Joan Rivers: Jewelry Shopping “Should Be Fun”

There is a quote that is often attributed to Joan Rivers: “I don’t work out. If God wanted us to bend over, He’d put diamonds on the floor.” 

Now whether she actually said that is not clear; when I wrote this article on diamond quotes a while back, I found that it had been attributed it to her for at least 25 years, but I wasn’t able to find an authoritative source. It certainly seems like something she would say.

Rivers, who died yesterday at 81, was best known as a comedienne, but she also dabbled in the industry and for a time had her own line on QVC. She also keynoted the 2006 JCK Las Vegas show.

That same year, she was interviewed about her views on jewelry by then-JCK editor-in-chief Hedda Schupak. Looking back, Rivers said some pretty insightful things (as well as—no surprise—some funny things). Here are some edited highlights, starting with her thoughts on jewelry shopping:

When you go into a fine jewelry store, you shouldn’t be made to feel like a peasant. I hate it when they take each piece back and put it away before they show the next, like I’m some kind of lowdown person. It should be fun! Fun will make you buy, eventually.

Is there any jewelry store that’s fun?

Fred Leighton. It’s very inspirational. Of course, if he’d have let me pay $10 a week 30 years ago, I’d have had a fantastic bracelet from his store. But there’s a place you want to go to see jewelry history. He’s got everything, and he’s the best displayer in New York. It’s all out, like a candy store. He will pull everything out and let a woman play with it and cover herself in jewelry. That’s how you make a sale!

Why do women love jewelry?

I think it’s an easy way to fix yourself up. You can take the ugliest old dress—or the ugliest old body—and cover it with jewelry, and you look good. 

Why do women buy jewelry?

For fashion jewelry, you just buy it because it looks great or trendy. You put on a big necklace of wrapped wood, and you look fashionable. Good jewelry, you buy it for investment, protection, for when the romance is over, or you have to get out of Russia ahead of the cops.

“Get out of Russia”?

God bless jewelry. My grandma got out of Russia that way right after the revolution. She sewed all her good jewelry in the lining of her coat. She came to America and once they were here sold it piece by piece until my mother, thank goodness, married a doctor. 

So good jewelry really is about investment, or should you just invest in a fine piece because you love it?

Never invest in anything you love; it’ll break your heart if you have to sell it.

What makes a trend catch on?

A trend is something you cannot push. If they don’t like it, they ain’t gonna buy it, no matter what the editors say. It’s the same thing with a star—you can’t make someone a star. With jewelry, you’ve got to see it on someone and love it, like seeing diamonds-by-the-yard on Julia Roberts or something. I was wearing wood bracelets three years ago. I picked them up in a little shop in California. Was I the only person wearing them, or was I onto something? 

Do you ever see any classics you particularly admire?

God bless the circle! The big gold circle [link] chain came down from Van Cleef, and gold is always right, but you can do it at every price point for any woman. I also like to mix fine and fashion jewelry together.

Coco Chanel did that, too.

So did Queen Mary, the grandmother of the current queen. One day, she was in full regalia, wearing ropes and ropes of pearls. One strand broke as she was going into open Parliament, and the people around her scattered to pick up every single one. Afterward, she said, “Why all the fuss, those weren’t the real ones.”

Of course, the fine-jewelry industry doesn’t like to hear that!

But that’s the nice thing about jewelry—it’s going all over the place. You can put a beautiful pin on a jean jacket, and who says you can’t wear diamonds during the day? Jewelry should be risky. You know, for the plain black dress! You’re never too young to wear it and look wonderful, and you’re never too old to wear it and look wonderful. 

The whole interview is here. Yesterday on Facebook, Hedda said Rivers was one of the most gracious women she ever met, and recalled that, as famous as she was, post-interview, they spent 45 minutes, “just doing girl talk.” RIP Joan. 

JCK News Director