Tough, Hard, & Stable

If you’ve ever discussed gemstone jewelry with a reputable and knowledgeable jeweler, you might have experienced a series of questions along these lines:

“How often do you plan to wear the ring?”

“What do you do for work, and what are your hobbies?”

“Do you typically take your jewelry off when you sleep, shower, or travel?”

He or she isn’t being impertinent or nosy, but rather attempting to find out what type of gem might be best suited for your lifestyle. Some gems can withstand a decent amount of daily wear and tear without any ill effects, while others are more delicate (some are extremely delicate) and require some special considerations.

A gemstone’s hardness, toughness, and stability are the three most important factors in determining its durability. Useful information for jewelry lovers, of course, but lately these three characteristics also seem to be relevant to conversations about human strength and resilience.

What follows contains a little cheese, so pour yourself some wine and indulge me, okay?

Hardness in a gem is measured by the non-linear Mohs scale, and indicates its resistance to scratches and abrasions. As humans I’d say our physical bodies can withstand a surprising amount of painful bruises and scrapes — pain and medication notwithstanding — but it takes much more practice to reach a state of mental grit. Unlike gems, of course, we can build up this tolerance over time through experience and repetition. Diamonds are the leader in the gemological pack, and resilience is a great indicator of leadership in people.

A gem’s toughness, or resistance to breaking and chipping, is due to the strength of the atomic bonds of the molecules that make up the gem’s essential crystal structure. If that isn’t the perfect metaphor for our human heart, I don’t know what is: truly it’s the strength of our bonds to one another, be they romantic or friendly or even basic human-to-fellow-human, that make us tough. The ability to withstand heartbreak, suffer through previously-broken bonds, and forge even stronger connections is something only people can do, and gems like super-tough jadeite will just have to go along as they always have.

The stability factor is most often an issue when a gem must withstand sudden or intense changes, or is exposed to extreme conditions. In the gemological world this means withstanding temperature or humidity shifts, certain chemicals, and exposure to various light wavelengths. For humans, this is perhaps the most subtle aspect, displayed only during periods of stress; people are more adaptable than gems, but some people are more flexible than others. Fortunately for us, change doesn’t have to leave us permanently damaged like a crazed opal or thermally-shocked tanzanite.

Like many gems, we can receive treatments that help us improve on some of these characteristics. Emeralds can be oiled, diamonds fracture-filled, sapphires re-polished, garnets re-cut. So too can people be healed both physically and mentally, restoring strained bonds, giving and receiving apologies, cutting negativity out and allowing a little more light inside. (Yes, that last one applies to gemstones too.)

No two gems are ever exactly alike, a single piece of rough can be cut many ways, and every color has its place in the spectrum. We can learn perseverance, fortitude, and resilience — or hardness, toughness, and stability — from the world around us. And really, what better way to do so than through the beauty and rich diversity of the gemstone world?

#Pantone and the Color Bubble

It’s that time of year once again: Pantone, the arbiter of all things color, has announced their pick for the 2017 Color of the Year. Say hello to Greenery:

Image from Pantone press release

Referring to the shade as “nature’s neutral,” Pantone has obviously decided to highlight a color that plays to the middle of the road, inciting very little in the way of strong opinions and offensive to essentially no one.

It’s a safe color. It’s pretty, in an I-don’t-want-to-admit-I-hate-peridot kind of way. It’s lush, verdant, and full of springlike innocence. It looks good with pink. Legions of Lilly Pulitzer ladies* will rejoice.

But is it what we want? Is it even what we need?

I’ll be honest, I was hoping for something a bit more… bold. After last year’s double-pastel campaign, I felt reasonably certain that the next choice would be something I could sink my teeth into. Some pizzaz, some pop, something worthy of a coming year that’s sure to be full of fireworks. Perhaps, dare I say it, a color that would signify the rising swell of strong emotions in the hearts of millions, encouraging us to keep fighting the good fight.

How disappointing.

Now there is something to be said for the nice concepts that Greenery is intended to represent; as an active environmentalist, I certainly can’t argue with the purported message. But according to Pantone, the Color of the Year is supposed to provide

“A symbolic color selection; a color snapshot of what we see taking place in our global culture that serves as an expression of a mood and an attitude.”

Calming, soothing, spa-like green is decidedly not the mood I’m sensing, at least here in the US and in most of the EU. So, what comforting little bubble is Pantone living in? How do they, as a company and collective body, manage to find a hue so incredibly inoffensive that it actually becomes even more of a statement in its own banality?

The tree of the fashion industry, with its many branches — jewelry, accessories, couture, high and low fashion, etc. — might be in full leaf, but I don’t think that needs to be taken quite to literally. Maybe this color will grow on me, and may bring about some interesting interpretations when blocked with bold black and white, or warmed up with some shiny yellow gold. For now, it feels like a good excuse to take a nap.

Whatever they’re doing to reach that level of Zen, I wouldn’t mind borrowing a dose or two. I might need it this year.


*I confess to wearing a bit of Lilly now and again, but c’mon people. If you don’t live in Hawaii or Key West, how is this color relevant for more than 2 months of the year?

Media Moment: Girls and Pearls

Particular. Meticulous. Finicky. Fussy. Picky. Persnickety. I’m difficult to please, okay?

I suppose it makes me a good gemologist and jeweler — detail-oriented, and all — but high standards often lead to high expectations, which can sometimes lead to… disappointment.

