Women and self-purchases

Hi all!

I’m working on an article for Lapidary Journal on the opportunities
and challenges of selling women’s jewelry to women. Conventional
wisdom and marketing research suggests that women are increasingly
buying jewelry for themselves, rather than relying on significant
others to buy them jewelry as gifts. What I’m wondering is how does
that change the type of jewelry that sells, and does it mean jewelry
retailers, designers, and artists should change the way they
merchandise, display, and sell jewelry?

I’m interested in any and all observations about self-purchase
versus gift buying, and any thoughts on what women are looking for
when they buy jewelry for themselves. Are they more or less
adventurous in design and materials? Do they tend to spend less money
when they’re buying for themselves, or more? Any thoughts on what
encourages women to make a purchase, versus what tends to lead to
their closing their wallet and walking away? And where do they make
these purchases – the mall, the local jeweler, craft fairs, etc.?

I look forward to your responses!


Suzanne Wade
(508) 339-7366
Fax: (928) 563-8255

Hello Suzanne;

I'm working on an article for Lapidary Journal on the
opportunities and challenges of selling women's jewelry to women. 

I have noticed, for some time, that women are buying their own
jewelry more these days. I think working with women customers is
great, and generally, it’s easier than working with men. Women will
be more direct, they don’t need to impress you. But never make a
women feel silly expressing her concerns. Why would you do that if
not out of bad social conditioning?

I don’t have a lot of contact with walk in customers any more, just
private clients who find me through recommendations. Most of these
customers are women. I’m doing custom designs and some repairs for
these customers. I think what has inclined these customers to seek me
out has been the confidence they’ve been given by their friends and
work associates that I provide quality work and am trustworthy with
their jewelry and materials. But what I do, I think, that is driving
my word-of-mouth business is to provide an open, obvious willingness
to listen to what they want done and try to help them. These women
want a jeweler who is receptive to their concerns about family
heirlooms being repaired by someone who understands their importance.
And they want to know the jeweler will work with them to make sure
they aren’t disappointed with what they get when a custom piece is
finished and get no surprises about what it will finally cost. I
find that if you try to create a solid relationship between cost and
value, the price is right more often than not. What I mean is, make
the piece as affordable as you can for the customer yet charge what
still makes you feel you are being fair to yourself. And always to
the best work you can. If they know you’re being honest, and it’s
more than they wanted to spend, then you work with them to find a way
to make something in another way to bring it into a price range they
are comfortable with, if you can. It’s easy, really. Treat them with
respect. Understand that they are perfectly capable of making their
own decisions, so present them with honest help and
Never make assumptions about what they want to spend.

Trust is number one in this trade, with any customer. But I don’t
think women are drawn to advertising as much as men are, I think they
ask their friends and associates for recommendations. That means good
service is paramount. Sorry to go on about this, but really, you
don’t need to keep things hidden up your sleeve to do a good
business. People have instincts about these things, and women know
how to use theirs.

David L. Huffman

Hello, Suzanne,

I’ve found that a cafe-type atmosphere works really well with
selling to women. Easy chairs to relax in, hot coffee, chocolate,
dessert, fruit whatever close by. Laying the jewelery out on a low
table in front of customers to pick up and examine at their leisure.
This works especially well with “hard sells”: jewelry that has to be
picked up and worn to be fully appreciated. It’s static lying in a
case, but alive in hand, with light sparkling off of facets and
textured metal. Plus, this arrangement removes the implied distrust
a glass case represents.

I think for women, buying jewelry is more of a treat or event than a
purchase. I believe that if the experience is created as being a
"spa for the soul" it is much more likely to result in a purchase
rather than if it remains a “counter episode.” One of my galleries
has a coffee bar, and when customers come to my studio they get
similar treatment, plus two cats.

Basically, the philosophy is “a spoonful of sugar makes the credit
card come out.”

I also let my absolute best customers “try out” jewelry at home - I
let them make friends with the pieces. Not everyone can do this, of
course, but I’ve never (knock wood) gotten burned, and it’s resulted
in sales.

