Women’s Jewelry for the Modern Man

Excuse me ma’am, does that ring come in men’s sizes?

Ever since I was little, I KNEW there was something different about me. Since a young age, I often found myself looking into the wrong glass display case. Instead of looking at stuff I thought was acceptable for a young man such as myself to wear, I spent hours staring longingly at the colorful women’s jewelry on every long, exhausting trip to the mall with my mother. As I grew older, after collecting gems for most of my formative years, I started to realize that most men were fated to end up wearing a particular style of jewelry, depending on race, sexual orientation and choice of profession. These are just a few that I’ve seen over the years:

Thick gold chains = Hairy as Hell, Fat Italians

Long white gold/platinum necklaces w/diamonds(Bling-Bling) = Rappers, Fake Thugs

Hemp & bead necklaces = Potheads or Drug Addicts

Dog-tag necklaces = Military Men

Spiky dog collars or black chokers = Punk Rocker

Dragon’s claw rings and necklaces with superhero emblems = 40-Year Old Virgin

Any jewelry with colored gemstones = Homosexual

Where did this come from?

When did man start to believe that a REAL man only wears plain metal jewelry? Looking fresh is looking fresh, regardless of what it is. Maybe a man shouldn’t wear a pearl necklace, or wearing flowers in his hair, putting glitter on his skin or wearing lipstick, but jewelry? I’ve always been a fan of antique design, a period of our history when we put time and effort and care into making hand-crafted objects to idolize and cherish. To stare at again and again and remember every detail and pattern that took hundreds of hours of hammering and carving to make.

Just as an example, take the time to actually look at a hand-forged Katana(Japanese sword)from the 18th and 19th century http://www.ebay.com/itm/Japanese-Samurai-Sword-Katana-Signed-MINAMOTO-KIYOMARO-August-1851-AD-/230847822537?pt=Asian_Antiques&hash=item35bf9a3ac9.  You can’t possibly imagine how much time went into making a sword like that one. What makes the craftsmanship so fascinating is the knowledge that this piece of forged carbon steel was just as important as food, clothing, water or shelter. During most of Japan’s history, the craftsmanship of a sword was only as good as it’s ability to hold an edge, to defend its owner from marauding bandits, rapists and worse. If your engagement ring got a crack, it wouldn’t break during battle and get you and your family killed.

This is just talking about the sword blade alone. After countless long days standing in front of a blistering hot furnace, what craftsman today would take the time to forge a beautifully made scabbard(sword sheath), wrap the hilt(handle) in stingray skin leather and engrave everything in cranes, dragons, cherry blossoms, etc., all by HAND?? Practically no one. These days, just about everything is mass-produced on factory assembly lines, stamped from huge sheets of metal into uniform shape and size. Started by machines and finished by machines. Even when human hands still cut the gems and hammer the metal, the level of skill and commitment necessary to make family heirlooms has nearly disappeared.

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Rather than complain all day and do nothing about the source of the problem, I’ve decided to let my hands do the talking. I’ve begun the long and arduous process of designing my own hand-crafted jewelry. It really bothers me that the things I’m looking for in a piece of jewelry, especially MEN’S jewelry, don’t exist or exist but cost an obscene amount of money, so I’ll try to make it myself. I’m doing this or a few simple reasons:

1. Jewelry made by hand will ALWAYS be better than jewelry made by factories and assembly lines. There are simply too many techniques, passed down from master to student, that cannot be reproduced by a machine. Some things are better left to machines that can make an exact duplicate, every single time.When making parts for a stealth fighter-jet or a computer that keeps my heart ticking, I’ll take the machine every time. When selecting a piece of jewelry that symbolizes my eternal love for my wife, I’ll take the master craftsman.

2. Most jewelry made today meets far less-exacting standards. There are a lot more people living on the earth today than ever before. Instead of millions, there are billions of people, each wanting goods and services. A single machine can make countless more pieces of jewelry than even a handful of men. The jewelry they make have a lot less craftsmanship, but a combination of mass-production and lower prices can collectively earn more money. After you die and your family is auctioning off your estate, if your jewelry can only be melted down and sold as scrap metal by weight, the craftsmanship probably isn’t very good.

3. I think it’s WAY past time someone re-introduce the pleasure of enjoying colored gemstones to the modern man. There is absolutely nothing wrong with women wearing emeralds, rubies, sapphires, opals, tanzanite, garnet and topaz; I just think it would be a better world if men didn’t constantly worry someone was going to call them a homosexual every time they wear someone other than colorless diamonds. Not that chocolate or black diamonds are worthless, it’s just most of their value depends on commercials & advertising. Trust me when I tell you that wearing imperial peach topaz earrings will in no way make you less attractive to women; More likely they will shout: “Here’s a courageous man, comfortable with his masculinity and willing to show it by wearing expensive peach/pink earrings.” My jewelry will set my customers apart from the crowd.

