time, so it sometimes feels like the diamonds are flying fast and thick.

On the other hand, I can say with some authority that there is a “wedding band season,” and it’s starting right about now. The most popular months for marriage are June, August, September, and October, which means we’re 3-6 months out and the checklists for the intended couples are getting their boxes ticked bit by bit. Couples often want to wrap up what they perceive as important or expensive (or both), to reduce stress and long-term financial burden. It’s a winning strategy, and one that’s encouraged by the multitude of published and online planning tools that are so ubiquitous today.

If your style is simple or popular and your finger is stock or sample size, you could walk into and out of a jewelry store with wedding band in hand after about twenty minutes. You’ve probably also never missed a flight, always get green lights when you’re in a hurry, and should purchase a lottery ticket immediately — that is to say, you’re one lucky duck.

For most, the wedding band search is a slightly longer process. Try them on, price them out, and then purchase or order with a minimum of one month until your wedding.*** We’d prefer two to three months, because we like tight and important deadlines even less than you do (trust me, the idea of combining a special rush order and a bad hurricane season is not an appealing one).

I want your wedding band to be perfect, and that can sometimes mean a custom creation to accommodate an estate setting that won’t allow a straight band to sit comfortably on your finger. This is probably going to take longer than a month, and we’d like to take our time to get it exactly right.

Take this as a pleasant PSA, from our beautiful industry to all you soon-to-be-newlyweds: if you’re getting married in the near future, come in and see me. We’ll talk wedding plans and weddings bands, and get one of thing checked off that lengthy to-do list.

*** Cautionary tale: a client once told me she had two months until her wedding, but neglected to mention she’d be leaving for Mexico — her destination location — three weeks prior to the actual wedding date. We got the rings completed on time, but it was a pretty near thing. Keep in mind your actual plans, not just the wedding bubble. Please.

That Sounds Good

Chocolate diamonds. Champagne diamonds. Cognac diamonds.

Lemon quartz. Watermelon tourmaline. Bubblegum pink sapphire.

Are you hungry yet? Food may pave the proverbial path to a man’s heart, but evidently food-type descriptors make consumers hungry for colored diamond and gemstone jewelry.

Few people would deny that professional marketing teams are the true drivers of consumer habits these days. We’re essentially told what we want, so that we want what somebody wants to sell. It’s not a bad cycle really, as long as everyone is honest and ends up happy with what they sold or what they bought.

As someone who works very hard to ensure a client is educated about how they’re spending their money, I sometimes send a silent thank-you to the inventors of those delicious nicknames. A custom client who can use vivid descriptors of any kind, food or otherwise, is more likely get what they really want the first time: “a purple that’s not too deep, not really royal, and definitely not plum, but a bit more violet. Like out outer edge of a violet, but sort of like grape Jello.” Yes, I can work with that. (Maybe I’ll coin “Grape Jello Sapphire”?) Personally, I get a kick out of gems with foodlike names because, well, I’m a foodie, and calling my jewelry something edible is kind of the perfect combination of passions for me. I relate much better to a lip-smacking red raspberry rhodalite garnet set in buttery-yellow 18K gold, don’t you?

So clearly I’m not totally averse to unique and descriptive nicknames. But I do have issues with the rampant dishonesty and consumer duping that comes from those marketing geniuses who decided to take their pitch one step too far. These are the people who sell gems that are worth very little (or almost nothing) at prices comparable to their truly rare and valuable counterparts. I’m looking at you, purveyors of the chocolate or champagne or cognac diamonds.

They’re pretty. If the color appeals to you, they’re stunning. They are incredibly useful in design work, and they’re an excellent alternative to softer gems in similar colors. Do you know what they are not? Rare. And therefore, expensive.

It is absolutely astounding to me that certain retailers are promoting these common-as-dirt, industrial quality, murky brownish diamonds as something special enough to sell in the same price bracket as white diamonds. The markup on such a product must be astronomical — great for the retailer, of course, but not so much for the consumer. It’s a bit like buying meatloaf at Kobe prices just because somebody told you it was pretty much the same thing, and tastes pretty good.

I love beautiful pieces of wearable art, and jewelry made with these brownish gems can be equally beautiful to those made without. But my expectation is to pay less for something with a lesser value, and informed customers should expect the same. I question how long a value system can last if price — usually, though not always, a major factor — becomes a meaningless mode of comparison. Consumers should be purchasing jewelry because they love it, but they should be charged an appropriate amount for the true value of their dollar’s buying power.

What’s your favorite colored gemstone nickname? Do we need to introduce some new ones?