I’m Ready For My Close-Up…

Have you looked at any consumer magazines lately? Of course not… what am I thinking? It’s December and jewelers are far too busy to sift through the pages of Town and Country, Elle, Vogue, Vanity Fair, W and other such missals for the affluent.

However, you may owe these magazines a debt of gratitude for your busy counters and ringing phones. Never in my years covering the jewelry industry have I seen so much jewelry in the editorial and advertising sections of these magazines.

Jewelry has caught on like wildfire among the periodicals read by your affluent customers. The cynical among us know the more consumer magazines woo jewelry advertising dollars, the more pressure is put on the consumer editors to cover it on their pages. But cynicism aside, I think the trend to cover jewelry up close and personal is larger than that. Amazing as it may seem, fashion editors have finally awakened to the fact that jewelry can be incredibly fun to drape on models, feature in still-life photo shoots and otherwise cover. Jewelry adds a glitz, a panache, a knowing elegance to the woman who wears it.

European magazine editors have always known this. Upscale magazines from France, Germany, Italy and England drip jewelry; I used to feel jealous that Americans weren’t getting to see the fabulous and lavish displays produced routinely in those countries’ publications.

But now, finally, jewelry coverage is a fixture in U.S. magazines too. The past few years have seen an explosion in editors’ interest. I need to acknowledge the great job Eileen Farrell and her public information staff are doing at Jewelers of America to promote Real Jewelry Month in November, not to mention the successful efforts of Lynn Ramsey at the Jewelry Information Center, Cheryl Kremkow at the International Colored Gemstone Association’s Gembureau, Laurie Hudson at the Platinum Guild International, Christine Yorke at the World Gold Council and Joan Parker and her associates at the Diamond Information Center. These dynamic women and their staffs have sponsored events and promotions that consumer magazines have embraced this year. Even more exciting is the fact these public relations experts are now collaborating on a couple of committees organized or sponsored by JA to further extend the jewelry message to a willing audience.

What remains to be seen is the effect all of this positive press will have on jewelry store sales. Obviously, we’re all hoping the trend will be upward. If increased sales in all accessory categories are any indication, the news will be good. We’re accessories mad in this country right now. Who, especially among the female set, hasn’t at least thought about buying one or two upscale accessories this year? Whether it’s a designer scarf, a to-die-for handbag, glorious shoes or, hey, a piece of jewelry, it is the year of small pleasures, as trend queen Faith Popcorn would call them.

So why has jewelry recently become elevated with the rest of the accessories? There are many theories. One is that jewelry represents a gift of permanence, unparalleled even by the other small tokens. A luxury bag, a fine scarf or great shoes fade with time and passing fads.

But jewelry has a lasting value that beats the other accessories sideways.

Another guess is that jewelry just makes a sweeter gift than the other accessories. A hilarious — if retrograde — new book called The Rules by Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider makes one timeless point whether you’re a feminist or a femme fatale: jewelry is the gift of romance. The Rule in this case? “Stop dating him if he doesn’t buy you a romantic gift for your birthday.” The authors’ gift of choice? You guessed it: jewelry! (Special thanks to Peggy Ann Wallace at GIA for sending us this gem of a quote).

Finally, I think the quiet artistry of the best of today’s jewelry design is appealing to our sense of order and our yearning for something classic. Or maybe we’re just a shallow lot, we Americans, and we’re going for the designer label. In the end, who cares? The bottom line is that jewelry is in. Give thanks and be glad. Hope the winter solstice finds you all looking to the longer days of light ahead. I wish you rest, a post-holiday vacation and many happy returns (but no jewelry returns!).

(pdonahue@chilton.net)