Obviously, this situation won’t work for all jewelers. It works for
me, though, probably because I am such a small operation. When
customers come to my studio, I try to make them feel like royalty
visiting their personal jeweler. And since there simply isn’t room
for more than them and me in the studio, it ends up feeling as
though I only do work for them. So, I can get away with a lot
case-wise and security-wise that a full-fledged store can’t.

(An interesting side effect of customers meeting me in my studio is
that I sell jewelery to men based on the tools they were fascinated
by during their visit. “What does this do?” becomes “Can you make me
something using that?” Usually the piece ends up being a
rolled/forged contraption using a really big mallet I originally
bought for show.)

I realize I’ve run-on here, but I hope this helps.

Thank you,
Susannah Page-Garcia
pregnant since 2004 and ready already

Hi Suzanne,

I make custom gold jewelry, using colored stones, designer cuts (
purchased at the Tucson gem shows) with some diamonds accents. Price
range $200-$2500 I have noticed the same trend for a few years now. I
normally see the male half of the equation around Christmas time and
anniversary, other then that the women will buy for herself. I have a
few female Doctors and PHDs who are well established and price is
never as issue, if they want the piece they will buy it for
themselves. The school teachers defiantly have a price point and will
not spend above $600 for themselves. Their husbands vary, some will
pay more then their partner and there is one who would die if new
what his wife paid for custom jewelry.

These women are shopping with certain colors in mind, not so much as
what is in fashion but what colors they wear and need to compliment
their wardrobe. I have found my female customers want earrings and
rings, earrings are my best seller. It is something they wear
everyday and like having a variety of color, shapes and textures. It
is like having black shoes, we never have just one pair, we have
high heels, pumps, flats, patent leather, buck skin etc… but they
are all black!

I mainly do craft shows, donate to local charity (silent auctions),
local fashion shows and have an open house once a year. I market
more to the females, they are my largest audience. I have very
professional show cases, slick with no clutter, easy to read
displays. Women take their time looking at all the show cases, then
will pick a few items to see and try on. I hope I answered at least
one of your questions!

Eileen Quinn DelDuca
Eileen Quinn, Goldsmith
Who is not going to Tucson this year :frowning:

My experience is that women buy themselves jewelry in the lower and
middle price points, but that there is usually a man involved in the
really big purchases. I would certainly welcome more self-purchasing
of the big ticket items, but so far that is probably less than 10%
of my top shelf sales. This probably says something about what kind
of person buys my work.

Stephen Walker

Hello Suzanne,

I owe an apology, I just read my post again and realized to my
horror that I’d neglected to name my business within it, which is

I make custom jewelry in silver and gold, sometimes I use patina’d
copper for accents. I cut my own stones, and sometimes I use found
objects. My husband does major enamels, I do “accent” enamels -
small pictures that round out the story of the item. I hope to post
pictures soon.

Susannah Page-Garcia
Moonshine Metal Creations

The majority of the work that I do is custom work, 90% ordered by
women for themselves. It ranges from hundreds to thousands of $. This
work ranges from the conventional to the avant-garde. I just did a
piece that consisted of an elliptical dome of 2.5 mm diamonds set in
a slab of coral color Lucite. This particular client came to me
knowing exactly what she wanted. Many of these women are people that
I have known for years. These women are, for the most part, confident
about what they are looking for. They have a good sense of design and
are usually a pleasure to work with. Clients have become friends. It
has been a long road, but well worth traveling.

Joel Schwalb

I haven’t done shows in years, but participate in several open
studios every year. The curious thing I’ve repeatedly observed is
couples together: the woman really likes a piece of jewelry, but will
rarely buy it when accompanied by her husband or boyfriend, etc.
Sometimes the woman will come back without her male counterpart to
buy the piece. However, if she is shopping by herself or with a
female friend, the likelihood of purchasing increases greatly. Often
the friend will encourage the purchase. My jewelry has a wide price
range: $25-$5000. The price seems to have nothing to do with the
purchase when couples are together. There was an instance when a
woman wanted to buy a $45 necklace, and the man walked right past
her and out the door without even looking at the necklace. Once in a
while the man will come back and buy a piece as a gift.

