Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Back to Basics?

All That Glitters

I’m currently kicking back in a simple basic and rudimentary way. I found a rustic log cabin in the middle of nowhere, somewhere on the famous Suwannee River in Northwest Florida. Brought my wife, my two dogs, Zoe and Toby, and even invited my kids and their spouses including the grandkids, the whole fan-dam-ly… To my surprise everyone came to experience the beauty and serenity of the “boonies.” (“Serenity happens to be the amble sized cabin’s name.) This lifestyle is not for the spoiled or faint-hearted, there is no TV, Wi Fi or internet; though we were told there was. Cell phone service is near non-existent and the nearest Publix is an hour away! Most of us are enjoying the well-deserved week of rustic R&R. (Some appear to be suffering from social-media withdrawals!) I don’t know who is absorbing this experience the most; the dogs, chasing all kinds of wildlife, or yours truly doing a whole lot of nothing. My only real job is keeping the grill and campfire lit.

The quiet here at first is a bit unnerving. The only sounds are chirping birdlife and occasional gunfire, folks around these parts are hunter-gatherers! Even the sound of a distant rotting branch crashing to the ground is deafening. The cooler weather, sitting around the fire pit with loved ones, watching the river flow by is just what the doctor ordered…Only now I’m addicted and loving this!

The cause for my retreat from the rock and society was an incredibly busy and stressful holiday season that all began in October, something unheard of in the past ten years or so. A lot of long days and nights and way too many Sundays in the workshop. I must admit, the pace knocked the stuffing outta me. All the last-minute jewelry orders, store re-stock projects and special commission pieces were completed by Christmas Eve, Whew!! This grey ole mare ain’t what he used to be, although I’m told being sixty-five by unwritten Marco Islands standards, I’m still basically a teenager!

All the hot and not so hot jewelry I mentioned in my last article was spot on and very popular and continued to be in demand the week after Christmas. A good example were my diamond studs and hoop earring sales. My original designed Marco bracelet and angels, I imagine, were the perfect stocking stuffer.

So, what exactly are “jewelry basics?” In my fifty years of experience in this business,(darn… when did I get this old?) I can tell you that the basics have changed decade to decade. In the fifties, a nice set of graduated cultured pearls and matching single pearl studs were a must have for any lady to compliment any outfit, or you could add a luxurious diamond studded gold wristwatch to top it off. Pearls were a staple for a couple of decades, then faded a bit only to have the First Lady Barbara Bush start the demand over again with her gumball sized faux pearl choker. (Ironically, she claimed she wore them to hide her unsightly neck wrinkles. Hmm?)

I can remember gold scarab bracelets were the rage in the early ‘60s, semi-precious stones carved to resemble Egyptian beetles; this includes amber and smoky topaz jewelry in all forms of pieces. Hippies wore anything from crosses to peace symbols in all kinds of metals, stone and wood.

Time marched on and so did jewelry styles. In the ’70s, silver and turquoise jewelry was worn by many and manufactured by many from Hong Kong to Bombay, India. Rarely was the piece actual authentic American Indian jewelry, and who did not own a cheap “Mood Ring” back then?

Another basic evolved in the ’80s, an ordinary diamond or gemstone bracelet became a tennis bracelet after the tennis legend Chis Evert’s diamond bracelet fell off during a Wimbledon match and she stopped play to look for it in the clay. Diamond inserts enhanced simple engagement rings. As for men, heavy flashy diamond rings, bracelets and gaudy neck chains were almost mandatory, especially if you were an aspiring wise guy.

My favorite era for basic jewelry was during the ’80’s and ‘90s. What woman did not wear a heavy omega neck piece with a fancy enhancer piece hanging from it? Here on the island I sold omegas and heavy sea life pendants like hot cakes. Large lightweight gold earrings were in vogue, and so were diamond cluster rings. Oddly enough even then, simple pair of pearl stud usually became a young ladies first nice piece of jewelry. The black Tahitian strands of pearls, not white cultured, were popular. Also the cost of a strand of cultured pearls skyrocketed from hundreds to thousands of dollars, due to increasingly bad harvesting caused by a polluted ocean environment. Rarity equals high cost, so inexpensive fresh water lake pearls were now in demand.

Ah! Now into the new millennium and the year 2000! Nothing stellar occurred pertaining to basic style, except of course the introduction of the Pandora bracelet (considered now passé) and maybe a couple of diamond promotions from the diamond conglomerate De Beers, the jewelry biz pretty much went to heck in a hand basket, gold and silver prices went out of bounds, most folks were selling their basic jewelry not buying any! By 2009 many jewelry manufacturing companies went belly up, and so did most major chains right down to the small Mom and Pop shops. Thank heavens for the “we buy gold” era, it paid the rent for many survivors.

Today, wearing pearl or diamond studs and a simple gold necklace, chain or wire and a bracelet or two an anklet, especially sea life themed here in paradise is the norm for basic jewelry.

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