4. It’s probably not as hard as you think to create beautiful, interesting, one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces that my customers will want to eventually pass down to their children and grandchildren. All it takes is a little dedication, a little creativity and a fair amount of technical skill. To me, the most important aspect of jewelry-making is that you make your items with passion, ensuring the fact that a little piece of my soul remains inside every  finished work. I think that sounds like something worth sharing.

5. Go ahead and plug “Handmade Jewelry” into your favorite search engine. Look at a bunch of jewelry-selling websites. I don’t care which one, it probably won’t matter, most of them look the same anyway. The only difference are the prices, I think most of the time they are just making it up along the way. Would it be so hard to stop making the same old rings and earrings, devoid of any originality? Jewelry packed with the same generic synthetic-gemstones whether you stop by Kay, Wal-Mart or Costco. These cheap knock-offs are no replacement for the colored gems found in nature.

6. Here’s a big problem I have with men’s jewelry… especially those ugly ass wedding rings! Not only do companies push cheap, tiny, nearly worthless diamonds on us(note: they’re called Melee diamonds), they charge exorbitant prices for a piece of jewelry that sometimes isn’t worth even 10% of its retail price. A bulky, tasteless gold ring with half a carat worth of diamonds sometimes cost over $1500 on average. The tiny diamonds aren’t even usually of good quality, frequently being tinted yellow/brown and being visibly flawed. How do you get VISIBLE flaws in a diamond 1/100th of a carat( 0.02 grams)??? Especially in a ring that’s mass-produced, with barely a whisper of filigree-work, engraving or general craftsmanship.

Big jewelry store chains like Jared the Galleria, Kay, Littman, Shaw and Helzberg diamonds are fleecing the public, padding they’re collective bottom-line by selling wholesale jewelry at retail prices, taking advantage of the ignorance and stupidity of the average consumer. It’s up to me and the other small local businesses to give them a better option. By creating a market for hand-crafted goods with beautiful colored gemstones, we will be helping them save money for more important things, like honeymoon vacations or buying a car.

At least this is what I hope for, changes I will strive to bring about in the jewelry business. People are willing to shell out their hard-earned income on expensive jewelry, as long as it’s tasteful, classy and most importantly, they don’t feel instant buyer’s remorse for being duped or hoodwinked. Why pay retail price for jewelry when it’s usually not worth the metal & gemstones it’s made from.

~MSW, Wong_83@hotmail.com

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The Actual and Relative Values of a Diamond

Have you ever bought a diamond? If your over the age of 21, chances are you have bought one or know someone who has bought one. I distinctly remember the first time I purchased a diamond ring. As a young lad, jittery with nervous energy, I tried to pay off some nefarious deed done to one of my earliest girlfriends with a piece of shiny jewelry… purchased from the local mall. The first time you enter one of those fancy stores like Jared or Kay, the first thing you realize but won’t quite accept is that you are hopelessly outmatched. You browse the display cases like you know exactly what your looking for but in reality you most likely end up buying something that’s both affordable and should look OK on her hand/neck/etc. So what’s the true value and whats just the relative value of the glittering bauble you are thinking about getting? I’ve done the research. Over the past few months I have looked through a mind-boggling amount of data on these otherwise worthless amounts of concentrated Carbon. Like everyone else, the reasons are pretty obvious: I am searching for that “perfect” ring for my beautiful fiancee. I know, pretty stupid considering the opening statements of this article. The problem with logically reasoning is exactly it’s definition. It’s logical. The logical part of my brain that knows this is completely unrelated to the part that thinks it’s perfectly normal to spend thousands of dollars on what amounts to a rock set in a piece of metal. That would be the subconscious. So let’s take a look at the facts. Originally, diamonds and the other precious and semi-precious jewels were used to decorate works of art, garments and even weaponry. They refract light and are pleasing to the eye, they’re relatively rare when compared to other materials and most importantly they are hard. This may not seem that important now that we have plastic and metal that wont deteriorate or corrode for hundreds of years. Things to cherish and that could be pass on to loved ones, pleasing even when first dug from the earth. As we advanced, so did cutting and polishing techniques. What better way to symbolize royal status and religion than materials that last forever? When regular people couldn’t even afford to feed and clothe themselves on a regular basis, what better to separate classes than jeweled swords and gold thread.

So let’s get on to the point. In MY opinion, what is real and what is fake?

