With every significant passing holiday, including Christmas, New Year’s and now, nearly Valentine’s Day, the most marked method of, well, making a mark, is by bestowing jewelry. One need look no further than the iconic Elizabeth Taylor who wrote an entire book about her love affair with jewelry, saying ,”I’ve never thought of my jewelry as trophies. I’m here to take care of it and to love it, for we are only temporary custodians of beauty.” What is it about these shiny baubles that inspires such deep devotion?
The use of gold and gems can be traced back Millennia, to the ancient cultures of Egypt and Mesopotamia. Jewelry has since then been an ever-present part of human civilization. Adorning oneself with jewelry has been consistent across space and time, across religions, cultures, class and gender. Civilizations as disparate as the Aztecs and the Tibetans are both renowned for their use and collection of it. In modern times, we use body decorations to denote social status and wealth, to draw attention to certain parts of our physiques, and to bask in the marvelous vanity of expense.
Interestingly, the democratization of luxury means that the mass consumer now has access to these once rarified gems and the experience that comes with purchasing them. Which means that luxury jewelers must now adapt to the changing marketplace and consumer tastes in order to attract attention in a competitive marketplace.
Brands such as Tiffany, Cartier and Bulgari have been shifting their focus to creating experiences and bringing technology into their worlds. Their attention has migrated to emerging trends which include an appetite to create personalized pieces, purchase for oneself and connect with a brand through more experiential spaces. Gone are the more formal and ‘stuffy’ approach to jewelry shopping, with the embrace of the more gentrified experiences of exhibitions, parties and customer events.
It’s worth noting that these historic brands are now also having to compete with new players in the jewelry market, who tend to adopt a more modern approach from the beginning, putting sustainability, customer experience and price consciousness, at the forefront of their strategies.
Still, the experience of exclusivity and true aspirational luxury is never far from the desired encounter with these jewelry brands. On a recent trip to a high end retailer, I was invited to sit and try on various gorgeous pieces, all whilst sipping (proper) French champagne, and nibbling on high tea tray canapes. With this experience came a comprehensive history of the brand, and an awareness of the importance of how these pieces made me feel. In these modern times, how women feel seems to be mattering more, which is a welcome change. Historically, women were not generally involved in the decision making that came with say, selecting an engagement ring. The experience has now evolved to more of a mutual journey between lovers who wish to create a more inclusive legacy. How would they wish for their story to be told, together, rather than simply from the point of view of the gentleman requesting the lady’s hand in marriage? Couples coming in to purchase jewelry together is in fact the newest, biggest trend when selecting such a symbolic token of love and devotion. And it’s one that deserves a toast. With the emphasis of the luxury experience becoming one of transformation, it’s safe to say that any woman who determines that she’s ready to marry will be happily moved in her awareness that her beloved wishes her part in the journey to be as valuable as the gem that signifies their union.