Town and Country

I am a long time subscriber to Town and Country magazine.  I’m sure I took the subscription because I had once read an interesting article and I got an offer too good to refuse.  This month’s issue is on Family Philanthropy.  It contains the names you would expect and their donations of millions to make the world a better place (and probably taking a very nice tax deduction for their generosity).  It has little to do with me, whose cash donations tend to be spontaneous and usually to a cause or a situation that touches my heart – animal shelters, animals who need donations for a life saving operation, or someone I know who has run into problem that they did not foresee.  And while my donations may not change the world, I can only hope that they make a difference to the animal or person I have tried help.

But this blog isn’t about philanthropy.  It is about the real reason I have continued to get Town and County.  I now publicly confess it is about the jewelry (and the horoscopes, but that is another topic entirely). Every month, I get to look at baubles and important jewelry – admire it and wonder who the hell is buying this stuff?  I imagine it is trophy wives, trust fund women and wives of important hedge fund managers, whose glamorous lives are dutifully recorded in society columns and on the pages of glossy magazines and whose ‘careers’ depend on being perfectly dressed and accessorized for the photo.

I have jewelry-the same stuff you probably have – gold earrings and necklaces, a few diamond rings, and pearls, and an assortment of good costume and a few handcrafted items (I admit to a weakness for glass enameled pieces). There is a diamond necklace and a Tahitian black pearl ring, which mostly sit in the safe, because most of the places I go don’t warrant that level of glamour.  For many years, in my conservative career, wearing such things would not only be out of place, but also be frowned upon as ostentatious, and give tax payers the wrong impression.

For years, my gold-standard for jewelry was Tiffany.  I have a gold watch that I bought there.  But thanks to Town and Country, I have been awakened to a whole other world of jewelry.  Cartier, Van Cleef and Arpels, Harry Winston, and an assortment of other companies who make beautiful things.  For example, in this month’s issue, Cartier introduces their “Amulette de Cartier”, which is a necklace with a gold disc pendant, inset with a jade or textured gold, or lapis 3/4 disk with a diamond in the middle.  Very wearable and I’m sure a lot of wealthy women will be snapping them up for their casual days.  Harry Winston is more “in your face”  with a diamond pendant of multiple dimonds, the smallest, probably half a caret.  He also offers a spin on the cocktail ring of multiple diamonds (11), set in a artful wave.  But to me, the most curious offering is from Van Cleef & Apels. It is called “Buton d’or necklace of yellow good, chryoprase, onyx and diamonds.  It is a shorter necklace, and as the name suggests, it is made up of “buttons” of gold, chryoprase, and onyx, each set tiny diamond in each one.  Perfectly conservative, and would be exquisite on a simple black dress.  Very Bunny Mellon(and FYI, she was rumored to keep her fine jewelry in a box under her bed).   There are pages and pages of ads for beautiful sparkly things, and countless ads for fine watches (does anyone even wear a watch anymore?)

But of course, there is the price to consider.  Did you know that the ruby necklace that Julia Roberts wore in Pretty Woman cost $250,000, and there armed guards that stood by on the set?  Town and Country ads usually do not contain a price in their ads – I guess along the lines of “if you have to ask how much it costs, you can’t afford it”.   Or perhaps they don’t want to risk throwing the rest of us into depression because we cannot afford likely one of their creations now, or most likely ever, and we certainly wouldn’t be keeping them in a box under the bed.

I was in Neiman Marcus (or Needless Mark up, as some refer to it) one day.  A woman was frantically trying to decide on evening bags while her husband sat impatiently by. She was trying to decide between a Chanel evening bag ($1800)  and another bag, that was slightly more expensive.  As she continued to dither more than 10 minutes (yes, I watch, fascinated to know which she would choose), her husband finally said “damn it!  Get both, so we can get out of here”.  I hope for her sake, he was equally impatient in the jewelry salon.

Until next time – Elsie


















Going Broke Saving Money

Lately, I have been thinking about all the rewards programs I belong too.  There is one at the grocery store that gives me a special price with my card; there is one at two different drug stores, that give me points to be redeemed for I don’t know what.  My Nordstrom purchases give me “reward” points, which periodically shows up in the form of a $20 Nordstrom Note.  I have no idea what threshold I have to spend to get the $20 Note.  Interestingly enough, when my account was hacked and someone charged $7000 worth of designer merchandize on my card (and had it shipped to Philadelphia), I got a $200 Nordstrom Note, but then it wasn’t mine to keep.  When I shopped at Talbots, before the clothes got so dowdy again,  I got a $25 reward for spending over $500, if I used my Talbots charge.  And Chico’s where I do shop sends me certificates all the time for a discount – usually $25 after I spend $100.  But everything is priced ending in “9” so nothing is ever $100.  If I buy a top for $99.00, I will have to go look for another pair of earrings, a scarf or some other thing that will take me over the magic $100, and my total will end up $129.  It never ends.

It occurs to me that root of all of these rewards is me spending money.  If I go into the store and buy something, my purchase never quite reaches the amount needed for the discount, so therefore, I have to buy more things to meet the threshold, 90% of the time spending well over the threshold.  Right now I have two ten dollar off coupons for DSW, and of course, I’m on the site and in the store, looking for something that I want.  I got these for already buying 2 pairs of shoes.  But who passes up the chance to get 20%  off shoes.

And now the banks have gotten into the act.   For years I avoided credit cards with an annual fee so I could get points for airlines that only honored my rewards on the 3rd Tuesday of the month, if I flew after midnight and consented to sit in the very last row.  Now I have 5 credit cards that offer me cash back, some tiny fraction of what ever I spend on groceries, gas and my online purchases.  The best one, accumulates cash that can be applied to my balance.  But the others either require that I spend them in a specific place (think Costco and American Express).  But the bottom line is always I have to spend money to get money.

When I used to travel, everyone used to buy things they didn’t need because the price was so great.  Sapphire bracelets, ruby rings, emerald earrings because when would you be able to buy something like this again at this price?  Most of the stuff ended up in the safety deposit box, never worn, but we all saved a bunch.  In the Middle East, it was rugs. It wasn’t that we needed rugs, but once again who could pass up the price?  We all could have retired early on all we saved, by spending our money on things we didn’t need.  In one rug store the seller kept lowering his price, because I kept telling him my husband would be upset if I spent the money.  He thought it was my negotiating strategy, but in fact it was quite true.

So I’m thinking about the nature of spending cash.  No more rewards, but I would probably only buy the things I really need.  And I could stop going broke saving money.

Until next time – Elsie