For Men Only

by Brian Nagle (1994-1995)

Women must have a genetic advantage that allows them to shop with ease and grace. Or maybe it’s cultural. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a product of nature or nurture, but one thing is certain: Women keep most of the shopping secrets to themselves.

Women long to receive that special gift, that special token of affection. Men simply don’t know the game rules of shopping. Nobody likes frustration or failure, so, pay attention guys and we’ll have a little caulk talk. Our goal is to turn some ladies’ heads, score a lot of points (with the ladies) and not come out of it bruised, battered, or intolerably poor. The ladies in our lives might even realize that we’re sensitive, caring, nineties kinds of guys. But before we suit up for this great adventure, let’s talk about feelings —now stay with me on this.

Our objective is to give a present to a lady that will give her the same rush you would get if someone had given you a ’57 Chevrolet convertable (fully restored, 200 point trophy winner), a pre WWII bluewater sailboat (perfectly maintained and never sailed hard), a late forties Harley Davidson (new old stock), or a fine weapon. But, you can give her that same rush for less than the cost of a decent set of socket wrenches. Now, how’s that for a deal?

First step: Conduct a sort of Recon. Operation. Observe the lady in question. What colors does she wear –earth tones, light pastels, bold reds, etc.? Next, notice her ears. Are they pierced or not? Does she wear silver or gold? Does she seem to prefer dangle earrings or studs? What color gemstones does she seem to favor? Don’t worry about the names of the stones.

Some comments about women and jewelry –each outfit requires different components. Notice how many pairs of shoes that a woman owns compared to a guy. The same can be said of the other components. So, let’s think components: Earrings, Pendants, Rings, etc. In the next few paragraphs I’ll tell you the rudiments of what you need to know about most jewelry: Cuts, Carats, Karats, Sizes, that whole Birthstone thing. What follows is useful everyday gift giving gospel.

* Carats. Abbreviated cts. The carat is a measurement of weight used for gemstones; It is equal to 200 milligrams. Not all gem material is sold by the carat, however. Amber, for instance, is commonly sold by the gram.

* Karat. Abbreviated K or Kt. Usually refers to the fineness or level of purity of gold. One karat equals 1/24 gold (approximately 4.167% gold). 14k, therefore refers to 14/24 gold, or 58.33% pure gold.

* Carrot. Not really a jeweler’s term, although we tend to much on them in the booth; it probably won’t concern you.

In jewelry gift giving I recommend that you stay with 14k gold, sterling silver, or fine pewter. Avoid gold filled and plated jewelry unless you are planning a short term relationship and don’t mind if the lady knows it. Most people equate gold with quality and permanence and I must admit that gold has a certain everlasting quality to it, probably because gold which is several millenia in age is still bright and beautiful, even after being exposed to centuries of highly corrosive seawater. Sterling Silver is 925 thousandths pure silver; the reamining 75 thousandths are usually copper. Fine pewter is an alloy not of lead, but of the element the Romans called Stannum and we call tin. The finest pewters have a very high tin content and a very high degree of purity. There is no lead in the pewter of Nagle Forge & Foundry. Gold, silver, and pewter are all ‘the real thing.’ Giving the real thing says something about you that has nothing to do with the cost of the item, and indeed choosing among these metals gives you a tremendous flexibility in the amount of money you need to spend to aquire a nice gift.

* Small is perfectly alright. Buying jewelry is not like buying a boat anchor; Bigger is not always better.

* Size to Fit. If you stay with pendants, earrings, and pins, we don’t have to worry about sizes to fit. In the case of a ring, it’s hard to shop for a ring for someone else’s finger, unless you happen to have at least one finger that is the same size as the finger of the gift recipient. However, we should mention that a size 7 ring will fit at least one finger of one hand of most women… If that sounds iffy, you understand perfectly.

* Stones. If a stone is smooth and has no discernable angles, it’s called a cabochon. Cabochons are the most ancient of gem cuts. Faceted stones have cut angles all over their surfaces, and reflect light brilliantly. Faceted stones gained popularity during the Renaissance, but were not nearly as well known or obtainable as were cabochons at that time. (Technically speaking, faceting gemstones required a serious technical, theoretical, mathematical, mechanical and artistic leap for mid-millenium stone-cutters. However, one cut is not necessarily inherently better than another: Just try and pick something pretty.) There are numerous faceted cuts available today. Don’t worry about their names.

The weight of a stone (# of carats), or it’s size (usually in millimeters), while bearing on it’s price, is not nearly as important as the beauty of the gem. Let your eye be your guide. You are buying something beautiful, after all. And remember, the setting should look good with the stone.

* Birthstones. We receive hundreds of inquires about birthstones, and our answer is usually the same, to wit: Over the last 500 years there have been many dozens of different birthstone charts. (Many of them put together by people deeply confused by the differences between Biblical dates and the Julian calendar.) During that period of time, almost every stone has found it’s way into nearly every month. We say, if you like the stone wear it; it was probably your birthstone at one time in the past even it is not in your birth month in the current chart.

You now know more than a great many folks about jewelry, but a few additional secrets are in order.

The first major secret is when buying a present it’s perfectly correct to ask for help and advice. I know a lot of us have problems with this, but here are some ground rules: You’re allowed to bring someone along, or you can ask sales help for their advice. There are no yardage penalties assessed for asking for help. (Asking for help is, however, not the same as foisting the whole decision making process off on a female relative or work-friend.)

Now that you know a little about jewelry and a little about the ground rules, we’re up to the next step. In your best voice and with the confidence of a healthy wide receiver, you approach the sales help and say something like –“I’m looking for a present for a 30 year old woman that has pierced ears. She wears a lot of light colors, especially pink. I was thinking about a small gold pendant or earrings, but I’m open to suggestions. I’d like to find something for under ninety dollars.” Now, you’ve just said a lot. You also announced that you are a man on a mission. This is good. Ask for advice, but be sure that you make the final decision. Make sure that the present has the visual impact, brilliance, and thought that you want to express.

God is in the details, so ask if the sales help can help you with wrapping. Ask if they have a gift enclosure. These are details that can be troublesome for the inexperienced shopper. Also, if you happen to be living with the giftee, how are you going to do wrapping in secret? The lady in question has probably hidden all the wrapping stuff so you couldn’t find it without asking her anyway.

The card message. Don’t just sign your name or write ‘Happy Birthday.’ At a bare minimum write a one line statement. Get Personal!

The Presentation. It’s called a present for a reason. When you give the lady her present, don’t do anything else like tune the car or read the T.V. guide. The magic of the moment could be lost if you say something like: “I bought you a present, it’s over on the table,” as you flip the T.V. remote. Don’t grab defeat from the jaws of victory. I want you to put a big smile on your face, dig down deep and say something nice as you pay attention to her. Make her see that it really matters to you! Maybe that you even enjoyed having the opportunity to do something nice for her.

So, at this point, you’ve proved to your lady that you are not a clod and that you are the sensitive, spiritual soul she always knew you were, deep down. If things go really well, you might even drop some major hints for that ’57 Chevy, sailboat, Harley, or anything else that you desperately need. You, being the sensitive soul that you are, may be reminded of the biblical allusion to bread cast upon the waters coming back a thousand fold. But, then again, maybe we shouldn’t push our luck.