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International Herald Tribune
12 Monday, February 28, 2005 FASHION
In a show of power, women raise a glittery right hand
By Jessica Michault
ove along Prince Charm-

M ing. No thank you Fairy
Godmother. Today’s mod-
ern woman isn’t waiting for
a fairy tale ending to obtain the ring of
her dreams.
Women are taking control of the one
luxury occupation usually reserved for
men — buying a diamond ring.
As the average age at which a woman
gets married continues to climb, wom-
en are no longer willing to wait for ‘‘the
big day’’ to see some ice on their finger.
But while many still hesitate to deck
out their left hand in diamonds, they
are embracing the idea of diamond
rings on their right hand.
These right-hand rings, traditionally
called ‘‘dress’’ or ‘‘cocktail’’ rings be-
cause they were worn in the evening,
are now worn all day long; they can in-
clude other precious gems and tend to
be anything but classic in style.
But they shouldn’t look like an en-
gagement ring. This means right-hand
rings need to have a north to south, or
up and down design, instead of an
across the finger design, as with an en-
gagement solitaire, eternity bands or
the three-stone rings (representing
past, present, future) that husbands
tend to give on a wedding anniversary.
‘‘Women are from Venus and men
are from Mars when it comes to jewelry Diamond Tranding Company; Dior; Gilles Bensimon; Vivienne Westwood; Dior
shopping and buying,’’ says Pam Dan- Clockwise from left, Kristin Davis and Sarah Jessica Parker show off
ziger, the president of Unity Marketing, their right-hand rings; Christian Dior’s sapphire and diamond
a marketing consulting firm and pub- Incroyable Audacieuse ring; Victoire de Castellane, design director
lisher of ‘‘Jewelry Report 2004.’’ of Dior Joaillerie; Arrow ring from the new Vivienne Westwood
According to the report, men, who Hardcore diamond collection; the Diamond fireworks ring from
buy almost 100 percent of their dia- Dior; two Harry Winston diamond and colored stone rings
monds as gifts for their better half, nev- from the Manhattan collection.
er stray too far from classic, reserved
pieces that limit the risk of making a the De Beers diamond group, launched There was Scarlett
wrong choice. Women, however, the re- a right-hand ring marketing campaign Johansson, who cel-
port says, tend to choose for themselves aimed at women who want to celebrate ebrated her best
rings that are more fashion orientated their freedom. actress win at last
in design, and tend to go for something The advertisements are strategically year’s BAFTA
big and bold. placed in top fashion magazines with awards with a
The right-hand ring has begun to be the tag line ‘‘Your left hand says ‘we.’ power ring. And
referred to as the ‘‘power’’ ring. As Your right hand says ‘me.’ Women of the four leading
more women become the primary the world raise your right hand.’’ ladies of ‘‘Sex and
breadwinner for their households, this According to Stephen Lussier, inter- the City’’ marked
is a fitting name for a ring that has be- national marketing director of the Dia- the end of their As women’s perception of buying
come another way for women to pro- mond Trading Company, the purchase iconic hit show diamond rings for themselves begins to
claim their influence and indepen- of diamonds by women is now the fast- with a bit of right-hand bling. change, perhaps the common view that
dence. est-growing segment in the diamond This celebrity stamp of approval the left hand has to stay bare until a
Victoire de Castellane, design direc- market, with double-digit growth over goes hand-in-hand with the launch of a will only be available during one fash- man comes along with a little black box
tor of Dior Joaillerie, sees a growing the past three years. In Western coun- number of fashion designer jewelry Designers are also trying to entice a ion season, just like a must-have pair of will also go through a transformation.
number of women who are not waiting tries this type of diamond purchase ac- lines. The American designer Vera younger clientele into buying diamond shoes or designer clothing item. As de Castellane points out, ‘‘It is
for a man to offer them anything but in- counts for 15 to 25 percent of the dia- Wang has brought out her own line — a rings by keeping starting prices about ‘‘Young women are starting to buy hard to imagine that one of our hands
stead are going out and buying their mond market. perfect complement to her bridalwear the same as a designer It-bag of the sea- jewelry. But it needs to be fun and play- doesn’t belong to us.’’
