The temperature remains in the 60s in New York. People are still walking their dogs in Central Park while wearing shorts. But head out to the mall, and you can almost feel the frost on your breath. In case you can’t see the forest for all the ornament-laden trees, as far as retail is concerned, it’s already holly-jolly time. Then why don’t you look very merry? Is it because you would rather have an MRI than shop for presents? When I tell friends I love buying gifts, they look at me like I said I serve liver and onions on Thanksgiving. After all, searching for something for someone to cherish should enrich the spirit and spark the soul, not turn you into a glassy-eyed zombie wandering the mall aimlessly like Jews in the desert. What you need is a new approach and an attitude adjustment. Lucky for you, I’m here to help. So, sit down, exhale, and listen:
Shopping at the last minute doesn’t help… especially when you can buy gifts all year long and put them away. But the biggest mistake you make is in not paying attention until the last minute. The key to great gift buying lies in your powers of observation and ability to listen. People are remarking on what they like all the time—when they window-shop, look at an online shopping site, or flip through a magazine. So don’t wait until Dec. 17 to prick up your ears.
Don’t go shopping for everyone all at once. You won’t save time. You’ll buy nothing. Instead, make a list of recipients and write it down on your tablet, your smartphone, or even better on a pad with a pencil. (Surely they are somewhere around the house.) Carry that pad with you at all times until you have bought every gift.
Starting now, tune into the appearance, habits, manners, and conversations of everyone on the list. Clock when they talk about the last play they saw or song they downloaded. Do they talk about movies, Italian food, sex, football? Is anything pierced? Steal a smartphone shot of the inside of their home. As for the ones you live with and love most, scrutinize their rooms or belongings. Note their shoes, bags, scarves, the colors of sweaters. You’ll be amazed at the info you will gather in no time.
Do not keep what you heard in your head! Write down what you heard next to their names on that pad. It takes only a few minutes. Take the pad with you whenever you shop.
You want those who love you to adore you? Buying what people need is nice. But buying what each one of them desires is so much better!
Unless you know sizes and where they shop, buying clothing has its risks. Accessories are a smarter, safer way to go. But no gift is as sure to get a more effusive oh-my-gosh-I-can’t-believe-it-can-I-put-it-on-now-oh-my-gosh-I’m-never-taking-it-off reaction than jewelry! Virtually no one outgrows his or her childlike love of sparkle. Thank goodness!
Want to take the guesswork out of jewelry? If you don’t already know ring and neck sizes, dip into someone’s jewelry box, borrow a few things and head for the jeweler. Note the color metal and stones they favor. For bracelets, gently take hold of your loved one’s wrist while strolling, and try to remember how much of your hand went round.
For the record, people enjoy birthstones. You do know their birthday, don’t you? If you don’t, you may need more help than this column can offer. And a casual stroll past a jewelry store window couldn’t hurt. But I have never met any sane person who doesn’t thrill to diamonds!
Unless one of your loved ones rules a small country, there’s no need to shop for the crown jewels. In fact, don’t buy something so fancy it’s bound to be saved for holidays and anniversaries. Buy jewelry they can always enjoy. The reason Gabriel & Co. is so proud of its collections of everyday fine jewelry is because no gift exceeds the joy one witnesses when someone incorporates that ring, necklace, earring, or bracelet you just gave them into their signature daily look. Every time they look in the mirror, there will be that flicker or memory that recalls the moment they received this wonderful treat they love so much.
No need to get dressed, brave traffic, or find a place to park. As soon as you settle on a budget, go to Gabriel & Co.’s newly redesigned, fun, and easy-to-navigate website and start shopping. Write down the numbers of items you like—on that pad, remember?—and search the site for the jeweler that carries them, or call us (the number for Gabriel & Co is on the homepage) so we can locate and ensure you get the pieces you want.
Don’t go broke. Buy without regret, so you can smile as much as they do. Remember, the great thing about fine jewelry is that it sparkles at any price.
ONE FINAL NOTE: These tips work for: Valentine’s Day, Mother’s and Father’s Day, birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, bar mitzvah, weddings, and just because it’s Tuesday and you want someone to know you love them.
Hal Rubenstein is the global style director for Gabriel & Co.