As the holiday season gears up, many individuals have already begun their shopping. For many adults, jewelry is the obvious choice. This Christmas, Tiffany & Co. is offering a limited edition Advent Calendar. This 4-foot calendar is in the shape of Tiffany’s Fifth Avenue store and contains 24 Tiffany surprises. As you might expect, jewelry dominates with gold and platinum pendants, brooches, rings, earrings and bangles, many with diamonds. There is also a sterling silver harmonica, paper cup, key ring and clothespin, as well as a Tiffany watch and Eau de Parfum. The cost of the calendar starts at $112,000, which is probably a little too rich for most Americans.

The over 60,000 American jewelry stores are part of a $30 billion industry. Although there was recently a slight dip in industry revenues, rising disposable income is expected to revive demand. About 28% of yearly jewelry sales take place during the holiday season.

What makes jewelry an appropriate holiday gift? First of all, jewelry is something that most people usually do not buy for themselves. It is a sentimental gift that also can be worn immediately and become a heirloom later. Jewelry is generally a good financial investment and increases in value over time. Many people, who claim they don’t want jewelry as a gift, really may desire it, but feel that it’s too impractical and expensive.

Research has shown that wearing jewelry can increase an individual’s self-esteem. In one study, wearing jewelry was shown to reduce irritability in nursing home patients with memory disorders, by increasing their self-regard.

Roughly 95% of all jewelry sold is made for women and only 5% is made for men. Market research, however, shows that about 60% of all jewelry purchases are paid for by women, while 40% are paid for by men. The most common men’s jewelry items are wedding bands, watches, lapel pins, necklaces, cufflinks, shirt studs, tie accents, rings, belt buckles, and military and religious jewelry. When I was growing up, boxed sets of tie clips and cufflinks were very common Christmas gifts for men. Today, however, very few shirts have double cuffs, so I never get to wear my psychology logo cufflinks.

Psychologists have associated certain types of jewelry with specific personality features. For example, wearing small, minimally decorated, earring studs is way of communicating that one has a sense of fashion and style, but no need to draw excessive attention to oneself. Some experts see these pieces of jewelry as signs of stability and confidence. On the other hand, large hoop earrings are usually intended to draw attention to oneself.

Large dramatic jewelry pieces such as chunky, dangling necklaces and elaborate rings are associated with extroversion, attention-seeking, and having an active social life. People who prefer to wear turquoise, natural stones and sea glass or shell necklaces may be individuals who value the natural world and the outdoors.

Traditionalists often have classic tastes in furniture and clothing and usually prefer elegant and simple jewelry, such as pearl earrings and necklaces. They tend toward high-end brand names and take great care and attention to detail in all of their accessories.

Very organized women often wear matched pieces of jewelry or coordinate their jewelry with other accessories and items of clothing such as belts, shoes and purses.

Finally, there people who prefer artistic and studio-produced jewelry. They often wear vintage pieces that are highly distinctive and unique. Brand names are not important to them and they often look for special pieces in thrift shops and antique stores.

The wearing of jewelry dates back to over 90,000 years ago. Necklaces strung from various shells were originally employed as charms or amulets. Later jewelry began to incorporate items from plants and animals such as feathers, bones, teeth, horns, flowers and claws. Early jewelry often had an animistic totem quality, which aimed at evoking some of the qualities of the animal from which the jewelry originated, in the wearer. For example, jewelry pieces made from a jaguar might be meant to convey speed and hunting prowess, while those from birds might conjure up freedom and grace. Early jewelry often had symbolic meanings and figured prominently in the practice of sympathetic and protective magic.

As time progressed and jewelry-making technology evolved, the use of precious metals and gems in pieces symbolized growing wealth, power and status. Jewelry soon became associated with the ruling class and royalty, as in crowns, tiaras, and symbols and badges of office.

In modern times jewelry has become primarily a fashion statement, helping individuals to differentiate themselves from others and to develop their personal brand. The more rare the jewels used, the more appeal they generally have.

Overall, jewelry is a proper holiday gift because it is clearly seen as a public tribute to the recipient. It has romantic, symbolic and sentimental meanings attached to it. While its expense is a practical drawback, it also leaves no doubt as to the recipient’s value to the other person. Its lack of utility, other than serving as an ornament, can be an advantage in a personal gift, making it even more glamorous and festive.

Of course, there is always the danger of buying a piece of jewelry that turns out to be an unwelcome gift. We’ve all seen this transpire. The gifting of a piece of jewelry that is all wrong for the recipient is not uncommon. This was even the plot in episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show (necklace), Friends (bracelet), and That 70’s Show (ring). If there is any doubt, it might not hurt to ask a friend to provide a reality check.

Terry L. Stawar, Ed.D. lives in Jeffersonville and is the CEO — of LifeSpring Health Systems. He can be reached at tstawar@gmail.com.

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