It’s no secret we’ve all been hidden behind masks for going on a year now. We have been rendered expressionless and boy am I glad I didn’t fork out the big bucks early last year for some teeth straightening as our smiles have also been masked. Our eyes have not only been our windows to the world and the windows of our souls, but pretty much the highlight of our otherwise covered up faces. They say if you have pretty eyes, this is your time to shine! Eye agree!
As with any suppressed time, there has got to be a silver lining, right? The medieval years of plague were followed by the Italian Renaissance that spread throughout Europe and the 1918 pandemic was followed by the Roaring ‘20s, so maybe there’s hope. One place that seems to be the case this time around is in jewelry. As “Town and Country” reported, both costume and high-end jewels are proving their pandemic power and I’m on board.
Think about it. Masked and homebound for months on end, a sentimental necklace or some frivolous earrings could literally make one’s day. On our many Zoom calls and face times, just the right jewels could set either an “I’m all business” or “I’m here for the party” tone. As T&C reminds us, jewels can also serve as connections to and reminders of all those loved ones we can’t visit or hug as well as bedazzled hopes that yes, please say yes, we will someday be dressing up again and adorning our maskless faces with precious and beloved gems. In the meantime they can upgrade our daily athleisure wear outfits and are, in a sense, one of very few feel good mementos we can cherish.
And, don’t think for a minute that the jewelry industry hasn’t taken notice. Not only did it survive 2020, it thrived. Whether it was at Tiffany or Target, people bought and didn’t think twice about it. Necklaces. Earrings. Bracelets. The works. And it worked. E-commerce also flourished and high-end jewelers quickly discovered in-home selection shopping. It was the perfect storm and as I look out my window and see trees and yards covered in ice thanks to a rare local ice storm, what better day to talk about “ice,” as in the kind that adorns your fingers, necks, and earlobes?
So big is jewelry right now that there are actual fine gem investment firms that will help you purchase stones or pieces as investments. Yes, you could wear that one-of-a-kind necklace if you’d like, but these financial houses are focused solely on buying stones for profit.
Not unlike the art market, stones and jewelry investments are not only a hedge against inflation; there is a limited supply of them so their value isn’t swayed by elections, governments, or other outside influences. They can also be sold quickly and in a pinch and can be packed away and taken with you, unlike a building or a yacht.
If you’re lucky and wealthy enough to dabble in this market, think quality over quantity, as a small high-quality stone will retain more value than a large stone of mediocre quality. Think Harry Winston, Chopard, Bulgari, and a host of other prestigious and luxury brands.
A Girl’s Best Friend
They say diamonds are a girl’s best friend and whether you agree or not, diamonds definitely are timeless and beloved. Born in the center of the earth billions of years ago, they are used to mark life’s most important occasions and milestones and are probably the oldest things most of us will ever touch or own. So in demand and profitable are they that the discovery of diamonds in 1967 in a Botswana mine turned the impoverished nation into a thriving one and is home to the world’s richest diamond mine.
Naturally some diamonds are bigger and better than others but the Four Cs…cut, clarity, carat, and color…reign in any and all sizes. Any diamond is worth treasuring but there are some out there that we’ve all heard about and that have legends all their own.
Let’s start with the Tiffany Diamond, most recently worn by singer Lady Gaga at the 2019 Oscars, making it the most expensive jewel ever worn to the annual Hollywood soiree. Worth an estimated $30 million, the stunning 128-carat yellow rock was purchased by Charles Lewis Tiffany in 1878 and had previously been worn publicly by only two women. Mrs. E. Sheldon Whitehouse was the first to don it in public at the Tiffany Feather Ball in 1957 but it was none other than the always classy and chic Audrey Hepburn who made it forever famous when she wore it for the film “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” You might not be able to borrow it for an event, but you can see it as the rock is on permanent display at Tiffany’s Fifth Avenue flagship where it attracts more than 300 visitors each day.
And speaking of actresses, we can’t talk diamonds without talking Liz; Elizabeth Taylor that is. Her 33-carat and reportedly perfect Krupp Diamond that Richard Burton flew to his yacht on the Thames so he could give it to her is noteworthy on so many levels. Then there’s the 69-carat pear-shaped Taylor Burton Diamond, which was the first diamond to fetch more than $1 million when Burton outbid Aristotle Onassis for it.
And, how about the Hope Diamond? Beautiful and distinct in its blue tone, the 45-carat stone was stolen from Louis XVI in 1792 and was missing for 20 years before resurfacing in London. Today it is housed in the National Gem and Mineral collection at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.
And last but certainly not least, we can’t possibly talk diamonds without talking the royals. Undoubtedly the caretaker of the world’s most expensive, expansive, and exquisite jewels, Queen Elizabeth and company have an entire tower protecting their jewels and when you look at a photo of any one of them wearing a crown or opulent necklace, it’s almost hard to believe that each of those gems you’re looking at are real. A crown full of real diamonds and a giant necklace of real rubies! Wow.
