Who Wears The Jewelry?July 09, 15
Newsweek recently ran an article that I found quite condescending. Titled “Women are no longer waiting for men to shower them with gems,” the short piece looks at the “radical” notion of women showing up at auction and (gasp) buying jewelry for themselves.
According to the author, Alice Heart-Davis, this women buying jewelry at auction phenomenon is a, “new indicator of who-wears-the-pants in a household.” First of all, I didn’t realize this saying was still in use, but why limit jewelry buying – at auction or otherwise – only to those who are in a relationship? There are plenty of independent single women out there – be they divorced, widowed or yes, even happily uncoupled, who have the means and the desire to buy themselves jewelry (and given the times we live in, why assume that either of the partners in the jewelry buying relationship are wearing trousers?).
While the author cites Johann Rupert, chairman of Richemont, who talked at a recently Business of Luxury summit about jewelry being something a man might want to give his wife or mistress (and if he’s giving jewelry to his mistress, let’s hope he is also giving it to his wife), Heart-Davis writes about the women who have given up waiting for jewelry from their partners and are, “gleefully buying jewelry for themselves – for the fun of it, for investment purposes, as divorce presents, or as a beautiful way to squander their bonuses.”
Again, this is hardly something new and good for them that they are not sitting around waiting for a man to bestow them with baubles.
But where once women buying jewelry for themselves in a store was pushing the very boundaries of acceptability, apparently women are now showing their faces, and their money, at the auction hall – the traditional stronghold of male trade buyers.
The article mentions a former lawyer, now banker, who has “fearlessly” purchased jewelry at auction. I admit I have never done it, but surely making a purchase at auction is hardly the stuff of warriors. You decide how much you have to spend, you bid up to that amount (or maybe just a little bit more) and that’s it; you either come home with the piece, or you don’t.
In reality, and according to numbers cited in the article from Bonhams auction house, substantial numbers of women are actually “fierce” enough to take part in jewelry sales without having to call for the smelling salts, and their numbers are growing.
And it’s hardly surprising. More and more women have disposable income of their own, and they want one-off or rare pieces that not everyone else has – the auction hall seems the obvious place to turn. After all, if you have the money for something unique, why settle for less?
Joking aside, the fact that people are still writing articles like this one in which they express surprise at women buying jewelry for themselves, means that there is still so much work to be done by the industry to change how people perceive jewelry and what jewelry as a category means.
Of course, an engagement or wedding ring means one partnership and love and these two categories have a unbreakable tradition them, but different types of jewelry represent so many other things. Women buying jewelry for themselves means success, it means independence, it means satisfying themselves because they can, without waiting for a reward from a man.
While I never really loved the right-hand ring concept, maybe it’s time to bring it back in a broader way, and not just as a pseudo-engagement ring, but as a wider category celebrating self-buying women in a non-patronizing way. We need to do something to get to the point where no one comments on just who is buying the jewelry, or who wears the pants in any relationship.
Have a fabulous – and fierce – weekend.