With the holidays fast approaching, men everywhere are facing that age-old problem: what to get the jewelry-loving women in their lives. Here, some tips from experts – and a few guys who’ve figured it out.
1. Buy what she loves, not what you want to see her in.
Want to find something a woman will think is the most beautiful jewel in the world? “First love her, then know her,” says Nathalie Petitjean, a consultant in Paris and former store manager for Chaumet and Tiffany. “Most of all, listen carefully.”
Nathalie says the most common mistake men make is to focus on what they like. That’s also the mistake most sales assistants make. “What you have to keep in mind is that a jewel is made to adorn the woman,” she says. “The jewel is an extension of her personality. A woman will always give you some clue of what she is fond of.”
“Often, men buy what they’d like to see us in, not necessarily what we feel good wearing,” says Cynthia Renée Zava, a gem and jewelry consultant. “They can also be swayed into a purchase with which they’re trying to ‘mark’ us – you know, buying a piece that recognizes a man’s spending power, not necessarily one that is intrinsically rare or beautiful. Jewelry should feel alive and sensual on the body – not stiff, sharp or unyielding.”
2. Watch her shop.
“I believe I understand my wife’s tastes after 21 years together,” says Doyle Cox, a real estate marketing specialist in Houston. “However, I prefer to watch her shop and when her eyes sparkle and her voice gets excited, I either surprise her and purchase it then and there or I return for it.”
3. Get her something with sentimental value.
“Choose a piece of jewelry that has meaning or history,” advises Elmer Kerr, a business development consultant in Ireland. “Say a man met his wife in Paris some 20 years ago. How about a nice French charm bracelet? It doesn’t need to be expensive but has a lot of meaning and history.”
Vick Vercauteran of Sarasota, Florida, says men often make the mistake of buying jewelry based on advertising messages instead of something with personal meaning for the wearer. Better to hire a jeweler to fabricate a piece with personal detail or a reminder of the relationship, he says. “Working with an individual jeweler doesn’t have to be any more expensive than a mass-produced piece of jewelry,” Vercauteran says, “and it would be much more meaningful and sentimental to the person receiving it.”
4. Look in her jewelry box. Better yet, look at her.
Notice what she wears most. “Study your wife, fiancée or girlfriend,” says Vanessa Ribeiro, a retail marketing manager in Brazil. “What does she like – gold, white gold? Which color stone, big stone or small one? Is she delicate or a strong woman?”
Take a look at what she already owns, says Robyn Palescandolo, owner of Aurora Palesca Designs in Boston. “Think about whether you could actually see her wearing what you’re thinking of buying for her,” she suggests. “Most women pride themselves on their unique tastes and sense of style.”
Consider her body type. “If she has a long neck, she will look better in long earrings,” Palescandolo says. “If she has a small head, she will most likely go for something more delicate. The most insightful comment I ever heard from a man shopping for his fiancée was, ‘She likes long necklaces to balance out her long neck and wide shoulders.’ Wow! He was really paying attention!”
5. Listen, listen, listen. We’re not that subtle.
“Pay attention to your woman,” says Palescandolo. “Most likely she’ll drop hints or blatantly tell you what she does and does not like (i.e. ‘I prefer white gold’ or ‘I don’t like white pearls’).
6. If you want to surprise her, ask her best friend.
Remember the Sex in the City episode where Carrie finds the engagement ring Aidan is about to give her – and hates it? But when he finally pops the question and opens the ring box, it’s not the ugly ring she finds but an emerald-cut diamond on a thin platinum band. She’s thrilled. Turns out, buddy Samantha set him straight. “If you have to get married, the least I could do was make sure you got a nice piece of jewelry,” she tells Carrie later.
7. If she likes big stones, and you can afford ’em, go with that.
“What can a man do right?” says Rome-based attorney Antonella Barbieri. “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend!”
Mark Epp follows another familiar maxim: bigger is better. “The biggest mistake a man can make when buying jewelry is picking a stone that is too small! Bigger is always better,” says Epp, a talent consultant in Lincoln, Nebraska. “What you don’t want your girlfriend or wife to say is, ‘Oh that is so cute.’ You want her to say, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s astounding, it’s bigger than my knuckle!’ If you wanna be happy for the rest of your life, just buy a big, ole rock for your wife.”
8. Don’t assume she likes big stones.
“I won a piece of jewelry once and the stone was bigger than my finger. I never could wear it,” says Ribeiro. “It is possible it would be good for someone else, but never for me!”