For me though, my favorite is the Greville Emerald Kokoshnik Tiara that the Queen lent to granddaughter Princess Eugenie for her 2018 wedding. Maybe it’s because emerald is my birthstone and I love it. Maybe it’s because I loved Eugenie’s wedding look from head to toe. Maybe it’s just because it is stunning. Created in 1919, it consists of rose-cut pave diamonds set in platinum and features additional emeralds, including the center one that’s 94 carats. Fit for a queen indeed.
My other favorite royal crown is that of Princess Victoria, which she wore for her 2010 wedding. I love that it is pretty much gem free but is stunning in its own unique way. Officially called the Cameo Tiara, it is thought to be one of the oldest tiaras still in use. The stunner is set in gold with pearls surrounding seven large Neo-Classical cameos. Since I was a young girl, cameos have always been a favorite of mine so them, coupled with my beloved pearls, stole my heart right along with Victoria’s simple and elegant gown.
But I digress just a bit as I could go on and on about royals. Next blog?
I just returned from my annual college girls trip and this year’s destination was one where residents and visitors alike are very proud of their jewels. The bigger the better (in their minds) and the more logos and trademark gems they can sport the better they maybe feel about themselves. Even belts are now somewhat considered “jewels” as they come adorned with buckles blazing the logo of many a brand. Don’t get me wrong, I love jewelry and treasure a few of my special pieces, but when is too much too much and enough enough? Apparently not soon enough.
I’ve always loved a strand of pearls and love them with everything from a wedding gown to jeans and a t-shirt. I also like diamond stud earrings and a good watch. On the flipside, I love my grandma’s squash blossom necklace as well as all my costume jewelry right up there with these, my all-time faves:
One can only think of the iconic Coco Chanel in her long strands of pearls as well as former First Lady Barbara Bush and her trademark pearl chokers. Simple pearls were also a signature of Wallis Simpson who was rarely seen without a polished set around her neck. I wore my mom’s for my wedding and today wear them with everything.
Princess Diana Engagement Ring
Wallis, the Duchess of Windsor, had nothing on the Princess of Wales. Diana, who had access to the world’s greatest jewels, was known to combine low-cost costume jewelry with the likes of the Cambridge Knot Tiara, but it’s her stunning engagement ring that will go down in history.
Consisting of an impressive center 12-carat sapphire stone and substantial accent diamonds surrounding it in white gold, the style broke with royal tradition in true Diana style and I always loved the idea that it matched her stunning blue eyes. (I also quite loved the similar yet smaller ruby engagement ring Prince Andrew gave to the Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson. I thought the choice of ruby was brilliant considering Fergie has that fiery red hair.) Fittingly, Diana’s ring now sits on the finger of the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, who as wife of Diana’s eldest son William is the future queen. Ironically, the ring was inherited by Di’s younger son Harry who gifted it to Will. Perfection.
A pair of little sparklers on each ear can go with any outfit (or mask) and they will never go out of style. They are an investment you will never regret and forever treasure.
Rolex has long been the go to for many an up-and-comer as a way of cementing their “I have arrived,” and there are a host of other brands that cost as much as a car, but when it comes to watches, my heart is with Cartier. The exemplar Tank watch has been a favorite since 1917 and the Santos watch, with its signature “bolts,” is equally distinctive.
Created in 1904, the Santos is one of the Cartier brand’s most popular pieces. Louis Cartier created it for his friend, Brazilian aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont, and it boasts Cartier’s trademark “bolts” on an array of gold and stainless bands.
Cartier’s equally famous Tank watch was introduced in 1917 and is today still a go to for many a stylish man or woman. Louis Cartier gifted the first Tank watch to American General John Joseph Pershing and some of his officers in 1917 following the success of American and British armies’ protection of Europe. The watch was inspired by British Mark IV tanks used in battle and was something of a trendsetter as at the time, pocket watches were the standard. Today’s version sports the same Roman Numerals as the original, as well as the now famous Cartier hallmark blue sapphire crown.
Cartier LOVE Bracelet
Which brings me to the beloved Cartier LOVE bracelet, introduced in 1969 and is today still a best seller and mainstay of any wrist stack. Loved not only for its simple and enduring style, it is also one of the most Googled jewelry pieces the world over and boasts an enviable resale value. What makes the bracelet extra special is that it is literally locked onto the wearer’s wrist, symbolizing eternal love.
It was created in 1972 by Juste un Chou who was inspired by American hardware stores for its design. Minimalist yet memorable, the bracelet locks around the wrist, comes with a tiny screwdriver, and comes with a serial number to counter its many counterfeits. It is oval in shape in order to fit as closely as possible to the wrist and was designed for both men and women. When the bracelet first launched, there was a policy that a customer could not buy a LOVE bracelet for themselves and Cartier gave pairs of them to many a famous couple, including the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. It is rumored that some hospitals keep Love bracelet screwdrivers on hand in case one needs to be removed in an emergency. Now that’s a statement piece! Cipullo went on to later design Cartier’s popular “nail” bracelets.
