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December 19, 2008

Me want sparkly sparkles!

December 19. Day 172.

For years, I've wanted a pair of diamond earrings. I've debated with myself, argued with all the arguments, hashed it out in every possible way. I know they present a complicated set of opportunities and horrific abuses for mine workers and their communities (e.g. this 2006 Times piece on the subject). I know they're a status symbol fabricated by the jewelry industry to prey on gals like me and the men who love them. I know as a lit grad student I should be thinking Derrida, not diamonds. And I know they're unoriginal, in the worst of ways. I know they're just chipped carbon.

And yet... they purdy!!!

Sparkle sparkle make me happy.

Me want.

So this afternoon, spurred on by promises of "great deals" for tough times -- more on that myth below -- I headed to a local mall to at least take a gander at the options, and perhaps let myself be seduced...

First stop: Macy's.

I'd read online about their "doorbuster" special for $199 a pair, but when I saw the earrings in person they were completely uninteresting. Not that diamond studs are ever interesting, unless Audrey Hepburn comes to life wearing them and invites you to have dinner with her at Harry's. But these were just dark and drab.

When I told her I wasn't convinced, the saleswoman explained that she's buying them for her daughter-in-law for Christmas, as if that were a selling point.

Ciao ciao.

Levi & Sons

For the next hour, I wove in and out of about half a dozen stores. Zales, Kay, Levi & Sons, Whitehall, Weisfield, and perhaps one more. Half had "CLEARANCE" and 40% to 70% off signs.

The first thing the first saleswoman asked me when I walked in and told her I wanted earrings was: "Are these for you?"

Odd question. Why would she need to ask? Was she trying to guess my budget? Did she want to confirm her hypothesis that I was selfish GenY-er?

I replied yes. She smiled and directed me toward a pair. Blinding pricetag.

Ciao ciao.

Next stop: Zales

Both sales women independently complimented my purse, and one asked to touch it. (It's soft eel skin.)

I strategically confessed that it was a thrift store find ($7, baby!) which got them in a tizzy. Good -- establishing rapport, even if it's fake, and showing I'm a dealhunter. They took turns bringing out a few styles, discounted to $450 to $1200, and offered no payments, no interest for six months. I asked for a discount on top of the sale, and the more senior saleswoman said she could knock off another 10%.

I told her it was still a big purchase, I needed to think about it, so she extended the payment plan to 12 months.

I seriously don't understand why such plans are appealing. For a car, a bed, maybe. You need it. NOW. Even if you're broke. But diamond earrings? On the other hand, who am I to judge others for having their priorities upsidedown. Especially under these circumstances.

The younger woman then explained that I can "trade up" -- purchase a small pair now and use them as partial payment for a heftier pair in a few years. And here I thought a diamond is forever.


At one store -- perhaps Weisfield, but I'm quickly losing track -- the saleswoman asked me what I'm looking for. I told her I didn't have my heart set on any one item, but if she had something amazing that worked with my budget, I might be interested. She showed me a pair that was similar in size and lettering (you know, EFG, S1-2, all that stuff) as something from Zales, for twice the price.

I was very direct: "To be honest, these are twice as much as something identical I saw another store."

"Sure you can find something cheaper at Whitehall, but they're not going to have our quality," she replied.

Whitehall? Good to know...

She went on explain that their diamond is guaranteed -- if it falls out or combusts in my ear, they'll replace the gem at no cost. Then, she tried to upsell: "We also offer an additional protection plan, which covers the gold. In case it gets bent, we can fix that at no charge." You mean for the exorbitant fee I paid up front to secure this free service.

Finally, she went for the kill: "Diamonds are like... cars. It's not a one-time purchase. You need to devote time and resources to take care of them, maintain them, polish them, clean them. That's why we recommend getting the additional protection plan."

Spoken to the woman who washes her car twice a decade.

Ciao ciao.


Thanks to her suggestion, I headed to Whitehall, across the atrium.

The store is shutting down and had huge 70% signs everywhere. EVERYWHERE. Screaming desperation. I glanced at the prices, only they didn't seem very desperate. $2,000 and up, for the most part. A saleswoman looked tired.

"Is there anything you want to see?"

"Yes, I'm curious about your studs. Is that 70 percent off the marked price?"

"No, what's marked is the discounted price."

"I see. If I find a pair I like, would you be able to go any lower?"

"Twenty percent."

I found a pair that came to $340. They were nice. But I wasn't feeling it. Truth be told, something at I'd seen at Zales, something bigger and sparklier, caught my eye. Was I that greedy? Or was I just making excuses to escape empty-handed?

Ciao ciao, at least for now.


Quick stop, nothing heartstopping.

JC Penny

The counter was overtaken by a throng of dudes, so I had to wait a bit. Nothing had a visible price tag, which was annoying.

About five or six minutes later, the saleswoman appeared.

She was totally relaxed, and seemed informed. Told me everything was half off. Yet it was still much more than the better prices I'd seen. And one of the most expensive pieces had a whopping black thing in the middle of it. And inclusion, she explained, when I pointed it out.

I'd call it an exclusion.

Ciao ciao.


With only a drop of effort I negotiated a maximum savings of $120 at Zales -- which would have dropped lower, I'm certain, if I went back and actually tried hard core bargaining.

Until I make the move -- or if I make it -- I can glance at this picture to remind me what it is I'm so anxious to purchase:

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