If you’re playing a game of poker and you’ve got a killer hand, but you’re out of money, the other players are not going to put five hundred bucks up against the cast iron frying pan that your mother gave you when you moved out. The irony is that the sentimental value of that frying pan may be so incredibly high that you wouldn’t put it in the pot for five hundred, or even five million bucks, but to everyone else at the card table, it’s just a piece of cookware with a twenty dollar resale value on eBay.
The real irony, when it comes to placing value on just about anything, is that it’s all sentimental value.
There is practical value in a comfortable bed, in a working A/C system in the middle of Summer, in having a roof over your head and food in the refrigerator. Beyond the basic necessities of life, though, we’re always dealing in sentimental value. Even cold hard cash is only of value because of the attachment that we have to money. Your bank account is just numbers saved onto a computer and cash is just paper. If you were transported into a future society that has no use for money, your money would only have sentimental value to you as a reminder of the time period from which you were transported.
This is an important point to bear in mind when buying jewelry: all value is really personal value. The market tells us that gold is more valuable than silver, but if your wife only wears silver and you show up with a pair of gold earrings, she’ll help to convince you pretty quickly that “the market” is wrong sometimes.
Of course, personal value does not develop in a bubble. We’re affected by what we experience within the communities we live in. If you’re traveling through the American Southwest, seeing how run down Route 66 looks, you’re liable to put a lot of value on the turoquoise pendants that natives sell in restaurants and casinos, not because turquoise is a rare and precious gem, but because it’s nice to help out, and because it’s a memento of your trip. Of course we put a lot of value on gold because of its scarcity, and on diamonds because of their place in Western culture as a token of devotion. Red roses aren’t the most difficult flower to grow, nor are they all that rare, but when you give them to your beloved, they carry a lot more meaning than white roses simply because of the importance that the surrounding culture has placed on them.
Common values we share in our culture can help to steer you towards the right purchase when shopping for jewelry. For instance, silver is the traditional gift on the 25th anniversary, pearl on the 30th, and diamond if you’re lucky enough to spend sixty years with the love of your life. These cultural guidelines only work, however, when the recipient is in tune with them.
This seems like a lot of words just to say “get your sweetie what they love,” but that’s the moral of the story. Get your sweetie what they love, whether it’s diamonds and gold or silver and garnet.