Most of the fine jewelry I own has been given to me. I have a few prized pieces gifted to me by my grandmother, I have a variety of semiprecious jewelry pieces given to me by my sister from her aunt's jewelry company, Denise James, in addition to numerous pieces given to me over the years for my birthday, graduation, ect by my mom...including the pearls I'm wearing right this very minute. I love every single piece given to me by these three wonderful family members.
However, other than that - I haven't really taken it upon myself to go out and buy nice jewelry on my own. It's expensive. And that cute silk blouse at Nordstrom is only $65 on sale! Do I really need another blouse that's going to last for 5-10 years, tops? I have a myriad of costume jewelry and $2 earrings from Forever 21, but other than what's been gifted, nothing else of any real value....until recently.
I think a lot of girls/women these days (myself included) don't really purchase as much fine jewelry as our mothers and grandmothers used to. There's nothing like fine jewels - they posses a value and aura that is incomparable to anything else. There is something about the stay power and "realness" of jewelry that you don't come across very often these days...everything nowadays is designed to break down two years after you buy it so you just buy more more more, and throw away more more more! It's a shame - because fine jewels are the type of pieces that become family heirlooms and retain their value for centuries, not months. Walking into Tiffany the other day to purchase a birthday gift for my mother inspired me to appreciate jewelry more than I have in the past. All the Bebe earrings and Forever 21 statement necklaces I've purchased are going to be tarnished, recycled and forgotten after a few months, while the pieces gifted to me by my family, and the jewels of real value that I might purchase in the future will go to my son or daughter, to be kept within my future family. There's something about that which gives me a warm fuzzy feeling like a brand new foxfur coat collar. ;-)
Some tips to buying and maintaining valuable jewelry:
Consider Going Vintage
Vintage jewelry is different than "used". Used is for Goodwill. Vintage is a whole other, more romantic ballgame. I find there is more appeal in vintage jewelry sometimes than their is in a lot of the new and modern pieces! If you buy from a trusted source (like Lang Jewelers in San Francisco), you can feel pretty safe knowing that if there is ever a problem with the piece (like a stone falling out) you can bring it back to them and they will find a way to make it right. Additionally, vintage jewels have a look to them that you just don't find anymore in modern pieces - a look that I happen to love. And lastly, one of the biggest bonuses to buying vintage is that you will be saving money by doing so, and avoiding the inflated price of a brand-new piece.
Consider Appraising and Insuring Your Pieces
You never know what might happen - you could damage a piece on your own, take it to a jeweler that may clean it improperly - and you want to be ready for anything that might happen. I've heard a lot of people say that any fine jewelry you have should be kept in a safe deposit box down at the bank. While they do have a point, I tend to lean more towards the school of thought that: what is the fun in that? Jewelry is meant to be worn an appreciated. I'd never want to store my jewelry out of sight in a black hole downtown and never wear it - if anything, keep it locked in a bolted-down fireproof safe inside your house. If someone breaks in, they won't be able to steal it and this way, you can actually enjoy the pieces.
Do Your Research
Know and be familiar with the structure and durability of your fine metals and jewels. Some stones are more durable than others, and you should know how to treat your pieces with care. NEVER clean your jewelry or have it cleaned without looking into the proper procedure first - you will do irreparable damage. I remember a few years back I read that Jessica Simpson uses Windex to clean her diamonds. While this is reported to be safe, I still wouldn't risk damaging the stone or the precious metal anchoring it. Stones that are typically more fragile include: amethyst, opal, pearl and emerald. Gold is especially soft and malleable as well.
Care for Your Pieces Properly!
Even diamonds can be vulnerable to damage if not taken care of properly, or if impacted at just the right angle. To help avoid this, properly caring for your pieces will reduce the risk of something tragic like this happening. Store your pieces in individual boxes. Many people actually wrap the pieces of in silk or velvet before storing them in their individual boxes. Fragile stones must not be allowed to knock against other stones or pieces of jewelry, and with earrings, keep each earring separate from the other to ensure that they don't bang against each other - I have chipped a stone by not doing this. Always apply your makeup, perfume and hairspray before putting on jewelry. If you put on your jewelry before applying your makeup, you will dramatically increase the amount of grime that will eat away at your stones. When taking a piece in for repair, shop around for the place that you trust the most, that isn't going to rip you off, and that will give you a warranty for the work that they do.
Diamonds aren't something I know much about, so unfortunately I can't really shed too much light on that subject...but here is my brief two cents on the topic. There's definitely a LOT of information on diamonds out there and I know quite a few diamond enthusiasts, so the information is easily available and one should make sure to do research before investing in any diamond. The markup on diamonds is often extremely exaggerated, and there's a great deal of debate over why diamonds are even valuable. Diamonds are actually not uncommon stones at all - the market is arguably completely monopolized and controlled by De Beers and a few of the other large corporations that have historically used their dominant positions to manipulate the international diamond market. This is more reason to go vintage in my opinion, and this way you can avoid the possibility of buying a conflict diamond. Any diamond (even those labeled non-conflict) you buy that is originated in Africa is putting you at risk of buying a conflict diamond. To be safe, I'd avoid buying an African diamond altogether, or consider going for a different type of stone which is both a nice variation from the traditional diamond engagement ring and less expensive as well.
Other than pieces that have a function, such as: cuff-links, a watch, tie clip, money clip, wedding ring or pocket watch...it's my personal opinion that men shouldn't really wear jewelry. Necklaces, bracelets, earrings, non-wedding rings....for men it's a no-go in my opinion. Sorry, but I feel it's tacky and pseudo-feminine. However, there are some absolutely classic and great functional men's jewelry pieces out there, and I am all for men wearing these. I love seeing a great pair of cuff-links or tuxedo shirt buttons on a man. A friend of mine just bought a set of lapis and gold cuff-links and shirt buttons:
More men don't invest in this type of old-school jewelry any more, but the ones that do are usually of a dapper quality. Love that about them.
Here's to finding your next statement fine jewelry piece. Have fun!