own jewelry. ‘‘We think this is just the beginning,’’ empire and Marc Jacobs has created a son. And some designers like de Castel- ful, not something their grandmother
‘‘Women are starting to buy jewelry says Lussier, who sees women in cos- line for Louis Vuitton. But the recent lane for Dior have launched limited- would want to wear,’’ says de Castel- Jessica Michault is on the staff of the
like they buy a luxury bag or piece of mopolitan cities embracing the idea. arrival of Vivienne Westwood on the edition jewelry collections. Such rings la ne. International Herald Tribune
clothing. It has become a statement: But he adds, ‘‘We still have the task of jewelry scene with her Vivienne West-
Women are saying, ‘I am in charge of broadening out to middle America.’’ wood Hardcore diamond collection,
my life,’ ’’ says de Castellane. Celebrities have also helped to legit- full of arrows, orbs and hearts, reveals
More than a year ago the Diamond imize the phenomenon with their high- the appeal of power rings to women of
Trading Company, the trading arm of profile purchases of right-hand rings. all fashion tastes and styles.
Self-indulgence, Thai style
By Karen Emmons shops in two of Bangkok’s most
luxurious hotels: TabTim in the

BANGKOK Oriental, and Pink Poodle in the
s rings go, Yang Four Seasons.

A Riches’s recent gift to
herself is big. ‘‘Do you
think it’s too glittery?’’
she worried, holding up what
appeared to be an exquisite golf
A Thai married to a Swiss en-
gineer, Steiner has maintained
an independent style since she
was a young woman designing
clothes. She decided to open her
ball on a little gold spoon bent two jewelry stores after people
around her finger. began asking to buy the pieces
Touching the 29 yellow and she had designed for herself.
white sapphires, the stylishly ‘‘People who come to my shop
modest Riches pointed out that want something they can’t find
before returning to Asia 13 years at home,’’ said Steiner, referring
ago, all she ever wore was a to her mostly foreigner clien-
strand of pearls. ‘‘People didn’t tele. Her strands of tiny aventur-
wear jewels that much then in ine, amethyst, tourmaline, lapis
England — and it cost the lazuli, garnet agate, yellow jade
earth,’’ said Riches, a Malaysian and coin-shaped mother-of-
who lived in London for 18 pearl rarely sell for less than
yea rs. $1,000.
In Bangkok, surrounded by ‘‘Thailand is very popular for
what the French call jewelry because we’re very
‘‘croqueuses de diamants’’ artistic. We can do a lot with our
(women who buy a lot of jew- hands,’’ she explained. ‘‘We love
elry), she feels at ease with her color. Look at Thai culture: the
occasional indulgences, such as markets and the temple roofs
a pink tourmaline for an every- are all very colorful.’’
day ring, or drops of spinels on Nevertheless, Steiner said her
an earring loop. And she has no necklaces are not meant to look
remorse for her latest acquisi- Thai — or like the ethnic Thai
tion. ‘‘I like it for the color,’’ Photo courtesy of Lotus Arts de Vivre beads abundantly available in
Riches said. ‘‘I know it’s frivo- A necklace by Lotus Arts de Vivre, a Thai jewelry brand. the local craft markets. ‘‘I get
lous, but a little sparkle bright- ideas for mixing colors by sit-
ens up your face and brings a certain ra- Buppa Kingchatchaval, of Sincere Jew- ting in my garden and looking at the
dia nce.’’ elry in the Emporium complex, be- butterflies and the flowers,’’ she ad-
She sees many Asian women buying lieves that her largely Thai clientele is ded.