How to change sales strategy in this situation is a good question.

Alana Clearlake

I’ve had assorted experiences, both in the context of personal
appearances for a major high-end department store, and in private
studio events. One that occurs with more frequency than I would have
believed is that the husband (usually) would be ready and eager to
make the purchase of an item which his wife admired, sometimes
borderline begging to do so, while his wife would demure, saying it
was too much money to spend (not necessarily saying it was
overpriced, but that it was an impractical purchase) -thus, flatly
queering the sale. I’ve seen looks of utter bewilderment, even
embarrassment, on the faces of some of these guys as they walked
away, often appearing to take it like a slap in the face. ( Sometimes
I think it is actually meant to be.) Now that I really think about
it, this has been the case only with married couples - and older
ones, usually, at that. Maybe that’s some sort of “code dance” they
play with each other to make a “diplomatic” getaway from the
situation (of rejecting a piece in the presence of the artist,
perhaps because they weren’t serious to begin with). More often,
though, the men seemed very sincere. I think it rather a sad
commentary: Here was a romantic gesture being shot down. But who
knows what subtexts and complexities in the relationships - or family
economics - may be in play in such a scenario?

With dating or engaged couples - the opposite is the norm. The women
not only warmly accept the gift, but clearly “encourage” it. Here,
the age of the players, even respective to each other, doesn’t seem
to enter into it.

Overwhelmingly, my clients are women. In many cases, they pre-shop
their own gift, husband to come in and pay for it later (or buy it
outright, saying that this will be their husbands’
birthday/anniversary/ whatever gift.) Sometimes they even have the
thing gift wrapped. Most just straight - on buy for themselves, for
the sake of style, but also for the symbolic value inherent in the
components which, clearly, resonates. Many have been avid collectors,
over years’ time, purchasing - or commissioning custom designed
pieces -to complement their entire wardrobes.

My prices can range from well under $50 to several thousand.

The women (and the men who genuinely know* and love them) buy my
work because it is highly individual, even those pieces that could be
described as “classic”, with a great deal of symbolic subtext of its
own. It is not sexual status “bling” nor does it necessarily reach
out to the fashion victim. (If they came over to me from out of the
Chanel boutique, it was usually because they were losing altitude
from wobbly 4-inch heels and needed a “sit-down” - or maybe were
merely curious to know what the “fish-frenzy” around my display was
about.) It appeals to women (and the men who genuinely know* and love
them) who are comfortable in their own skins, fearless in their
individuality… (The dead giveaway that I will never, ever, see a
sale from a customer is when, after gazing longingly - and long - at
her reflection in the mirror, admiring one of my pieces, she gently
hands it back saying “I absolutely love this, but I have to ask/talk
to my husband”. If she adds, “I’ll be back.” -that’s a dead-on
guarantee that I’ll never see her again under any circumstances. Even
on the street. If she includes the word “definitely” - I
automatically think “witness protection program”.

  • Men who select according to the woman’s taste, not necessarily
    their own, because they actually have paid attention, know what it is
  • and respect it… These are the men who seem to be very jazzed about
    shopping my jewelry for their mates - especially the older ones.
    They’re always so excited in anticipation of their wife’s reaction ~
    I just LOVE those guys…!

margery epstein

Hello Suzanne,

did you see the article "Fashion, Color and Women who buy Jewelry
for Themselves " by Nanz Aalund in the JDPN archives?
(Yahoo | Mail, Weather, Search, Politics, News, Finance, Sports & Videos) It has a
lot of very interesting observations.