But I’ve learned to manage those expectations over the years, especially mitigating my hopes for anything related to industry media, PR, or advertising. This is not to say that we don’t have some superlative examples of journalism around, but it’s the cheesy crap from big box retailers that has become the common diner-coffee-consumption we anticipate every holiday season.

So imagine my surprise and delight when I saw this article, discussing Mikimoto’s new approach to their iconic jewel (not to mention a top-ten jewelry standard): pearls. Please take a moment to peruse the short piece, and definitely watch the ad, which will air only on social media.

While many of us in the fashion world wouldn’t exactly call “wear your pearls with your leather pencil skirt” a groundbreaking idea, the ad itself resonates because of its tone and underlying message. Pearls can be sexy, pearls can be mysterious, pearls can be worn outside the boardroom or your sister’s wedding.

My perfectionist self finds plenty of faults with the add, primarily the missed opportunity to show off the fantastically cool clasps available in today’s market. But nonetheless, I rarely see a jewelry-specific spot that gets the tone so absolutely dead on — it’s almost hard to believe that it comes from so unexpected a source, but I’m not complaining.

What did you think of the ad? And more importantly, how did that model get perfectly-winged eyeliner without the apparent use of a mirror?





[Editorial] Dear Advertisers, Sell the “Good” Not the Goods

Thank you, marketing geniuses and PR gurus. Thank you for your creative, imaginative, catchy, pithy, poignant, colorful, and popular efforts in finding a way to sell stuff to people. You are the driving force behind the way business operates today, and the sidecar companion to consumer trends. I can’t over-state how much I appreciate the difficult tasks you’re given, and how beautifully — and often, brilliantly —  you carry them out.


In receiving the credit, you are doomed to hold equal share of the blame. Consumer behavior is your wheelhouse, and it’s on your head I squarely place the blame.

In your infinite branding wisdom, you have decided which names mean quality, and which do not. You place one style above another, often at the direction of said brand, without looking at the bigger picture. You push and push for something a client asked for, without ever considering what, exactly, you’re pushing on the unsuspecting consumer.

We, the retailers, are left to deal with your mess. We spend as much time in the day correcting misconceptions and re-educating the buyers as we do actually selling our own product. We have to explain, and present, and demonstrate, and explain again why a sterling silver chain from Big Name Company is totally undifferentiated from the one I have in stock. And why a name on the box means status to you and very little to me. Why our pearls are, in fact, nicer than the ones from the guy’s name you can’t pronounce, and why that is.

Untangling your mess has become a part of my daily routine. While I consider an educated buyer a better buyer, the learning curve can be steep — and that’s only with the willing ones, those who want to get to know their purchases. The rest leave me stuck between an honesty rock and moral hard place, where I won’t bad-mouth another store but refuse to perpetuate one of their many myths, truth-stretches, or occasional outright lies. Consumers’ heads are spinning, and the consequences are lower confidence and fewer purchases.

I think it’s time for advertisers to reverse course and focus on selling what I call, simply, the good. Sell beauty, romance, hopes & dreams, a lifestyle, a destination. Sell my customers on individuality, unique style, stunning color, attainable quality, and above all, sell them value. In doing so, your rising tide will lift all boats, allowing the entire industry to reclaim its previous place as worthy of trust and esteem. The fashion world is leading the way for individualism, constantly making room for personal expression and edging away from the concept of “out vs. in” culture. Jewelry is a branch of the fashion tree — a strong one, at that — and should be following suit.

We can’t afford to encourage the widening of the luxury/disposable gap, and that’s what your offhandedly thoughtless, us-versus-them advertising copy gets us. Allow consumers to embrace an idea, not just ideology, and they will return the courtesy by trading hard-earned dollars for dream fulfillment. A diamond was once forever, and should be again.

It’s time for an update, marketing mavens. Jewelry at all levels should sell because it is desired and loved, a symbol once more of occasions, commitments, successes, and my personal favorite… just because.

The Business of Business

In my line of work, the face the consumer sees is often very different from the reality behind-the-scenes. The client receives calm and unwavering patience, forever a smile, as much romance as they can stomach, and a general sense that the world is full of beautiful things that they (obviously) should want to buy and give and wear.

And why shouldn’t they? The role of consumer in the luxury market is to enjoy everything — service, gracious transaction, the piece itself, admiration from peers — as a complete package. It’s my job to figure out how to deliver that experience in such a way that will impress and retain that client, but also maintain best business practices that allow equal attention to future clients. As my grandmother used to say, it ain’t worth anything if you give it away.

I will confess that I’m far more a novice of business than I am of creating that customer experience. I have been in some form of sales for many years, but have begun to participate in the business side relatively recently. Thanks in large part to the small business environment and wonderful owners of the store, I have been introduced to the inner workings of this industry and am just as hooked on the finer details of number-crunching and term negotiation as I ever was on closing the sale.

To that end, I’ll be diving head first into analysis and data processing, product and vendor assessment, supplier strategies, and a host of other topics in order to assist in balancing performance in the store. Translation: training in business stuff should lead to better business.

On a personal level, I admit to a little apprehension. This is not only a new field of interest but an entirely new facet of the industry, and I’m determined to acquire as much knowledge for practical application as I can get my little paws on. Between this, my already personally-driven sales goals, some additional business courses I’m taking outside of work, and the general day-to-day operations already in place, I feel I’m in for an exciting period of growth. Maybe if spring pokes its nose out from whatever hole it’s hibernating in someday soon, I’ll really feel ready to face it all.