In my humble opinion, a diamond is relatively worthless. It has absolutely NO nutrients, and if people weren’t so damn worried about status and being brighter than their peers, it would probably not be worth the time and labor that goes into cutting and shining the things to begin with. It certainly wouldn’t be worth thousands of dollars per karat. Not to me. If anything, you could probably relate it’s value to that of a pretty painting. When done right, it’s beautiful, there’s no denying that. The way light seems to come from within the stones- cut into squares, round brilliants, sometimes flashing hearts and arrows-could definitely be considered a work of art. So in some ways, each individual stone is like a sculpture or a carving.. except this carving will last hopefully forever.

What about all that hokum about how a “diamond is forever?” Or how a diamond is a symbol of love? Even though I know this isn’t true, as said before, it’s kinda stuck in my brain. I can always pretend that I’m primarily interested in diamonds and gold in terms of it’s raw materials and commodities, but why then did I look through all those websites trying to find the “perfect” ring? Something that’s sculpted just right, not to thin and not to thick, has plenty of craftsmanship included and of course is made of excellent raw materials. The idea of buying an imperfect diamond, meaning something of lower than vs2 quality, disgusts me both consciously and subconsciously. What’s the point in buying a painting with a big tear down the middle or has a long scratch off a corner? Exactly, you wouldn’t. Unless that painting was worth $500,000 and they were selling it to you cheap… but you get my point.What could possibly be an excuse for buying lower-grade diamonds, especially below SI1 in clarity or above G in color?

If your girlfriend/fiancee is that desperate for a rock on her finger, she probably either isn’t that bright or just hasn’t done the research on diamonds. If she had, she would have realized by now that the a 0.50k diamond with great symmetry, ideal height and width, vs2 clarity and falls somewhere in the near colorless range is going to be worth near or even more than one twice it’s size with one or more of these values severely flawed. As long as the one your buying doesn’t have any significant flaws/imperfections and has plenty of luster and internal fire, don’t worry about buying the largest one you can find. Just like you would never spend more money based solely on the size of any other object of art, treat this purchase with the same respect and research you would buying an expensive antique. That would be my best guess as to the true value of a diamond.

One more thing, one that a staggering number of people going out for their first major diamond purchase have never done. Even though it’s probably out of your price range, grow a backbone and ask the sales representative to show you the clearest and most dazzling diamond they have to offer. Looking at a diamond in person is completely different from researching them online or even looking at high definition pictures. There’s something about the lighting and the ability to see the stone in 3 dimensions that you can’t see in any other format. The reason you should look at a diamond much better than the ones you might likely purchase is for comparison down the road. Keep that picture of what a diamond should look like in the back of your mind when your examining other stones in your price range for similarities and more importantly, for things they might be lacking. Keep in mind that without this eyes-on comparison, even an obviously flawed and tinted diamond will still outshine just about anything  material and will almost magnetically draw you to buy it.

That’s one of the major reasons why jewelry makers sold 8 billion dollars worth of diamond jewelry last year; 8 times what they sold of every other gem combined. I’ve spent a considerable amount of time over the years just wandering into random little jewelry shops, you know the ones that are all around vacationing spots like Ocean City, MD or Atlantic City, NJ. I’m always stunned to the point of silence as I examine most of their wares, some are so bad that they don’t even tell you the carat weight or clarity of the diamonds. Just this past weekend me and my fiancee walked into a shop where they were selling an engagement ring with a single center stone. The point of the solitaire engagement ring is to put all the focus on that one diamond set in the middle. This .52k round brilliant was so riddled with flaws and so colored that it was nearly black; It would have been laughable if the sticker price for it wasn’t nearly $4000! The sales clerk even offered to give me a “Labor Day Discount”: $3500. Wow, thanks a lot. The saddest thing is that some poor schmuck down the road will probably shell out the dough, just to appease their pretty new girlfriend.

With all of this information, hopefully anyone reading this blog will at least learn these few things. 1. Don’t instantly believe the sales representative: their profit margin is only as high as your stupidity will allow them. 2. Don’t rush into a purchase as important as diamond jewelry:  it would be an understatement to say this shouldn’t be an impulse buy.  3. Most jewelers will match prices on loose stones. 4. Don’t be lured by a high carat weight on an engagement ring. If it isn’t a single stone or at the very least only a couple stones, more than likely the stones are nearly worthless and therefore the piece of jewelry is too. 5. Taking all these rules into account, take the time to research the material. If you can’t take this relatively small amount of time to get even the jewelry right, how would you ever find the time to make your relationship work?

 

Michael, Wong_83@hotmail.com