The Value of Gemstones

I have always known that value does not reside in objects but rather in the perception of objects. And that value is contagious, working in the same model as a culture of bacteria on a Petri dish: the initial inoculation of low numbers, the slow inception, the rise to exponential figures, to a plateau population of pure saturation, until it dies due to over-congestion. And that shoppers are willing to pay at different “price points”, depending on how much Gucci/Louis Vuitton/Versace is in a product. That is why easily visible goods like tshirts, shoes, dark sunglasses, watches, handbags and luggage are the best inventory that is able to let their owner unload the logo onto onlookers. In architecture, they may be telling a story of a sculptural symphony of titanium but really people see it as the museum being rich enough to have a Gehry in their city. But strangely enough, it also works in reverse proportion, where value is diluted if the logo noise is loud. The absence of obvious indications means connoisseurship is needed to read the code of luxury. For example, the single red line for Prada. And architecture works on this level too, with details that are signature to a particular architect that are left for fellow designers to decode.

Jewelry remains a vital element to convey luxury in getting dressed because it underlines the desire for order, for composition, for intelligence. Beyond the primary symbolic power: that of announcing an order as inflexible as that of things, it is humanity's poetic imagination that was able to conceive of stones that were made to wear. And the piece of jewelry reigns over clothing not because it is absolutely precious but because it plays a crucial role in making clothing mean something (Barthes, 64).

All the jewels in the chosen films revolve around the innocence and infamy of the value of the gemstone -- the naivete and respect holly golightly has for them, the means to an end john robie sees in them, the indifference but display of the them nonetheless for the socialites in La Dolce Vita.

In this, luxury is an inadvertent shortcut to find meaning in a transitory world and luxury is always socially constructed.

“Borrowed value” is a technique that a lot of branding companies utilize because proximity generates worth; in other words, value leaks.

The Stendhal Syndrome is “a psychosomatic illness that causes rapid heartbeat, dizziness, confusion and even hallucinations when an individual is exposed to art, usually when the art is particularly beautiful or a large amount of art is in a single place. The term can also be used to describe a similar reaction to a surfeit of choice in other circumstances, e.g. when confronted with immense beauty in the natural world. It is named after the famous 19th century French author Stendhal (pseudonym of Henri-Marie Beyle), who described his experience with the phenomenon during his 1817 visit to Florence, Italy in his book Naples and Florence: A Journey from Milan to Reggio.” [wikipedia]

But there can also be more modern equivalents to this condition.

Take for example Truman Capote’s “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” with Holly Golightly’s reverie’s in the store Tiffany & Co curing her of the “mean reds”:
“Not that I give a hoot about jewelry…[it’s] the quietness and the proud look of it…that lovely smell of silver and alligator wallets.” (39, Capote)

There is the emotional attachment to even the most confected displays of luxury. It is due to the concept of proximity to value. The fairytale-like stories that make our minds associate the self within the dream. Because value resides in the perception of the object, (as Rolling Stones coined the phrase) perception IS reality.

First I must define “old luxury”. Old style luxury is based on actual patina of old age. The notion of authenticity is upheld by official records. It stems from traditional roots of aristocracy and is a rare item. That is not to say it deserves to be valued more highly than other items, because as I mentioned before, it is still a socially constructed assumption. [expand here] New luxury on the other hand is all in the marketing and packaging, because once the production is tied to machines and computers, you have to tell a story in order to separate it from the rest of the pack. And advertising, contrary to popular belief does not invent desire, it just expresses desire with the hopes of exploiting it over and over (157, Twitchell). Every “new luxury” store attempts to manufacture desire through its spaces. I want to explore which are the most effective ways, and what we can learn about ourselves (and our society) in the process.

Luxury is hard to define because more often than not, money is not an indication, only a repercussion. The issues of quality, taste, and rarity all feed into its formalization. And of course, that is a large part of its allure. And a collection of items that exemplify luxury speaks to a certain aspect of cultural literacy, a litmus of aesthetic sense, a pulse on the proverbial. At a time when attention and care to the individual object is rapidly decreasing, the importance of things in general seem to be on the exponential rise. So this synthesis comes at an opportune time to reassess where the archetype of things mass-produced originate. The golden age of Hollywood is an era that encapsulates glamour at its cinematic height. From the lavishly costumed and expensively marketed studio beauties, to Technicolor's three-strip colour process yielding saturated cinematography, to more scenes filmed in exotic locations (now somewhat familiarized with ease of air travel and World War Two), the 1950s and 1960s produced a bevy of intoxicatingly glamorous films befitting the burgeoning consumer economy (Pomerance, 15).

No comments: