The Unusual Suspects, Editor’s Letter, October 2013

Every year about this time, I start fantasizing about doing something different for the holidays. I’ve broken out of traditional Christmas mode before. In 2005, for example, I went to Kenya. Specifically, I spent the holiday on Lamu, a remote, Swahili-speaking island that, like Zanzibar, once belonged to the Omani sultanate.

That Christmas Eve, the East African writers who were my cohorts in a Nairobi-based writing program invited me to a party on nearby Manda Island thrown by a local Rastafarian named Satan. (You can’t make this stuff up.) At 5 a.m., just as the archipelago’s mosques rang out with the call to prayer, we sailed back to Lamu Town on an ancient dhow loaded with a dozen late-night revelers. Christmas Day found us eating fresh-caught fish on the white sand beach in the center of town. We celebrated that night not with eggnog or hot toddies near the fire, but with gin and tonics on the terrace of Peponi’s.

Because I’ve spent every holiday since then in the lovely yet conventional confines of my parents’ house in Southern California, I always find myself longing for another distinctive Christmas experience. I doubt I’m the only one. Given the opportunity, most people probably would be thrilled to break free from their holiday routines.

In an effort to jolt you (and ourselves!) out of the seasonal slog, we did something a little different with this year’s Holiday Survival Guide: We asked retailers around the country to share their best holiday-related sales and marketing tips, the idea being that no one can teach you more about improving your business than your peers.

Except perhaps your clients—which is why we also sought answers to the season’s burning questions (e.g., are you planning to buy jewelry for the holidays, and, if yes, what kind?) straight from the proverbial horses’ mouths. Check out contributor Kristin Young’s “What Do Today’s Fine Jewelry Consumers Want?” feature to reacquaint yourself with the ideas we’ve been hammering home all year long: Jewelry buyers are enamored of pieces that convey a story, that are one-of-a-kind, and that are handmade.

I spent Christmas Eve 2005 with the Rastafarians on Lamu, Kenya’s remote Swahili-speaking archipelago.

Young’s informal findings square perfectly with what our editorial partners at W magazine discovered when they surveyed affluent consumers on the brink of the upcoming selling season. In “Affluent Jewelry and Watch Consumers Are Ready to Splurge This Holiday Season,” we share the exclusive results of their Summer 2013 Jewelry/Watch Study, chief among them: People are more than willing to spend money on fine jewels and timepieces—but sellers need to understand that their key motivations revolve around personal connections, uniqueness, and, yes, price.

Across all our features, you’ll notice a greater-than-average focus on ­product. From the chic link bracelets in the Holiday Survival Guide to the deluxe styles that illustrate our Luxury Spotlight, we’re confident that the ­jewels and timepieces we selected for this issue satisfy those criteria and more.

As for me, I’m still contemplating what to do for Christmas. I’m thinking a week in Belize, or maybe Trinidad. If you can’t already tell, I prefer my getaways like astute jewelry buyers prefer their baubles: the more unusual, the better.