Yet another Cartier classic is their Trinity “Rolling” ring, a unique “movable” ring made of three interlaced bands of yellow gold, white gold, and pink gold. Created by Louis Cartier in 1924, the ring quickly earned iconic status for both men and women and is today a popular wedding band. I like to think that its name has something to do with yes, the three bands, but also the Holy Trinity.
If it’s good enough for Audrey, it’s good enough for everyone else, right? Whether you covet an iconic Tiffany setting in a wedding ring, a Paloma or Paretti heart, the somewhat new and trendy Tiffany T bracelets, or the Jean Schlumberger enamel bangles that Jackie Kennedy Onassis was rarely seen without, the legendary Tiffany blue box is waiting for you.
But, even if you can’t fork out some green dough for some Tiffany blue, did you know you already own a piece of Tiffany on the dough you do have? Every U.S. dollar bill has the Great Seal of the United States on it, and that seal was designed by Tiffany way back in 1885.
A year later, that famous ring setting was introduced by Charles Lewis Tiffany. The six-prong setting is virtually hidden and allows the brilliant diamond to seemingly float above the band. Nothing flashy or trendy about the setting; just a simple solitaire (granted that solitaire could be big!) setting. What’s not to love?
If you’re more a trophy guy or gal, you’ll be interested to know that the championship trophies handed out to NFL and NBA champions were designed by Tiffany. In 1967, Tiffany produced the first Vince Lombardi Super Bowl Trophy and in 1978 the brand was commissioned to create the NBA’s championship trophy. I guess this gives a whole new meaning to “trophy wife.”
One of my first treasured Tiffany pieces is my “Return to Tiffany” charm and bracelet. The still popular bobbles debuted in 1969 and each one comes with an actual serial number and if lost can be returned to Tiffany and reunited with its owner. Love it!
Another piece of Tiffany I treasure is my Paloma Picasso heart necklace. It’s so simple and fluid and can be worn every day…nothing fancy or flashy…just pure delight. The Picasso collection was launched in 1980 and was inspired by the graffiti on New York City buildings and the chic, graphic jewelry designs are still wildly popular today.
On my list right now is the Tiffany T Smile Pendant. I’m thinking of it for our upcoming 35th anniversary. I saw it while on my girls’ trip and loved it. It’s simple, a bit whimsical, and the two Ts make a smile. Who doesn’t love a smile?
Okay, before you naysayers say “no way,” hear me out. I know, Kendra and her signature pieces are everywhere. But, I remember when our daughter was in high school and KS had just come out. The girls loved her but to buy her stuff, we had to venture to her flagship store. Soon, we could go to various small boutiques. By the girls’ freshmen years in college, Kendra Scott was just starting to make waves but within a year her bright colored “Danielle” earrings flooded the market thanks to many a celebrity who sported them. Today, as young as elementary aged girls are wearing her stuff. Still, what I like about Kendra and why I support her is because she is a true self-made millionaire woman who started her empire in her garage and that her jewelry isn’t very inexpensive but not very expensive either. Where else can you go to a “Color Bar” and design your own piece but not break the bank? I also like and respect her because she gives and donates to many a request and charity. Say what you want, but this girl is a Kendra girl.
Van Cleef & Arpels Alhambra
I don’t own an Alhambra but I wish I did. Grace Kelly wore several of the clover-shaped motif necklaces and wore them as every day jewelry despite their high cost and today you will find every Bravo TV housewife sporting multiple versions of the necklace and earrings originally created in 1968 by co-founder Estelle Arpels’ nephew Jacques Arpels.
Legend has it that young Jacques loved finding and collecting four-leaf clovers and giving them to friends and family. He went on to use the shape when he created the first Alhambra collection in 1968 with the Alhambra long necklace, composed of 20 clover-shaped motifs. This symbolic design achieved immediate success and is today recognized throughout the world as a token of luck.
Its talismanic design is also reminiscent of traditional Moorish quatrefoil and the collection is said to be named after the Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain, which boasts a number of sweeping archways. Its connection to Spain makes it all the more sentimental and special to me.
Whatever you choose or whatever you can afford, a piece of legacy jewelry should be your goal. Two of my best friends always wear necklaces of charms that have deep meaning to them. I distinctly remember my grandma’s plastic snap-bead necklaces and would love to have them today and as we virtually celebrate Mardi Gras this year, who doesn’t love some purple, gold, and green beads whether they’re hanging from your neck or hanging on a fence? Often free but fun-filled, they are the epitome of joyful jewels.
If versatility is your goal, look for that perfect and will never go out of style statement piece that can effortlessly change the look of a t-shirt, dress, or blouse. A simple gold band goes a long way too. Maybe your choice is by an unknown jeweler who crafts a piece with no distinct logos or trademarks. I particularly love an Austin jeweler, Sanctuary Project, who creates wonderful pieces that benefit survivors of trafficking, violence, and addiction. If your purchase helps others, it’s even more precious.
Anything that’s sentimental that you can pull out and put on to make you smile and make you shine inside or out, is worth it. I’m thinking a smile necklace. After all, a smile is the most beautiful curve on any woman’s body.