jewels as if they were medals that pro- investing in gems ‘‘because they will For equally unusual and innovative
claimed their, or their husband’s, fi- only increase in value.’’ jewelry, many locals recommend the
nancial feats. Riches and her friends Thailand has long been a destination Lotus Arts de Vivre brand, which has
are simply drawn by the ‘‘art’’ they find for both gem dealers and shoppers be- shops in the Oriental, Sukothai, Four
in little-publicized jewelers where cause of its craftsmanship in stone cut- Seasons and Peninsula hotels. The
prices are cheaper than in the West and ting: there are more than 7,000 dia- company also has stores in Cambodia,
where they can opt for one-of-a-kind mond and half a million stone cutters Japan, Singapore and the United States,
pieces or even design jewelry them- in the country. According to Tang, be- as well as the Web site, lotusarts-
selves. tween 40 and 50 percent of the world’s Started by the Thai-born
According to several of the city’s rubies and sapphires are cut in Thai- Helen von Bueren 20 years ago as a
gem merchants, the number of women land. The country also excels in heat hobby, it is now a family business man-
buying jewelry in Thailand has risen treating — a process invented by the aged largely by her two sons.
dramatically in the past three years. Thais to improve the color and quality ‘‘We aim to provide a product that is
Diamond retail sales are up by 20 per- of natural pieces. The comparatively unique in design and material, has a
cent from 2003. Chirakitti Tang, presi- low prices are another attraction. story and is a conversation piece,’’ ex-
dent of the Thai Gem and Jewelry Man- The jewelry industry began in 1970s plained the younger son, Nicolas von
ufacturers Association, estimates that and has drawn royalty from Europe, ce- Bueren, who handles the marketing for
the retail jewelry trade in Thailand is lebrities like Elizabeth Taylor and per- the company. Their pieces, he added,
worth about $500 million. sonalities like Imelda Marcos (whose reflect the family’s travels and Thai
Thai jewelry exports have increased fondness for jewels actually outshines life. Necklaces, rings and bracelets typ-
by 12 percent, and gems by about 15 per- her penchant for shoes). ically appear as geckos, snakes,
cent, said Tang. Jewelry is one of the Finding something different amid dragons and elephants in mixtures of
country’s top five manufactured ex- the glitter is not always easy. Women gold, silver, gemstones, coconut shell,
por ts. like Riches and her friends skip the stingray skin and beetle wings.
‘‘Everyone seems to enjoy spending; mainstream shops for places like Yves They have strung together 18-karat-
people are rewarding themselves,’’ said Joaillier, an unassuming shop in the gold-covered fruit nuts and created
Kriengsak Tantiphipop, managing di- Charn Issara Tower run by the the chokers, each using wood, pearls and
rector of the Emporium, one of French jeweler Yves Bernardeau. nearly 100 of the incandescent blue-
Bangkok’s high-end shopping malls. In ‘‘I make jewelry that’s a bit chic but green scarab beetle wings, something
November, he organized a diamond ex- women can wear it in the day,’’ said revered by the Chinese as much as
hibition for 20 local retailers who were Bernardeau, who moved to Bangkok 25 Egyptians. ‘‘Our jewelry is intended for
asked to create a masterpiece. The most years ago. His pieces are often specially bold and strong personalities,’’ said von
expensive entry, a 170-karat necklace, designed for a client and handmade in Bueren.
sold the first day for around $3 mil- a nearby workshop. He specializes in The family’s ambition is to preserve
lion. hammered 19k gold because ‘‘it looks as old Siam and other Asian heritage in
Part of the recent surge can be attrib- if it comes from the treasure box in Ali general by taking basic but unusual
uted to the low interest rates on fixed Baba’s cave.’’ Currently, his preferred forms ‘‘to advanced levels of workman-
deposits at the local banks. Having at stones are pastel-colored tourmalines, ship.’’ They employ about 230
last recovered from the Asian financial aquamarines and South Sea pearls. craftspeople from India, Indonesia,
crisis that deeply affected Thailand be- For another source of original pieces Burma, Cambodia and Thailand.
tween 1997 and 1999, and lacking confi- in Bangkok, Bernardeau suggests the
dence in the stability of most markets, jewelry designer Yupha Steiner. Al- Karen Emmons is a freelance journa-
more people are investing in jewelry. though she also shuns publicity, she has list based in Bangkok.