Pocket Change: Shopping for Jewelry on a Billionaire’s Budget

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The spending habits of the ultra-rich are far different from those in other income brackets. This fact may be best illustrated by the way the world’s wealthiest individuals acquire jewelry. 90 percent of consumers might save for years to buy the perfect engagement set, a special cocktail ring, or a keepsake necklace. At the very least, those in the majority of income brackets might choose to purchase such items on credit, and only after much careful deliberation and sacrifice.

The wealthiest in society, however, “have unique habits in terms of selecting jewelry”, explains Lily Huth, Senior Style Consultant with Opulent Jewelers “They enjoy a level of freedom that most people can only imagine”. That kind of freedom equals purchasing power – the kind of power that enables a man to barter a mansion in order to secure a necklace of Cartier pearls for his beloved. That sort of power enables one to meet with a jewelry designer in Germany, for the purpose of designing a wholly unique locket (an experience offered by Neiman Marcus for $100,000 in 2014).

Consider the following buying practices of the elite in search of exceptional jewelry:

Quality Over Quantity

Quality is always the clear choice over quantity for the truly elite. To an individual with a world of choices, a classic piece of jewelry will always hold more value than a trendy item – regardless of price. This is the reason that the Harry Winston brand produces just 1,500 rings annually for the global marketplace. Those who can afford to will seek out such jewelry and obtain it, and they may contentedly count themselves among a privileged few.

Shopping Methods

The shopping methods of the world’s richest people are also unique to that group. The ultra-rich have time on their side, and they can afford to wait for the right piece to present itself. Instead of browsing the catalogues of retail jewelry companies that mass-produce their inventory, the very affluent look to the world’s finest auction houses for options. A wealthy individual might study the possibilities at Sotheby’s, Christie’s, or Fellows.

Instead of rushing to buy something pretty but rather mediocre, an uber-rich person would be more likely to hold out for a Van Cleef & Arpels ring made of platinum, ruby, and diamond. A wealthy buyer may want to browse the offerings at a designer’s private showing. Getting the right piece is important, and it is an endeavor that is worth some time and consideration.

Buying on a Whim

On the other hand, the freedom of choice that the ultra-affluent enjoy also enables them to purchase items just for fun. This practice is certainly not limited to the ostentatiously wealthy celebrities of modern times; in fact, it is age-old. Consider Morton Plant, who traded his million dollar mansion on New York’s 5th Avenue for a double strand of Cartier pearls. Mr. Plant had been contemplating the thought of selling the mansion because the neighborhood wasn’t as fashionable as it had once been. When his wife happened to walk by the Cartier storefront and see the pearls, she fell in love with them immediately – and thus, a deal was struck that could only have been made by those in an elite income class. Today, that mansion is known as the Cartier Mansion.

Jewelry as Art

One aspect of truly fine jewelry that distinguishes it from the rest is purity of design. The world’s richest individuals are the target market for jewelry so utterly exquisite that it can only be regarded as art. A perfect example of this is a certain Tiffany brooch, which will be one of the highlights at Sotheby’s Magnificent Jewels sale in New York. The brooch has an Art Deco feel, and is made of opal, sapphire, garnet, and 18 karat gold, and it is unarguably a work of art.

The world of jewelry is different for the ultra-rich than for the rest of society. The elite have the ability to make purchasing choices that match their desires and whims. On any given afternoon, an uber-wealthy shopper might see a magnificent antique or custom-designed piece of jewelry – and if the item is alluring enough, that shopper might just buy it on the spot.