There’s a reason women can’t seem to turn away when they pass a glass window filled with glittering necklaces and dangly earrings. Whether we openly say it or not, when getting a gift from our man, we’re far more excited to receive jewelry than roses. Not to say that women are materialistic or men are forced to buy overpriced, shiny baubles for us on every occasion.
It’s not the price of the jewelry that really matters to us, but that it is indeed jewelry. I speak for myself in this, but a necklace can be cheap, and meaningful simply because it is unique, and something to be worn on our skin that has the same impact of a pricey piece from a jeweler.
Women’s love for jewelry goes back to multiple facets of reasoning, and none can be proved as the central experience that shows why women like baubles and trinkets. I would venture to say it’s multiple perspectives that impact each other and result in that slight drooling at every statement necklace we pass.
To see how far the obsession with jewelry can go, we look to the poster child of gemstone love, Elizabeth Taylor. Owning a collection worth over 150 million dollars, she is an example of someone who valued things that were beautiful and delicate to the extreme. Accepting jewelry from many husbands, she later could loan such pieces to museums and galleries, as her collection was larger than most historians.
Her collection grew with her wealth, fame and new romantic conquests, and she was not shy from telling the world of her materialism with her jewels. “You can’t cry on a diamond’s shoulder, and diamonds won’t keep you warm at night. But they’re sure fun when the sun shines” is her quote most often remembered with her name, besides her many acting roles.
She took diamonds are a girl’s best friend to the extreme, and while some shamed her blatant worship of material things, others thought of her simply as a lover of beauty and pieces with history.
While your opinion on the lengths to which this actress went to procure rare jewelry or her obsession with materialism is up for debate, it is true that everyone has a little portion of the “Elizabeth Taylor Jewelry Syndrome” in them. Like I said before, it’s not the price of the jewelry that really matters, but the history, symbolism, and psychology behind it.
History of trinkets
It is believed that jewelry began as tribal ornamentation as well as pieces to fasten clothing together for functional purposes. Soon after, however, and far before the first horse drawn buggies or even the wheel appeared, jewelry was a symbol of wealth and influence. From shells and bones, to stones and gems, to silver and gold, jewelry evolved as civilization did.
From seemingly the dawn of time, a woman who was fashionable and high class was one with lots of trinkets adorning her flesh. It makes sense when you think about it. A woman with lots of jewelry on her fingers isn’t doing a good measure of hard physical labor.
We still want that sense of aristocracy our ancestors from medieval handmaidens to Egyptian pharaohs fantasized about, whether we fancy ourselves above that or not.
So, you see men of today, it’s in our blood to be coordinating our rings to match our earrings. Don’t blame us, blame centuries of royalty. But in actual reality it isn’t a far jump to link this prehistoric tribal practices to today. Without many other options to mark one person from another, jewelry served as a way to show other people of your clan you had a status different from theirs.
This is still true today as a ring on the ring finger indicates a different status of a married woman from a single one. While we’re no longer showing ourselves to be senior clan members with shells and nose rings, we are still sending a similar message to our peers as we flash that new wedding band we are so proud of all over Instagram.
Symbolism of jewelry
It’s obvious that the wealth implications have an impact on how women perceive the act of receiving jewelry, but it’s got to be more than that. It’s possible that the love of diamonds and rubies is much more human than just a power trip to prove influence.
When you give a woman a necklace or a ring, it’s something she can literally put against her skin. It’s a decoration of her body and style that compliments her individuality as a woman, while also commemorating her relationship with you.
There’s a reason the Lucky bracelet from the outlet malls gets flung haphazardly on the nightstand, but the cheap bead earrings you bought her at an art fair will always be among her prized possessions.
When you give your woman something she can display on her body, it’s not only a token of your affection for her, but every time she wears it, it’s a nod at her love for you as well. Not to mention every time her female friends complement her new charm bracelet she can add very casually “why thank you, it was a gift from insert man who just got huge brownie points here”.
So men, next time you’re racking your brains for what to get your girlfriend or wife on another birthday, while chocolate is nice and roses are classy, it’s jewelry that shows us you care about us openly and want the world to know.
It also alludes that you know what we like because you’ve paid attention to our styles enough to be able to give us something you know will accessorize future outfits. And we know this is difficult for you and makes you uneasy and we love you all the more for trying. Even if you get us the ugliest, bejeweled, kid’s meal lookalike necklace we’ve ever seen… we’ll still wear it, because we love you right back.
