A Few Words On Your Jewelry

I’d like to take a moment to talk about you. Well, you and your jewelry.

I want to address your apologetic, embarrassed smile when I ask if your bracelet has a special significance. And the way you step back, away from me and the counter, when you compare the ring you’re contemplating with the one already on your finger. Or perhaps I’ll address your lament that you never see your rings clean, and that you certainly don’t want me to see them so filthy — not even when I offer to clean them for you.

You may feel society’s pressure to acknowledge that you and your spouse were “just a couple of kids” when you married, which explains the (supposedly) small size of your diamond engagement ring. You may feel it culturally appropriate to blame your (supposedly) “ugly” hands on age, arthritis, and a penchant for gardening without gloves, which of course is why you’d never try to wear a beautiful ring.

You do not need to apologize to me for your jewelry, and the faults in it that only you can see. Certainly you shouldn’t feel that your precious pieces, each representing a particular moment in your life, are in any way more humble than the shiny new things in my cases.

The ring out of round and prongs worn down to nothing — those represent a lifetime of wear, and they can be fixed. The bracelet links so fragile they feel like frayed cotton threads — they lasted through two wars and a cross-country move, and they can be fixed. And oh, the damn clasp that you can just never do up yourself, so you leave the necklace on all the time even though it’s uncomfortable — your fingers ache, and a bigger clasp would help, and that can be fixed.

You come in, defensive and vulnerable, exposing your beloved memories to a young woman whom you think can’t possibly understand, or won’t even try. You don’t have any expectation of compassion or respect, because you’ve been turned away so many times with a shrug and a callous “just buy a new one!”

You may even hear the same advice from me, eventually. But from me, it comes after all other options have been considered. It comes with an understanding that to you, the idea of taking apart this and making it into that will have to simmer for a while, and that if you’re ready — when you’re ready — you’ll know.

Your life, your memories, lie in the bits and pieces laid out on the counter. To share them with a stranger takes a certain kind of courage, especially when the fear of harsh judgement or offhand hauteur makes you want to quickly snatch your pieces back before I can look more closely.

But I have learned, from the best of role models, to understand you. I have learned how to sense your fears, your frustrations, and those apologies spoken and unspoken. And I can only hope that when it’s my turn to lay my life’s treasures in front of someone else, that they have sensed my hesitations and questions, and will respond with their own compassion.

Mythbusters: Old vs. New

How you heard the news? Vintage is in! Well, sort of…

Oh, the litany of reasons people cite in an attempt to justify purchasing estate jewelry (i.e. pre-owned). To me, the only reason a buyer needs to purchase any non-necessity is because they love it — all the rest is just window dressing, as they say. But there is a lot of misinformation floating around about vintage, antique, and previously owned jewelry. So here’s a list of commonly overheard phrases, the myths they come from, and some unvarnished truth to provide some perspective.

“I like the look of older jewelry.”
Me, too! But that doesn’t mean that you can’t find new jewelry that is made to reflect a particular era’s style. In fact, with the recent resurgence of white metal, filigree detail, and the ubiquitous halo — all styles that are “comebacks” and not even remotely novel — I’d say your chances of finding a newly-made  ____-style piece are sky-high.

“If it’s antique, it lowers my carbon footprint!”
Not necessarily. From international shipping and customs delays to pre-sale repairs, that estate piece might even have a larger environmental impact than its newer cousin — you know, the one created in a state-of-the-art factory in the US where it was picked up and carried on foot from person to person until it arrived with many of its friends in the Prius-driving sales rep’s eco-friendly luggage.

“I don’t want to buy a conflict diamond.”
Great, because I won’t be selling you one, and I can actually prove it. The Kimberley Process was established in December of 2000 and was adopted in full effect in 2003 in order to impose controls on the rough diamond trade that limit and track the policies (and practices) of participating nations. This certainly doesn’t mean that a diamond sourced prior to this time is a product of a conflict region, but it does mean I can’t prove it either way. Reputable jewelry stores work only with reputable diamond vendors — many of them siteholders at established, well-run mines — so we can be fully confident in our products. The same can not be said for the majority of estate pieces.

“Jewelry always appreciates, so I’m getting a better deal!”
Please repeat after me: “Jewelry is not an investment. I buy it because I love it.” We do not sell jewelry to you today with the idea that you will resell it in 10 years and make a profit, and you don’t buy it because you think it’s a better option than stocks and bonds. Jewelry carries meaning, and that is its primary value. A “deal,” as such, is a rare bird — most often, if you think you’re getting one, what you’re really getting is had.

“If it’s lasted this long, it must be pretty sturdy!”
In a general sense, this carries some truth. A very well-made piece is more likely to stand the test of time, and will likely be in better shape after 50 years than a counterpart of lesser make. Unfortunately, that’s the only bit of truth here — many of the older pieces were made using inferior materials and processes (that is, relative to today’s standards) and they have simply been worn so much that they are in dire need of repair. Often, the issues can’t be repaired at all; when metal has worn away to nothing and gemstones are chipped and crushed, there is very little that can be done to salvage the original piece.

A note on family heirlooms and other types of sentimental jewelry: we fully understand that intrinsic value trumps just about everything I mentioned here, and that you’re often willing to do “whatever it takes” to get that special piece wearable again. But when more than half the ring needs to be replaced — new shank, new prongs, new head, replace four sapphires, recut the center diamond, etc. — ask yourself if it’s worth the time, money, and potential heartache if something unexpected happens in the process. And also, ask us what your other options are… we might surprise you.