Jewelry Customs Among Eastern And Western Women

Having grown up immersed in south Asian culture, I came to be familiar with jewelry as a standard accessory and essential part of a woman’s expressive identity. In my culture, women adorn themselves with precious jewels as readily as one would put on their wristwatch here in the west. Upon moving to the United States as a young woman, I discovered that jewelry is looked upon as a luxury, usually bestowed upon a woman by her significant other, and only on special or rare occasions.Of course, I am referring to fine jewelry, as opposed to the fashion and costume jewelry that often fills the display cases at most department stores. In fact, in countries like India and my homeland of Sri Lanka, anything less than 22KT gold is not considered “real” jewelry, and wearing and collecting pieces of fine jewelry begins at an early age. My first pair of earrings, a pair of 22KT gold hoops that I still own, were in my ears at the age of six months old. Yes, six months old! No self-respecting south Asian girl would ever leave the house without accessorizing her ears, even in infancy.My first introduction to American culture, as it pertains to jewelry, began at the age of sixteen when I was working at a jewelry store in the mall in Connecticut. In stark contrast to my own upbringing, I discovered that getting pierced ears was almost considered to be risqué and was often discouraged by parents, in young girls. I watched with fascination as little girls came into the store with their mothers, begging to get their ears pierced. More times then not, the parent would respond with the notion that their daughter was still too young.The concept seemed foreign (no pun intended) after coming from a culture where almost every young girl has pierced ears by her first birthday. Another fact that came as a surprise to me is that, in general, western women and girls do not buy their own jewelry. Instead they hope that their boyfriend, fiancée or husband will surprise them with a beautiful piece of jewelry for a special occasion. Popular dates include birthdays, Christmas and of course, Valentine’s Day. Back home in Sri Lanka, it does not occur to us to wait for our significant other to buy us a piece of jewelry.In regions like Sri Lanka and India, women are foremost consumers of jewelry, purchasing everything from simple baubles to extravagant pricey pieces that can be passed down to younger generations. From an outside perspective, it is fascinating that in the United States, a country that celebrates individualism and empowerment, even in the year 2007, women still do not feel empowered to make their own jewelry purchases. American women do not think twice about pulling out their credit card for a five hundred dollar pair of designer shoes or a designer handbag, yet when it comes to jewelry they are still desperately hoping to be presented with the proverbial “little blue box.”Recently, a successful marketing campaign introduced the concept of the “right hand ring,” a diamond ring that women can buy for themselves as a reward for their own achievements; one that would be worn on their right hand, free of social stigma. This campaign went one step further, pushing the idea that a woman no longer has to wait for a man to buy her that much coveted diamond ring. This begs the question, why should we wait for anyone to buy us jewelry?? Instead of wasting hundreds of dollars on disposable costume jewelry, why don’t we indulge ourselves and buy the investment pieces that can be enjoyed over the course of our lifetime, and then handed down to our daughters and granddaughters? And why limit our own jewelry purchases to just the “right hand ring?”American cultural norms seem to dictate that the diamond ring ought to be the main investment piece of jewelry in a woman’s collective assets and in her life. There are, in fact, so many beautifully crafted and diverse options to choose from.It was during my own quest to find the right jewelry for my wedding that inspired my jewelry line, Crysobel. I wanted jewelry that would commemorate my special day and would also reflect and express a combination of my eastern roots and my current urban lifestyle. I certainly did not expect my wonderful Dutch fiancée to be able to meet my specific requirements in this area. As a modern day woman, I knew exactly what I was looking for, and after an exhaustive search I realized it did not exist.I decided to design my own wedding jewelry and the seeds of the Crysobel Jewelry Line were sewn. During my initial quest to design and craft my own jewelry line, I was reminded once again how unusual it is for women to buy their own jewelry. It was then that I decided to commit fully to Crysobel. I chose to design a line that was not only a reflection of my aesthetics and cultural background, but one that would also introduce a new perspective into what people associate with women buying, collecting and investing in fine handcrafted jewelry.My customers tend to be confident, fashion forward and independent women who choose to invest in finely crafted jewelry and who understand that a pair of fabulous 18K gold and ruby chandelier earrings can just as easily be worn with a pair of jeans and wedges as it can with a silky slip cocktail dress. They know that they deserve to enjoy their jewelry on a daily basis, and that they deserve it. I try to design my pieces accordingly, to afford customers all of the flexibility they could ever want in an “investment” piece.After all, who wants to invest in an exquisitely designed piece of jewelry, only to keep it locked up in a vault and pulled out for the rare dressy occasion? Life is too short…every moment of our lives should be viewed as a red carpet event.