In the 19 years since Destiny’s Child sang, “I buy my own diamonds and I buy my own rings,” bejeweled displays of independence have become commonplace. Last month, Lady Gaga celebrated Valentine’s Day by Instagramming a ring she’d bought for herself. “I put this ring on my own finger as a sign of my love for myself and for my fans,” she wrote. And women buying their own fine jewelry – or ‘self-gifting’ – is a movement that stretches far beyond La-la Land.
For previous generations, fine jewelry was something women were given, often by men – the preserve of 21st birthdays, engagements and Hallmark occasions. Elizabeth von der Goltz, NET-A-PORTER’s Global Buying Director, says that nowadays, “Our customer buys what she wants, and when she wants.” And if that happens to be a £6,000 Cartier watch or £65,000 Buccellati diamond earrings, so be it. “Sometimes women will buy jewelry for themselves to mark a special occasion, but other times it’s just because she loves a piece,” says von der Goltz.
It’s telling that many of NET-A-PORTER’s most popular brands for self-gifting – including Suzanne Kalan, Brooke Gregson, Jennifer Fisher and Carolina Bucci – are women designing for women, with that intrinsic knowledge of what their customers want to wear now.
Women now add fine jewelry and watches to their digital baskets alongside handbags, shoes and fashion. “As women have become increasingly independent, so have their shopping habits,” says jewelry designer Diane Kordas. “When I started my line, I designed with these women in mind: empowered women, buying for themselves, with their own style and identity.” Today, 63 percent of Kordas’s sales are self-purchases.
A multitude of ‘demi-fine’ jewelry brands cater to this booming market, too. Designers such as Stone and Strand, Wwake and Poppy Finch create affordable, fashion-focused fine jewelry using 10- or 14-karat gold and smaller gemstones: a forever piece for less than a designer handbag.
“Around 80 percent of our sales are women buying for themselves,” says Katherine Kim, founder of LA-based Katkim, whose 18-karat gold ear pins and 14-karat gold and pearl ear cuffs are ripe for self-gifting. Like many independent brands, Katkim gained traction via social media. “Our pieces are non-traditional and unexpected, so through social media, women can see how the pieces can be worn and styled,” says Kim.
But self-gifting isn’t restricted to more affordable jewelry. Valérie Messika, the daughter of a prominent Parisian diamond dealer, launched her own brand in 2002 with the aim of, as she says, “desacralizing diamonds”. “Back then, women would only wear diamonds as an engagement ring or for formal evening events,” she continued. “Now, it’s totally normal for women to buy themselves a piece to wear every day.” Messika’s ‘everyday diamonds’ include her best-selling Move range, but she has also seen women invest in one-of-a-kind high-fine jewelry with six- or seven-figure price tags because they like the daring yet wearable designs.
While traditionally, male customers are concerned with investment potential and ‘getting their money’s worth’, when it comes to self-gifting, women are more focused on how a piece looks and feels, and the emotional connection it evokes. “I tend to celebrate professional milestones by treating myself to an amazing piece of furniture, but when it comes to birthdays and Christmas, that’s when I add to my jewelry collection,” fashion consultant Claire Thomson-Jonville recently told PORTER. “I have pieces that mark the birth of my children. I am really considered with jewelry and I attach a lot of emotion to all my pieces.”
And, for sustainably minded consumers, fine jewelry represents the epitome of the ‘buy less, buy better’ ethos. Diamonds really are forever – treat them right and they will last for generations.