four charming jewelry gift ideas
in praise of the shiny old thing
🕊️ Ceasefire Now in Gaza 🕊️
As much as I embrace shopping secondhand for myself, there’s a slight pause I take towards gifting secondhand/used items to others. Over the years I’ve started gifting more secondhand items to close family. But it feels different if it’s someone I don’t have a close relationship to.
Most of us have been socialized since childhood to view shiny new toys as the pinnacle of a gift. When you’re 10 it’s a dollhouse or Melissa & Doug wooden puzzle set, wrapped in clear thin plastic film. I used to relish the first puncture of the plastic film. I would administer the tiny jab with the mail opener and gleefully celebrate my doll’s first breath of air. She was alive now. As you get older the shiny new toy never dies, it just evolves.
Why is there stigma around gifting secondhand? I know the reasons and I’ve read the statistics, capitalism relies on us buying new things, yada yada. I’m more curious about the emotional experience of secondhand gifting and receiving. Some thoughts I’ve arrived at:
I’ve had positive and negative experiences with used stuff. I can see how someone with a really negative experience (ex: getting bedbugs from a thrifted sweater) would be turned off from it altogether. But the more I developed secondhand savvy, I was able to lower the risk of these negative experiences. I feel knowledgable and confident enough to buy a good used thing.
50% of the gift experience is the presentation. The wrapping, the bow, the card. I’ve learned from friends who own small secondhand/vintage businesses that a LOT of work is put into marketing the product. You’re taking something with a past and trying to give it a modern context of desirability—invent a new story. I think that requires a lot of creativity! And a good secondhand gift is a reflection of that creativity. Compare that to brands with big budgets who can dress up a mediocre (or even bad) product with market-tested copy, photography and packaging.
If the success of a gift is measured by the amount of thought, there’s actually so much care in finding a beautiful secondhand gift for someone.
My relationship with jewelry has shifted in the past 1-2 years. I never knew very much about the jewelry industry. I thought everything “real” was exorbitantly priced/out of my budget, and what seemed accessible were the DTC darlings selling gold vermeil at a steep markup. There is no judgement for buying from DTC brands, but my perspective has changed—I see them more as supply chain businesses that happen to sell jewelry.
It seems the only widespread education about jewelry valuation is attached to the engagement/wedding ring industry (side eye @ De Beers and its legacy). After reading some history books on jewelry and doing an amateur wholesale bead buy in the LA Jewelry District, I now understand the value of knowing the gem/metal valuation basics.
This is the jewelry I dream about: small rare talismans that are intensely personal and one-of-a-kind. Things that can’t be mass-produced. Craft and technique that’s been handed down person-to-person. Silversmith to silversmith. Welder to welder.
Here are four curated and highly-specific ideas for secondhand jewelry gifts. These are all beautiful old things that would make a stunning gift wrapped in a little velvet box and a black ribbon.
I’ve linked options for where to source these online.