A growing number of women are not waiting for a man to buy them jewellery. They are buying what they like, when they want.
TOMOKO Takami bought her first piece of jewellery when she was 19, on a trip to Paris from her home in Japan.
“I bought a Christian Dior 18-karat gold necklace because I wanted to have something as a memory of my first adventure,” said Takami, a translator, writer and editor who is now 42.
“I worked very hard during my first year in college and paid all of the trip expenses myself. I felt I deserved something shiny and grown-up.”
Takami’s tale is increasingly typical. Women are not waiting for a man to buy them jewellery. They are buying what they like, when they want.
According to Forbes.com, women now control US$20 (RM63) trillion in annual consumer spending globally. They are transforming the marketplace, and that includes jewellery.
A woman who buys jewellery for herself is “definitely a trend”, even in the rarefied world of Graff Diamonds, where the average price for something sparkly is US$150,000 (RM475,000), said Henri Barguirdjian, who leads Graff’s United States operations.
“We are seeing more and more women achieving careers on their own, and they can afford to buy their own jewellery,” Barguirdjian said in an interview. “I would say about 25% of our customers are women buying for themselves.”
They tend to be in their 40s or older, he said, because “they have to achieve some kind of wealth to afford us, and that successful a career doesn’t happen in five minutes.”
Not all women wait until they have built their careers. “I left Fiji, where I grew up, and started my first restaurant in Auckland at age 27,” said Julie Alexander. “It was a success after the first year, and I was so proud of myself I purchased diamond stud earrings.”
Alexander later left New Zealand for London, where she started an international legal recruitment business. The timing was bad: “I started in 2008 when lawyers were being laid off and hardly any law firms were recruiting,” she said.
“Placing a lawyer was a blessing, and I would treat myself with an expensive piece of jewellery every time.”
A study on jewellery purchases by the market research firm Mintel, conducted in 2012, showed that more than half of the 2,000 women who took part bought jewellery simply to treat themselves.
“A lot of working women come to see us in order to choose a piece of jewellery when they get bonuses,” said Marie-Hélène de Taillac, a French designer based in Paris and Jaipur, India, whose jewellery is priced between US$800 (RM2535) and $150,000 (RM475,000). “These bonuses are the fruits of their labours; it’s their reward.”
Women are also buying jewellery for its investment value. Conventional wisdom is that men buy jewellery for investment and women because they like it, but women now realise that “jewellery is a tangible asset to include in your portfolio; it’s cash in the bank,” said Lisa Hubbard, co-chairwoman of Sotheby’s international jewellery division.
“Unlike a dress or car, jewellery doesn’t wear out,” said Jerry Ehrenwald, president of the International Gemological Institute, which has offices worldwide to authenticate gemstones and jewellery.
“Diamonds really are forever. After 20 years, a fancy car needs to be replaced, whereas a diamond improves in value.”
Buying jewellery as an investment is contributing to the rise of gem sales in Russia and the Middle East, where laws offer little financial security to divorced women.
“Women buy jewellery as a hedge, a mobile nest egg they can take with them in the event of divorce,” Ehrenwald said.
An increase in the number of divorces, even in countries where women have better legal protection, is also contributing to the growing numbers of women who buy jewellery for themselves.
As well as being an investment, jewellery can be a bond between generations.
“All the women who have purchased my pieces for themselves in the US$200,000 (RM634,000) to US$300,000 (RM951,000) range have expressed their desire to pass the jewellery down to their children,” said Monique Péan, a designer whose jewellery features fossilized dinosaur or woolly mammoth bones.
Hubbard, of Sotheby’s, said: “When I first started working at Sotheby’s 35 years ago, people asked me, ‘Why are you wasting your time? There’s no role for women here.”’
“The audiences used to be male dealers buying to pass on to male customers. There was no room for women,” she said. “But that has changed dramatically. Daughters were brought into the business.
“And more private individuals found their way into the auction world and bought directly. I see more and more women sitting in the audience, and I see more women buying for themselves than I see couples buying.”
Inès de la Fressange, a French designer, style arbiter and former model, offers perhaps the best reason for a woman to buy her own jewellery, citing the experience of receiving a groan-inducing gift from husband or boyfriend: “The men ask why you don’t wear their present. It’s a nightmare,” she said in an email. “Buy your jewellery yourself and you get exactly what you want.” – Guardian News & Media