We’ve all been there, that little glint that catches your eye and draws you in, it’s as if that piece of jewellery is signalling to you, has been waiting for you. You pause, It’s perfect, you fall in love. You’ve got a new crush, “ooh that’s wonderful…” you think and reach out your hand to pick it up, to try it on. It looks good, doesn’t it? Or if you are browsing online, you imagine how wonderful it will look on you, and repeatedly look at the images of the piece, going back multiple times. Dreaming, deciding “it will go so well with me, it just looks right and will sit next to my other jewellery so exactly.”
Of course, your reasoning mind is putting up all sorts of objections; it’s expensive, you have jewellery, is it worth it? Do you need it? Well thank you bank manager mind for spoiling the dream, but it’s a serious question, why do you need jewellery? Why is it an ancient and persistent form of self-expression? Why do you desire it so badly?
What is the Point of Jewellery?
Jewellery rarely serves a practical function. Unlike, for example, a pen. If you are buying a pen, you can say “I need a pen because it will enable me to write things down.” You could merely buy a disposable ballpoint, and it will function just fine. However, that fancy fountain pen will not only enable me to write things down but will also work better, mean my handwriting looks better, make me look good while I write and more importantly make me feel important while I write. Well, that’s pens but what exactly does jewellery do?
That’s the key right there, how it makes you feel. Jewellery is as much about feeling as it is about looks or materials. That glint that first caught your eye will have spoken to some part of you deep down inside that manages your identity. The piece of you that needs to feel confident that helps you handle whatever the day may throw at you and whoever you may meet out in life. It doesn’t matter a jot whether they notice your jewellery (although compliments on jewellery are appreciated), what matters is how it makes you feel. Does your jewellery make you go “yeah, I’ve got this”? Do you put on certain pieces and think “game on!” How you present yourself socially and how you feel about that presentation matters enormously to how you negotiate your way through a day.
From that moment tens of thousands of years ago when someone first picked up a pebble or shell and hung it around their neck on a string to buying a futuristic 3D printed ring online that you just love the shape of, jewellery is at the heart of personal expression. It is durable, valuable and personal and worn right next to your skin or even through specially made piercings in your body. It makes a statement about who you are, even where you are from or what music you like. Meaning is personal and comes from many sources perhaps you have made the jewel yourself, bought it somewhere memorable, was it created by an artist you admire or a gift from someone you hold dear. The unspoken understanding between wearer and jewel allows you to be who you want to be or who you need to be for that day.
Racing Drivers, Diamond Studs and Diplomacy
He’s world champion again and Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton took off his helmet to reveal he has been racing while wearing a significant pair of diamond stud earrings. It was almost as much of a surprise to me as if it had been a woman underneath the helmet (lack of female racing drivers is another whole can of worms). Surely they were a bit uncomfortable squashed under his helmet? Why does he wear such ostentatious earrings under there? The answer? They make him look how he wants to feel.
Madeleine Albright was US diplomat and Secretary of State between 1997-2001 and a big wearer of brooches and pins. She used them to communicate specific moods or pay respects in particular ways in her professional, public life. Her book “Read My Pins: Stories from A Diplomats Jewel Box” is an insightful and engaging story of how vital jewellery can be in personal communication, especially as a diplomat where you may not be able to say what you want to say. I highly recommend it, go and read it.
Cultural, Tribal and Musical.
Are we less tribal than we used to be? We slip in and out of styles and markers of identity very freely. Jewellery will also mark you out as part of a group; I think we are still tribal and like to show it. We often use these styles and markers in tandem with music (another creative endeavour that seems to have no function at all and yet is hugely culturally significant). I am a bassist as well as a jeweller and swapped bracelets and brooches with other bass friends at the London Bass Guitar Show. These exchanged gifts become treasured and worn as a marker that we are all members of a group. Woven wristbands from music festivals become a summer staple of wrists around the country clustered together, showing off that the wearer was there and they were having a good time. Similarly tribal is a fist full of silver rings, both men and women, usually including at least one skull, an adaptation of biker style and often indicates the wearer is a fan of metal or rock music. The detail of exactly what music they love will sometimes be given away in the t-shirt they are wearing.
Deep Down Your Confidence Will Thank You
Of course, being a jeweller I have a natural bias towards jewellery, I live it daily. Designing it, making it, selling it but I also love it, I buy it, wear it, and it forms a large part of my style and self-expression. I pick my clothes to match my jewellery, not the other way round. You may not be quite so obsessed, but why do you wear the jewellery you do? Pause as you choose what to wear and wonder how down the ages people have always done as you are doing, electing to strengthen themselves with jewellery. So next time you fall in love with a piece of jewellery don’t resist, let your instinct guide you and your confidence will thank you, unlike fast fashion an excellent piece of jewellery can last millennia.