Buying jewellery for another person is like buying them underpants – only much, much more expensive. A piece of jewellery is a very personal thing. So why do we even buy jewellery for other people?
Well, for all the reasons that it’s so bloomin’ difficult. When you gift jewellery to someone, it’s special. You’re telling the recipient how you feel about them, in all kinds of subtle ways.
No pressure there, then.
Every time you buy a piece of jewellery it will be a unique experience. Just like the person you’re buying for and the occasion that warrants it. But there are some general rules you can use in every situation.
Take a friend
Assuming the purchase is a secret, take a friend with you. It can be an entirely neutral third party or a friend that knows a bit about the person you’re buying for. Either way, they bring a second opinion to the table that will be valuable when you’re planning to spend half your savings.
Match your spending to the occasion
Never spend more or less than you have to. Match the occasion and the circumstances. An engagement ring, for example, is going to set you back a lot of money. Some suggest as much as two month’s salary. Other occasions should be proportionate. A good rule of thumb is to match the cost of technology to the occasion… Is the occasion worth an iPad level of outlay – like a Christmas or birthday? Or a second-hand car, like a 21st or a special anniversary?
Match your spending to the person
Again, the engagement ring test is a good one here. That’s the most money that the majority of people will ever spend on a useless item… Any other spending should be matched to the person and what you want to say to them with the gift. Remember, you can make a statement without having to spend a lot of money by carefully choosing something that’s unique and timeless.
Keep it simple
No one was ever appalled by a necklace that wasn’t garish enough or a bracelet that had too few different coloured stones in it. Look for classic simplicity and you won’t go too far wrong. Think about the person you’re buying for again and their unique style – but don’t try to second guess them too much.
Where to Buy
The high street
There are lots of familiar jewellery shop name that you know from the high street. Look in their windows and you’ll see the same old selection of watches, rings, ear-studs and necklaces from the same old brands. If you have a small budget – or even a medium budget – a high street store may seem like the natural choice. There are definite advantages too. They’re convenient, local and with helpful staff. Also, nothing’s likely to be too expensive.
But you can also think of it like this. High street stores are the Next, Top Man and, in some cases, the Primark of the jewellery world. When you receive a gift for a special occasion, do you want the same thing as everyone else? Unless what you want is an Xbox, the answer could possibly be no. And when you’re buying, how do you feel about spending a couple of weeks wages on a necklace that was assembled on a production line?
That leaves two other choices when buying jewellery. You either have to clench your buttocks and go as far up market as you can – or you go quirky.
If you can afford to shop at London’s biggest bespoke jewellers, chances are that you’re not reading this article at all. You are having it read to you, by your personal assistant, as you bathe in bee milk and feast on lightly roasted hummingbirds. We’re sorry to have even mentioned you. Please don’t have us killed.
When you go this far upmarket, you enter a world where pendants cost as much as small cars and watches as much as small houses. If you can afford that, you can afford to pay someone to make all your decisions for you.
Which leaves us with quirky. Quirky is good. Quirky is individual and different. It’s not an excuse for cheapskates to spend less on presents for their loved ones at all. Nooo. No sir.
There are two quirky directions you can go in; vintage or designer. By vintage we, of course mean, second-hand. There’s no shortage of second-hand jewellery around but there’s one thing you need to know before you start buying up buckets full of old sovereign rings and chunky white gold necklaces to distribute among your friends. Not all old jewellery is created equal. You still need to:
- Make sure you match the piece to the person
- Avoid the downmarket and mass-produced
- Check carefully with the jeweller to establish provenance (where it came from)
- Do your research – look up details of the designer and check any marks
Another option is to buy direct from an up and coming designer. Lots of extraordinarily talented people with degrees in jewellery design, fine art and textile production are eager for your business . As a result, bespoke, designer jewellery direct from new makers has never been more affordable. Try out:
Etsy – The online craft marketplace is ideal for finding new designers.
Artfire – Similar to Etsy and on the up and up.
Oxfam – Yes, Oxfam. The charity shop collaborates with young designers as well as selling vintage.
The same sites that host new designers are also a marketplace for vintage jewellery resellers. These are people who are steeped in hipness; in tune with what’s hot and what’s not. Of course, there’s a surcharge on top for a service like this. They have to make a living somehow. They have cats to feed and facial hair to wax.
So reluctant jewellery buyers of the world, fear not. Buying bangles and bracelets is easier than cold fusion, but slightly harder than servicing a boiler. And, remember, find out her ring finger size before you spend eight week’s wages.