My own observations, is that while all men love to look at
attractive, well-dressed women, they don’t want their own woman to
look attractive to other men. I can hear all the progressive modern
men objecting out there, but there are different levels of trying to
“veil” their woman - from actual veiling on the most conservative end
of the spectrum to having a strict idea of how many centimeters of
breast above the nipple can be shown - on the other end of the
spectrum. And you get everything in between. I have customers whose
husband wouldn’t approve a purchase of too big a ring, and not
because of the price. Another wouldn’t buy large beaded necklace,
because her husband thinks it makes everyone stare at her. I think
men tend to buy conservative traditional jewelry, the kind of jewelry
that translates into a status symbol. Women who don’t have
independent income tend to self-censor themselves by buying things
that their husbands will approve off. Financially independent women
tend to be more independent in defending what they like as well -
they seem to be more adventurous and willing to spend the money on
something that’s not conservative.



Ok, I’m not a high end store, but I had to put in my favorite line
for when a husband and wife are together, and he’s getting antsy
about the amount she’s spending. “I’m sorry sir, but if you are
going to harass my customers, I’m going to have to ask you to
leave”, said with a BIG smile… then a laugh. The wife usually
loves it, and the hubby lets her spend. :slight_smile:



The article I wrote " Fashion, Color and Women who buy Jewelry for
Themselves." that is in the Jewelry Designers Professional Network’s
(JDPN) archives, {thanks for the plug, Ruslana ;~} was written back
in 2001 and was based on the marketing analysis available from the
World Gold Council, the Platinum Guild International, and the Diamond
Information Center. At that time purchases up to $750 where commonly
made by women without consulting a spouse.

I overheard an older jeweler talking at the Tucson Gem Show about how
"jewelry is just a vanity item and sales are hard to make because you
have to convince people to be vain" I could not believe my ears,
because it was so out-of-date and a Puritanical way of thinking. It
also doesn’t make sense that a 19 billion dollar a year industry (in
USA only) could survive on vanity alone.

I have always seen jewelry as the basic building block of how we as
human beings construct our identity. Whether we are married or
single, what social class we belong to or aspire to, what
accomplishment we have achieved, and what country, ethnic group, or
artistic movement we identify with, this is the denoted
in the jewelry we wear, make, sell and purchase. Women will purchase
jewelry for themselves to commemorate special events that are
important to them. They will use jewelry, and endow it with emotional
significance to construct an identity that is meaningful to
themselves. My most loyal clients where always those women for whom I
had succeeded in capturing that emotional status of pride in oneself,
in the jewelry I made for them.

I think it is sad in our society the majority of men deprive
themselves of this and only buy things for their wives or

Nanz Aalund
Associate Editor / Art Jewelry magazine
21027 Crossroads Circle / Waukesha WI 53187-1612
262.796.8776 ext.228

ruslana -

I have customers whose husband wouldn't approve a purchase of too
big a ring, and not because of the price. Another wouldn't buy
large beaded necklace, because her husband thinks it makes everyone
stare at her. 

it had been a long show, the booth sitters were on strike; the
closest food source had closed an hour before i could get there;
somewhere uphill a fire hydrant had been opened or a huge melted ice
container emptied and gravity sent a flood downhill to my corner
booth, located over the free world’s largest storm drain (a large
alligator could enter and exit without stooping);10,893 people with
strollers, bikes, and small cars had cut through my booth because
they lacked the strength to walk (or drive) east 12 feet to the
crosswalk. there was one wobbly, tattered, very unstable nerve
standing guard against me committing grave bodily harm to even
less-than-perfect strangers. entering this arena was a man and a
woman - the woman to find jewelry, the man to test her patience and
restraint. for almost ten minutes he had a complaint for every piece
she tried on, all ending with “i don’t care for it.”

people, you know i am a tolerant, acquiescent, passive person, but
enough was enough. i drew myself up to my 2-inches-taller-than-he-was
height and observed “well, then it’s a flaming good thing you don’t
have to wear any of them!” the wife not only bought 2 good pieces but
came back the next year - without her burden - to buy more.

people, think but don’t always give voice to your thoughts,