Costume jewelry, especially brass jewelry, used to cause me much anguish. The designs are chic and cutting edge; sometimes the craftsmanship is not bad; – but as a fine jewelry designer, the idea of paying hundreds (sometimes even thousands) of dollars for brass or other industrial metals gave me hives. The price of brass is currently somewhere around US$2.60 per pound and the price of gold is US$1,773.70 per ounce or $28,379.20 per pound. I’m no mathematical savant, but if gold prices are roughly 10,915 times that of brass, yet finished gold jewelry is only ten to a hundred times the price of high-end designer costume jewelry made of brass, this means the profit margins made off costume jewelry are enormous, whereas fine jewelry has a much smaller margin. Taking this one step further, once you purchase costume jewelry, it depreciates in value immediately–the resale price is nowhere near what you paid for the item. Materials in fine jewelry retain value much better; gold prices are so high these days that many people are turning a nice profit selling their old gold jewelry). Everything taken into account, it becomes difficult to justify the spend on costume jewelry.
If costume jewelry is not a good investment then what are the alternatives? Many people rent costume and fine jewelry on sites such as www.BagBorrowOrSteal.com where one pays a monthly rental fee for a piece of jewelry which is then returned when no longer wanted. Genius business idea: the company makes back the cost of their inventory quickly from women who live beyond their means; add to that absent-minded individuals who forget to return pieces and the profit is compounded. Great for the company; not so great for the piggy banks of those who either cannot delay gratification enough to save up for the pieces or are so wrapped up in trends that they’ve lost sight of financial responsibility.
I am no harbinger of gloom and doom. I adore costume jewelry as well as fine jewelry. The point here is not to scare anyone out of buying designer costume jewelry, rather to help you come up with a game plan with which you learn to curate an amazing collection of jewels wisely. In order to do this, you must take a few seconds before every purchase and decide whether the particular sparkly is:
Timeless- you will wear this forever (regardless of whether it is costume jewelry or fine jewelry) and it will look just as stylish on you in your 30′s as it will in your 70′s.
I attempt to limit myself to purchases of jewelry that I believe are timeless for me. The “for me” bit is key–not everyone will want to wear a Hermes cuff at 80, but I suspect that I will– so for me, its timeless. These are items that may not be commercially in fashion 50 years from now but that is hardly relevant–I buy what I think I will still be fond of in 50 years. Sure my tastes may evolve over time but I know myself well enough that I don’t anticipate an all-out upheaval of my aesthetics. The timeless pieces are worth the spend regardless of whether it’s fine jewelry or costume. These are the pieces that you may need to save up for but act as the pillars of your jewelry collection for years to come. Examples: Hermes Collier de Chien cuffs, diamond studs, a gorgeous cocktail ring, etc.
Hermes Collier de Chien, black leather with gold-tone findings.
JZP Basics, white diamond ‘Martini’ studs set in platinum.
One to five years- either you will grow out of the jewelry or vice versa.
One-to-five year pieces happen. These are impulse pieces that you love at the moment but are not sure will make-up a core piece of your jewelry collection forever. Maybe it’s a piece that is a bit outside your comfort zone and you have to live with it before you know whether this will deserve a place in your permanent collection. Not a problem. I commend you for trying something new–this is how we grow and evolve. However, these pieces should not tax the piggy bank. Establish a dollar amount for yourself that serves as a hard cut-off above which you need to think about the purchase over night. A good number to choose is generally what you could comfortably spend on a nice dinner out.
Jennifer Fisher, brass hexagon cuff. Available here.
One Season- a fleeting trend that you choose to embrace now but will look dated by next season. Example: peter pan detachable collars (I for one, can’t believe they are still in circulation)!
Dannijo, Tess collar. Available here but please, think this through.
One Season- I try to avoid these at all costs but then again, I’m no longer a T-girl: tweens, teens and twenties–the only ones that can get away with experimenting with one-season trends. Ladies on the other side of 30, you should know yourself well enough that you can see an item and decide immediately whether it’s a one season trend that you will pass on or whether it’s a one-to-five year piece that you can experiment with. For the T-girls, limit yourself to what you can afford. If you have to rent it to partake, it’s not for you. Don’t pout, you have plenty of time to indulge in the future and learning to delay gratification is a skill that all successful people possess–you’ll be strutting around in terribly swish baubles in no time.
Big Kiss and Bigger Diamonds,