“Jewelry is now the great divide between the have and have-nots of the female variety. I still own some silver jewelry, because it wasn’t worth selling when we needed the money. I get noticed when I wear it because most women don’t have real jewelry anymore. Even women who can afford jewelry are not wearing it out anymore, but they still have their wedding and engagement rings.“
Unfortunately, I must agree with this woman’s assessment. It seems that fewer and fewer women are buying or wearing high quality jewelry anymore. I think the persistently weak economy is the obvious culprit here. Sluggish wage growth, coupled with continuously rising housing, food and insurance costs, has squeezed discretionary spending. High quality jewelry has been one of the many unfortunate victims of this economic trend.
As a result, a lot of budget constrained women have reallocated their precious jewelry dollars from fine jewelry to costume jewelry. This has been a reasonable reaction to economic pressure because costume jewelry is so much better looking now than it used to be. As recently as the 1980s and even the early 1990s, costume jewelry was consistently low quality. It looked cheap and would quickly tarnish or even turn green when exposed to body oils or perspiration.
However, the advent of inexpensive, but alluring, synthetic stones and simulants, coupled with an industry-wide effort to raise the quality of costume jewelry, has made it a much more palatable choice. This is especially the case when a “real” piece of high quality jewelry might cost several thousand dollars while a similar piece of “fake”, but still attractive, costume jewelry might be just a couple hundred dollars.
The trend toward buying and wearing less high quality jewelry is most noticeable among younger women in their 20s and 30s. An insightful Pacific Standard article titled “Has Technology Killed the Jewelry Industry?” provocatively lays the blame squarely at the feet of smartphones and other portable technology.
There is certainly an element of truth to this accusation. Samsung, LG, Sony and Motorola all produce covetable smartphones, tablets and laptops. However, it is Apple, with its insanely popular trio of the iPhone, iPad and MacBook series, that has had the most success. In fact, I am of the opinion that Apple isn’t really a technology company at all, but a luxury technology retailer – a vitally important distinction. Young Millennial women have, as a group, redirected a significant portion of their discretionary spending into these must-have tech gadgets. Of course, money spent on smartphones or tablets has to come from somewhere. And that place is often the high quality jewelry budget.
There has also been a tendency for younger generations to spend money on travel, dining, concerts and other “experiential” activities rather than physical goods. And once spent on an experience, regardless of how compelling, those limited discretionary dollars cannot be spent on high quality jewelry.