During the final moments Alfred Hitchcock's thriller Lifeboat, a woman (portrayed by Tallulah Bankhead) uses her last remaining possession after a shipwreck, a glittering Art Deco Cartier bracelet, as a fishing lure to catch food for her and fellow castaways. The bracelet and the fish disappear into the sea just as a rescue party appears.
This classic scene made an indelible impression on Kimberly Klosterman and inspired the first purchase in her extensive jewelry collection, a diamond Art Deco bracelet. The collector-turned-dealer (her eponymous atelier specializes in pieces from the '60s and '70s) isn't alone in pursuing jewelry that speaks to her fascinations. The notion that women acquire jewelry mainly as gifts from the men in their lives is increasingly out of date.
Today women buy jewelry for themselves just as they do clothing or any other accessory, and their reasons are easy to understand. Jewelry usually proves a more savvy and lasting purchase than the average It bag, which often commands the same price as gold but goes from fashionable to overexposed in a nanosecond. And thanks to the longevity of gemstones and precious metal, jewelry - with the occasional polish and cleaning - can stand up to daily wear now and in future generations.
To start a personal jewelry collection, Klosterman advises women to buy according to their wardrobes and lifestyle. "Do you attend many evening events that require formal pieces or do you have a casual routine?"
And no need for a limitless budget to begin acquiring jewelry, or to buy gold and diamonds exclusively.
"There are beautiful designs in gold, but also silver and even costume jewelry," adds Klosterman. "Whatever you choose, buy the best you can afford."
For maximum versatility Klosterman recommends jewelry that does tricks, like a necklace that can be wrapped around the wrist and worn as a bracelet or a pendant that can be worn in multiple ways like on a long chain or a short neck wire. In addition she advises that brooches are a smart buy because, "they're showy and versatile. You don't have to put a brooch on a jacket. You can wear them on a cuff or necklace."
Daniel Pastor, manager at Washington, D.C. vintage and designer jewelry boutique Charles Schwartz & Son stresses that it's smart for women to buy their own jewelry so they'll get exactly what they want. "Women are more inclined to buy themselves colorful, fashionable things that may be unpredictable. When men buy jewelry as gifts, they tend to stick with very classic, safe choices," says Pastor.
At his London-based consultancy JS Jewels, John Souglides helps clients build and refine their jewelry collections. He sees a jewelry collection as a potential hedge against financial reversals. The current Greek economic crisis is a relevant example. "There are women of significant means in Greece who have become subject to high taxes and own properties that have dropped in value. They're cashing in their jewelry, which is a portable asset that's easy to sell. When they've collected well, it has saved them."
Hollywood legend Marlene Dietrich was saved by her jewelry collection on more than one occasion. It was seized as collateral against her significant tax debt during World War II and was a source of income when she auctioned pieces in her later years.
Dietrich's jewels were so valuable because they were created by some of the most respected makers of her time, including Van Cleef & Arpels and Paul Flato. According to Maurice Moradof of Yafa Jewelry, pieces manufactured by respected brands and labeled with markings that confirm as much (known as "signed" jewels) "retain value best - even more than unsigned jewels with large diamonds and gemstones."
Based on his current reading of the market, Moradof believes weighty yellow gold jewelry from the '60s, through the '80s is having a comeback. But competition is thick for desirable pieces in virtually any category. "The demand is enormous and there's a limited quantity of good pieces," he says. "If you see something you like, buy it."