Gone are the days when a woman’s self-worth was measured by the sparkle in her engagement ring. Today women (and men) are buying jewelry for themselves, as an act of self-love, and there’s nary an engagement, wedding, or anniversary in sight.
Fine jewelry designer Daria de Koning, known for colorful baubles that look as good in the boardroom as on the red carpet, says that so many women buy jewelry for themselves in her by-appointment L.A. studio that she’s wondered “Do guys just not buy jewelry anymore?” But she thinks it’s women saying “Whatever! I’ve got the purchasing power, and I want it.”
Indeed, women’s global buying power is estimated to reach $18 trillion by 2018 according to the professional services organization EY. Overall U.S. fine jewelry and watch sales came in at $78 billion for 2014, according to diamond research and data from Edahn Golan. That’s a lot of bling.
Sophie Monet Okulick, who crafts sculptural jewelry from wood and semiprecious stones in Venice as Sophie Monet (buy them at Small World on Abbot Kinney and Jenni Kayne in West Hollywood), thinks that women, now more than ever, use jewelry as a means of self-expression.
“When you get a piece of jewelry, you really have to think about it. It’s handmade. You know that somebody’s time and craftsmanship has gone into making it. It makes it more special, and it creates a relationship with the artist and with the piece of jewelry and the moment in time when you purchased it.”
Those moments are called “hallmarking moments” by high-end jewelry designer Todd Reed. It might be “divorce, a tax refund, some type of spiritual or personal or psycho-emotional transition.” Lately it’s been earrings,” he says. “Instead of getting divorce rings, women just want to get out there with some fire and feistiness.”
Reed’s elegant yet rough designs are a favorite with men too. He estimates that about 80 percent of the men’s jewelry in his Abbot Kinney and Boulder, Co. shops is bought by men for themselves (bracelets are top sellers).
Grace Lee, who has her classic yet modern line of fine jewelry at Barneys in Beverly Hills and the Grove, says women use the layering trend to mix a self-purchase, like her Diamond Whisper Ring, with something gifted, like an engagement ring, wedding band, or heirloom piece. “Jeans cost $200, $300, so why wouldn’t you invest $100 in a gold ring?”
Ambyr Childers of AC Jewelry, whose designs like an eagle-claw cocktail ring and diamond-studded feather necklace are inspired by her Native American heritage, notes the joy of splurging on yourself, especially for mothers. “You’re constantly buying for other people. Every once in a while, you think, ‘I should invest in something I actually want.’ It’s not a gift you’re obligated to wear because your significant other bought it for you.”
The trend has been so much on Liza Shtromberg’s mind (she has namesake stores in Los Feliz and Beverly Hills) that she’s launching the Self Love collection on March 26. Mixing intentionally flawed diamonds with inspirational quotes, the jewelry is meant to empower shoppers to “love yourself for who you are, with your flaws.” It’s a message she wants to send to all women– engaged, married, divorced, single. “Really the journey is about loving themselves.”