Editors

The Real Reason People Buy Jewelry

EditorsJun 02, 2016

The Real Reason People Buy Jewelry

As the trade shows kick off in Las Vegas, Editor-in-Chief Michelle Graff reminds jewelers what they’re really selling when they sell jewelry.

20160602_grandma-necklace.jpg
This gold and diamond necklace is one of the pieces my maternal grandmother, who died last Wednesday at the age of 98, passed down to me. She had it made by a jeweler in Pittsburgh using diamonds she broke out of a ring given to her by my great-grandmother.

As I write this I am 30,000 feet up and the plane’s spotty WiFi won’t let me procrastinate on doing a blog post any longer. The Internet is not really working up here; I have no other choice but to write.

It’s the day before the bulk of the shows kick off in Las Vegas, and I probably should be commenting on the current state of retail, the outlook for the remainder of 2016, or what people think about this (fill in the blank with your own adjective) election.

But I feel like that’s all been rehashed many times, and by many more qualified than me.

So instead I am going to write about something I hope jewelers keep in mind as they run from appointment to appointment, trying to decide which vendors to keep and which to add. And that is: what you are really giving customers when you sell them a piece of jewelry.

A week ago, I lost my last grandparent. My maternal grandmother, Helen Ober Willman, passed away at the age of 98.

The third oldest of 13 children raised in a row house on Pittsburgh’s North Side, she was the next to last of her siblings to go. Now only one sister, my 93-year-old Great-Aunt Anna, survives.


A photo of my grandma’s family taken around 1928. She is the third child from the left; three more siblings, all boys, were still to come. Bookending this photo are my great-grandparents, Cyril and Anna Ober.
A photo of my grandma’s family taken around 1928. She is the third child from the left; three more siblings, all boys, were still to come. Bookending this photo are my great-grandparents, Cyril and Anna Ober.

My grandma had an absolutely beautiful collection of jewelry, both costume and fine, that was divided up years ago before she entered the home that would be her last. 

In addition to the jewelry, my grandma, like most, passed on a bits of wisdom throughout my life, which includes, but certainly is not limited to, the following.

1. Practice safe sex. These were not her exact words but, rather, what I distilled from the following scenario, which happened on more than one occasion when I was a young teen. We’d be out somewhere together and my grandma would spot a young-looking girl who was either pregnant or pushing a stroller. She then would turn to me with little regard for volume and say in a semi-threatening tone, “Don’t you end up like that.” 

2. Never lend money to relatives. 

3. Don’t ever depend on a man for money. Have your own job and make your own living.

But probably the most useful in my current line of work, and perhaps the only one of interest to those currently reading this blog, was this piece of advice that she handed down along with the gold and diamond necklace pictured above: 

4. Beautiful jewelry is meant to be worn, not put away in a box because you’re afraid of breaking it or losing it. Wear it when you go out. Have fun with it. 


While I had the pleasure of being the sole recipient of that first bit of wisdom, my grandmother must have shared the last with both her daughters and my cousin’s wife because all four of us saw fit to wear a piece she had passed down when we gathered to say goodbye last weekend.

And that, in a nutshell, is why people buy jewelry.

Not because they want another possession, or because it comes with a piece of paper printed with a bunch of letters intended to denote its beauty or value.

They buy it because it’s fun to wear, it has lasting value and it connects people across generations. People buy jewelry because they know they can enjoy it, then pass it down and enjoy watching other people wear it.

The last few years of my grandma’s life were difficult.

She suffered a stroke shortly after her 90th birthday that begat a slow, eight-year decline. Her eyesight eventually failed her, but never so much so that she couldn’t see when I was wearing her necklace. (As another testament to the power of jewelry, I would note that my grandmother had forgotten a lot by the end but she never forgot what I did for a living. I wrote about one of her favorite things--jewelry. She often would ask when I saw her if I had any “free samples” for her.)

As I said here before when my paternal grandmother died a few years ago, I don’t have any firm beliefs about what happens to people when they die. 

Sometimes, I can’t shake the idea that some sort of afterlife where we’ll all be reunited is just a story we tell ourselves because the alternative--that somebody you loved so much is just gone--is simply unthinkable.

Other times, I believe that both my grandmothers are still with me and that I will see them again one day. I would also like to think that Grandma Willman was with us last weekend, saw us wearing her jewelry and was happy. 

Michelle Graffis the editor-in-chief at National Jeweler, directing the publication’s coverage both online and in print.

The Latest

Zadok Jewelers Texas Collection
CollectionsJun 21, 2024
Say Howdy to Zadok Jewelers’ New ‘Texas’ Collection

Cowboy boots, horseshoes, and longhorn motifs make an appearance in the Houston-based jeweler’s new line.

Ella Klein internship
SourcingJun 21, 2024
Julius Klein Partners With WJA on New Internship

The Ella Klein Internship will take place in New York this summer.

Eriness’ Snake Coil Necklace
CollectionsJun 21, 2024
Piece of the Week: Eriness’ ‘Snake Coil’ Necklace

Join Eriness’ garden party with this emerald-eyed snake.

Untitled design.jpg
Brought to you by
The End of an Era? Lab-Grown Diamonds' Journey Towards Price Stability

As the demand for lab-grown diamond jewelry may still be increasing, the most notable change we are likely to see is price stabilization.

Warren H. Morss, Monica L. Caldwell, Mark T. Cartwright
GradingJun 21, 2024
ASA Elects New Gems and Jewelry Discipline Governor, Members-At-Large

Warren H. Morss is the new governor, while Monica L. Caldwell and Mark T. Cartwright are the members-at-large.