Besides, you’ll get your turn for possible fake joy when you see the hideous tie we got you… hint… it matches the last itchy sweater from last anniversary with the paisley print.
Psychology behind the gem-love
While the emotional impact of these gifts is great, some people may say yeah, but show me the facts. The psych-analysis behind the want for jewelry resorts back to Mavlov’s pyramid of needs. A condensed version of this is that humans need the basics (food, water, clothing), then safety, love, self-esteem, and finally self-enlightenment, if they can find it.
The idea is whatever you are lacking in this pyramid is the level you stay on. So, for example, if you have the basics but don’t feel safe in your life, you obviously aren’t spending a lot of time looking for love. Or if your self-esteem is extremely low, it keeps you from being able to focus on finding love because it reverts you back a level.
This sounds like a simple thing but it can really relate to our lives a lot. It explains why certain people we love can’t seem to get beyond one of these levels to keep on searching for a brighter future.
But back to the jewelry, psychologists say that receiving gifts and trinkets like gems is on the level of human needs between self-esteem wants and social acceptance. It can affect one’s self-esteem because having jewelry from a lover asserts itself to you as a physical example of their affection.
Every time you glance at the new charm on your Pandora bracelet, you think of them, and that reassures your feelings. Societal norms support this as well because the sharing with friends and family where your new accessory came from fortifies the idea that you have a mate and he is a worthy one.
While for me, I find these ideas as too black and white, and leaving out a whole realm of possibilities for other propositions of why we love our earrings, it does hold merit. It makes sense on the most basic of human levels, and can’t be discredited as a plausible option.
Another idea that supports the notion that jewelry wanting is a societal creation is the value system of precious gems. Consider diamonds, barely an anatomic difference from a graphite pencil, but for whatever reason, humans have decided that these are one of the highest valued natural items we can come across.
You could argue that it is valuable for its shine and because it comes naturally from the earth, but then why not value similarly alabaster oyster shells or fool’s gold? I’m sure our caveman ancestors would have been equally impressed by a shiny oyster shell or a diamond, but who can say.
For whatever reason, diamonds, rubies, and emeralds are the top-notch gems we all wish we could come across one day while digging in the backyard. Whether these gems have any actual resource benefit is doubtful, but how exciting of a society would we be if our jewelry consisted of coal pendants or vials of oil on our charm bracelets?
It’s just nice to look at
For all the people reading this that are shaking their heads saying, “I just like it because it’s pretty and that’s that”, this opinion is also a fair option. Not only is the jewelry itself attractive to the eye, but it highlights our assets. Whether we mean to or not, different lengths of necklaces highlight our collarbones, necks, or cleavage.
Bracelets and rings bring attention to our hands and arms, while earrings frame our face or compliment our hair. We can’t be blamed for wanting to draw the eyes to our features, or give us that put-together look that only comes with the best of our outfits.
We can point to our equally gaudy friends, peacocks, for this one. And ironically, I’m talking about male peacock that attract a mate by flashing bright colors and large plumage in their direction. I know we’d all like to believe our style amounts to more than just a mating dance, but some part of what we wear is for our peers to admire.
“Peacocking” is evolutionarily something we just can’t help but do. Next time you almost take a necklace back out of buyer’s guilt, you can thank Darwinism for leading you back to your primal roots on this one.
Like an anglerfish luring fish to its mouth with its bright head lure, we can’t help but deck ourselves out in the same way. Chameleons have camouflage, hermit crabs have shells, birds feathers and humans… well, we have Swarovski jewelry.
There’s obviously a lot of reasoning that goes into why we love jewelry. It’s more than just a shiny thing we can hang from our neck and ears with an otherwise dull outfit.
Whichever explanation you think is the most accurate of the multiple options, is completely up to you. As for me, I tend to prescribe it to the romantic symbolism it presents, more than just a black and white reasoning for historical wealth, psych gratification, or evolution.
Feel free to comment below and say which side you stand on, and why your “Elizabeth Taylor Jewelry Syndrome” is more than meets the eye at first glance. Or maybe you just want to pin this to your wedding Pinterest board as a formal explanation of why we can’t be blamed for having our ring picked out since we were twelve years old.
Either way, our love of baubles has deep roots you probably never considered before, and you can do your girls a solid and post this article to their man’s Facebook wall every time their birthdays roll around.