With much of the country in total lockdown and Christmas all but officially cancelled for thousands, forget Santa, says our Fashion Editor at Large Jess Wood. I'm joining the 40% of jewellery buyers opting for symbolic and hopeful 'treat yourself' purchases this Christmas.
It’s fair to say I’ve always been a fiend for jewellery, with the spirit of Liz Taylor beating strong through my veins.
As a little girl, I was always more thrilled by the pink gem-covered plastic tiara than the actual birthday party. As an editor doing the fashion-month rounds, my OTT earrings were always a handy way for my team to keep track of me in large crowds.
But as I’ve got older, my jewellery has become totemic, not to say talismanic. As I’ve accumulated children, jobs, and life experiences – of both the high and low kind – I’ve gathered pieces that symbolise more than an outsider could know.
‘Some of my very favourite pieces I’ve bought myself’
I carry my children in my heart and on my right finger – a little gold star for each, set with their birthstones. I carry Tita, my mother-in-law’s own mother (and a matriarch who ruled the roost back home in their native Colombia) round my neck. I sadly never met her, but by all accounts we’d have got on like a house on fire, in our matching parures of diamond and emeralds (in her case) and Swarovski crystals (in mine)… Now, she takes the form of a diamond and sapphire drop earring, reset as a pendant and given to me on a fine gold chain by my mother-in-law.
Some of my very favourite pieces are the ones I’ve bought myself. I still wear pieces I ordered during my early (overexcited) years attending the Paris shows as a junior fashion editor: my first Tom Binns crystal collar, from his innovative ‘neon’ collection. A pendant set with an antique silver coin, surrounded with a slice of silvery grey agate, bought from a jeweller I discovered – and covered – for one of my very fashion features at Marie Claire.
And now, added to the list, my secret weapon for writers’ block: a large, cushion-cut icy blue topaz, surrounded by fat, stylised yellow-gold petals. Each one has a pink ruby and a tiny sapphire at the tip. Each layer of the design is stacked upon the one beneath, with the large central stone perched atop the whole pile of prettiness.
When I need a distraction from my keyboard, I twist my ring around, staring at it from every angle, admiring the sheer chunkiness and pleasing height of it and day-dreaming about the journey those stones have taken to end up on my finger in North-West London.
I bought it during the short window following the first lockdown, when shops were allowed to re-open.
‘Treat yourself jewellery accounted for 40% of the market last year’
Wandering down Portobello Road, I called in on a friend of mine, a talented jeweller who sources gems from his native Afghanistan as well as Burma and India. He does lovely bits of cheap and cheerful costume jewellery too, and I was looking for a teeny tiny pick-me-up; one of his stretchy crystal bracelets, perhaps. But having been stuck at home, starved of sparkle for months on end, I went ga-ga over the real gems. He gave me a very good price (I won’t reveal it here; my other half may be reading) and walked out of the shop with it glittering on my finger. It’s a memento of having got through this awful year, a celebration of things to come – and a symbolic gesture to myself.
It’s lovely to be gifted beautiful pieces, but unlike La Liz, I don’t want to sit about waiting for Richard Burton to come good.
And I’m not alone, it seems. ‘Treat yourself’ jewellery purchasing had already risen to account for around 40% of the jewellery market last year (from only 5% a decade ago). And sales of fine jewellery have rocketed during lockdown, with many of us spending what would previously have been our clothing budget on jewellery, with its more timeless and lasting value, instead.
Let’s face it, we’ve had nothing to dress up for and nowhere to show off new outfits. Our new lives of Zoom socialising mean we’re zeroing in on sparkly embellishments that will look wow on screen.
‘Top of my wish list is a Cartier bracelet’
Top of my wish-list for Christmas: some vintage solid gold charms from Pi London, a new antique-jewellery site that curates (and can source specific) vintage pieces – if you don’t have the time or inclination to trawl Portobello yourself.
I also lust after a classic investment pieces from one of the great jewellers. Cartier, in particular. The maison may be the embodiment of French finesse, but I love pieces that embody its other, edgier side: a bangle from Juste un Clou, the collection first designed in the 1970s by Aldo Cipullo to look like bent nails, or perhaps some gold hoops covered in the rock and roll spikes of the newer Clash collection.
I also love the idea of a piece of fine jewellery from one of my favourite fashion houses: a piece from Louis Vuitton’s Volt collection or Dior’s Rose de Vents is a modern-day classic – but infinitely cool at the same time. Sorry, Santa, it’s already covered…