Weekly QuizJun 20, 2024
This Week’s Quiz
Test your jewelry news knowledge by answering these questions.
Take the Quiz
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration hurricane satellite image
Policies & IssuesJun 20, 2024
5 Safety and Preparedness Tips for Jewelers This Hurricane Season

Jewelers Mutual is advising jewelers along the coast to prepare for above-normal hurricane activity this year.

JVC’s Sara Yood and Tiffany Stevens
MajorsJun 20, 2024
Sara Yood Appointed JVC CEO As Tiffany Stevens Moves On

The leadership change at the organization charged with guiding the industry on legal issues will take effect next week.

1872 x 1052 Gemolite.jpg
Brought to you by
Meet Gemology’s Next Generation Microscope: GIA® Gemolite® NXT Professional Edition

GIA®’s most advanced microscope has new features to optimize greater precision and comfort.

Precious: The History and Mystery of Gems Across Time
SourcingJun 20, 2024
Jewelry Expert Helen Molesworth to Release First Book

“Precious: The History and Mystery of Gems Across Time” will be available on Sept. 17.

Claire’s interim CEO Chris Cramer
MajorsJun 20, 2024
Claire’s CEO Ryan Vero Steps Down

Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer Chris Cramer has been named interim CEO.

Jewelers of America advocacy trip DC 2024
Policies & IssuesJun 18, 2024
JA, Industry Leaders Take Russian Diamond Import Concerns to D.C.

The group met with lawmakers to raise awareness about the financial, operational, and supply chain harms posed by an EU proposal.

Louis Comfort Tiffany 1900 gold and opal necklace
Events & AwardsJun 18, 2024
Driehaus Museum Displaying Rare Jewels From Chicago Collections

The museum also will host jewelry heist-themed movie nights throughout the run of “Chicago Collects: Jewelry in Perspective.”

Models wearing Pomellato’s “The Dualism of Milan” collection
CollectionsJun 18, 2024
Pomellato’s New High Jewelry Collection Celebrates Milan

“The Dualism of Milan” collection features two chapters representing the monochromatic and colorful spirit of the city.

Dorian Webb, Kealeboga and Ursula Pule
CollectionsJun 18, 2024
Zales Adds Dorian Webb, Nungu Diamonds to Designer Edit

The Designer Edit, launched earlier this year, highlights up-and-coming jewelry designers.

National Association of Jewelry Appraisers Logo
Events & AwardsJun 18, 2024
NAJA Announces Its Mid-Year ‘Ace It’ Conference

The conference will focus on the “practical ‘how to’ of appraising gems and jewelry,” said NAJA Executive Director Gail Brett Levine.

Bernd Munsteiner
SourcingJun 17, 2024
Fantasy Cut Inventor Bernd Munsteiner Dies at 81

Known to many as the “Picasso of gems" who modernized the gem cutting field, he is remembered by his family as going through life with open eyes.

Thomas Markle Jewelers interior
IndependentsJun 17, 2024
Thomas Markle Jewelers to Relocate

The Houston-based family jeweler is relocating its flagship just across the street.

Instore and Chicago Responsible Jewelry Conference Logos
Events & AwardsJun 17, 2024
Instore Show, Chicago Responsible Jewelry Conference to Co-Locate

The partnership, now in its second year, allows CRJC attendees to register for a free Instore show badge.

Stock image of a gavel
CrimeJun 14, 2024
2 Men Sentenced to Life in 2022 Murder of Detroit-Area Jeweler

In court, Daniel Hutchinson’s loved ones remembered the jeweler as a giver, a role model, and a leader.

Billie Bangle
CollectionsJun 14, 2024
Piece of the Week: Jade Trau’s ‘Billie’ Bangle

Take a walk along this bangle’s diamond “cobblestone” made from round-, pear-, and marquise-cut diamonds.

Graphic with headshots for My Next Question 2024 Las Vegas webinar
Recorded WebinarsJun 14, 2024
Watch: What Happened in Vegas in 2024

The National Jeweler editors discuss the hot topics, best jewels, and current trends that stood out during Jewelry Market Week.

NJSB1.JPG
Supplier BulletinJun 13, 2024
Leading with Innovation: Core Scientific’s Advanced Refining Solutions

Sponsored by Core Scientific

Vera Wang Love True lab-grown diamond engagement ring
FinancialsJun 13, 2024
Signet Awaits Engagement Recovery as Q1 Sales Sink 9%

The company is expecting to see a 5 to 10 percent increase in engagements this year.

QVC HSN logo
MajorsJun 13, 2024
HSN, QVC Parent Company Faces Delisting

Qurate Retail is in the middle of a turnaround plan as it battles declining sales.

45.07-carat step cut fancy vivid yellow diamond
AuctionsJun 13, 2024
45-Carat Yellow Diamond Withdrawn from Phillips Auction

Signed jewels and period pieces stood out at the sale.

Marie Lichtenberg Scapular necklace
TrendsJun 13, 2024
Amanda’s Style File: For the Fathers

Showcase your dad’s personal style with a piece of fine jewelry for Father’s Day.

The Eden Rose Diamond
AuctionsJun 12, 2024
10-Carat Pink Diamond Sells for $13M at Christie’s

“The Eden Rose” is a fancy intense pink diamond that was appearing at auction for the first time.

×

This site uses cookies to give you the best online experience. By continuing to use & browse this site, we assume you agree to our Privacy Policy