Shifting industries was challenging because I moved points of view, from a corporate or management role to an actual selling position. But there were similarities: both are about working with all kinds of people and listening to their stories and needs, and that communication is a huge part of selling and writing. Both require finding that bond or connection to your subject, client, or reader. And retail, like publishing, can only thrive by constantly evolving with the needs of your audience; it’s mandatory to stay top of mind. To succeed, you need to find a voice or a selling style that is uniquely you, and I’ve found that in selling, just like in writing, I do best when I am passionate about my topic or the merchandise.
And aren’t all women—especially Filipinas—born loving a little bling? So my entry into the jewelry industry was a perfect storm of passion and opportunity. My father always said I should pursue law school, real estate, or jewelry. Whenever he traveled, he always gifted my mom, sisters, and me with beautiful pieces from his trips. Both my grandmothers were also collectors. I guess I inherited it from both sides of my family. Now that I work in jewelry, my tastes have become more refined. I recognize quality craftsmanship and I notice all the little details, like closures, prong settings, the weight of gold, etc. As a client, I’ve also become much more adept at gauging how much things should cost and bargaining; i.e., “making tawad.”
Jewelry shopping is similar to shoe, handbag, or even car shopping. It starts with knowing what you are looking for—be as specific as possible, but be open to similar options or, if your needs are very specific, explore the idea of having it customized. Decide early on a realistic price range, shop with someone whose taste you trust, or work with a sales person whose selling style you enjoy, because shopping for jewelry should be fun, not a chore. A good deal is getting exactly what you want at a price that you are comfortable and happy to pay. Finally, you should feel a certain love for the piece the moment you see it. The difference between jewelry and other big ticket items, like cars and houses, is that you don’t really need it—but you must absolutely want it.
My first major acquisition was a Cartier Pasha bought in Monaco back in college during a summer abroad. I blew all my shoe money on a watch, but I still wear it! My wedding band is a diamond platinum eternity ring that I’ve never taken off, even at the height of my triathlon days. A good friend sold it to me sight unseen from Manila; all I told her was that I wanted an eternity ring to last a lifetime. Then there’s a Patek Philippe Twenty~4 watch I bought with an ex-boyfriend over 20 years ago. He is now a good friend, and even my husband agrees it’s a keeper! I also have a John Hardy Double Naga ring with black sapphire and African ruby eyes—not my first John Hardy, but I loved it the moment I put it on. It was my first double ring and I wasn’t even sure it would be comfortable to work with, but I had to have it regardless of the pain and hassle. As they say, beauty has its price.
One of my favorite things to do is collect souvenirs—which happen to be rings—from every new country I visit. Pre-Facebook, it was a way to remember the place and the story behind the purchase or trip. I incorporate these into my current pieces and inherited pieces from both my grandmothers. I had a gold ID bracelet with my name on it when I was three, which I wore until it no longer fit. My dad also gave me a yellow gold heart-shaped diamond ring, which I wore all through high school and then had re-dipped to white gold for college. I’ve recently converted it into a white gold diamond choker necklace.
I’m all about editing my pieces to make them new or now. I love wearing jewelry to reflect my current state of mind. I love that the rules, like wearing matching sets, no longer apply. I’ve inherited older pieces, some of which I’ve repurposed to look new, and others I keep as is; I just wear it differently to make it more me (e.g., cocktail rings as part of a charm necklace). Just like an old-fashioned hairstyle, wearing old-fashioned jewelry in a traditional way can really age you.
A woman’s jewelry can reveal many things: personal status, self-confidence, income level, even her current state of mind. Jewelry can be worn like a suit of armor, as protection, like amulets and wedding bands, or as a symbol of power, like signet rings, or even for healing, like crystals. Personally, I wear jewelry because it makes me feel beautiful, and that makes me happy. I use them many different ways: a dramatic dangling earring to accentuate a romantic lace top, or a bold cuff paired with a modern Japanese designer. When I’m not focusing on the visual story of the outfit, the emotional side comes out. When I know that the day ahead will be challenging, I’ll wear my John Hardy Naga dragon pieces to protect me!