Treat Yourself

I think of designer jewelry the same way I do fine art: beautiful, expensive and best left in its original habitat.

And then I found something I just had to have. Unfortunately for me, no one wanted to sell it. At least, not to me.


In fairness to the jewelry gallery I visited earlier this week in Riga, I walked in wearing a ski cap and a pair of high tops. “Could you point me to the nearest basketball court?” is probably what they were expecting me to ask. And they had no time for that. They were busy setting up for a new exhibition, which prompted a sales clerk to steer me into the back room and invite me to “open all the drawers.” I assumed there was a translation issue until she showed me how the cabinets worked.

“Try on anything you want,” she said. I didn’t have to. I instantly fell in love with an oxidized silver and gold plated ring. It would go with everything I owned, up to and including my high top sneakers.

Twenty minutes later, after I walked around the rest of the store with the ring on my finger, I decided to buy it. I went to the counter and waited for someone – anyone – to acknowledge I was there. When, after several minutes, that didn’t happen, I walked over to the woman who had let me into the shop, handed her the ring and said, “I’ll buy this.”

“OK,” she said, looking the item over. “This is by Gigi Mariani, an Italian designer.” She crossed the gallery to a bookshelf and handed me a catalog. “Here. You can take a look at some of his work.”

I flipped through the booklet. “Very nice,” I said.

“He works in silver, and he oxidizes it with air,” she explained. “But this ring has gold plating as well. All pieces are one-of-a-kind, hand-made.”

“I see,” I said, wondering why we still weren’t making our way back to the sales counter.

“If you’re here on Thursday, we’re having an exhibition opening. You’re welcome to come.”

“Thank you,” I said. “Can I buy the ring then?”

“I can set aside for you,” she answered.

“It’s not for sale until then?” I asked.

“It’s for sale now,” she said. “But I can set it aside for you. That’s no problem.”

I was lost. Not only was the clerk not trying to sell me the ring, but she seemed to be actively preventing me from buying it. It was expensive, sure, but it wasn’t so extravagant a purchase that someone on a European vacation couldn’t afford it. If she thought it was, she probably shouldn’t have let me paw all over it unattended for the past half hour.

“I just got my tax return and a bonus,” I said to her, as though I needed to pass a credit check. “I’ll buy it now.”

“You’ll buy it now?” the woman repeated. “Oh, I misunderstood. Just one moment,” she said before rounding the corner out of view. I couldn’t see what she did there, but judging by what happened next, my guess is that she flapped her arms like a sea gull and frantically mouthed, “Someone is BUYING SOMETHING!!!” to the rest of her colleagues.

When she reappeared a few seconds later, she was carrying two different sized gift boxes and an industrial-sized spool of hot pink ribbon. “Which box would you like?” she asked. Before I could answer, a second clerk appeared with a bottle of Prosecco and sample of gourmet chocolates. “Have you heard about the exhibition on Thursday?” she asked. “Do you need a card?” Then came a third clerk, this one carrying a fabric-bound, full-color artists’ guide to Riga. “First time here?” she asked. “You can have this.”

In the background, I noticed that the first salesperson had dropped the spool of ribbon and was now chasing several yards of fabric across the floor. I did my best to ignore her as I flipped through the guidebook I had just been gifted. When I looked up a few seconds later, I saw that Clerks #2 and 3 now crouched at the bookcase, a puddle of brochures and catalogs at their feet. “We have a book on Gigi Mariani for you,” one said, holding up the book I had browsed earlier. “But we can’t find a new copy. This one is made out to someone else.”

“That’s quite alright,” I said, signing my credit card receipt. “I won’t be able to take that home with me anyway. But thank you.”

And with that, all three ladies walked me out the front door and reminded me to come back to the exhibition opening in a few days. I can only imagine that the second I was out of eyesight, they locked the front door and celebrated with an elaborate end zone dance.


“I bought myself a present,” I texted my friend.

“Let me see,” she replied.

I sent her a photo of my new purchase. “I was tired of waiting for someone else to buy me a ring,” I typed. I watched as the telltale “thought bubble” appeared and disappeared for a full minute. She was choosing her words carefully – never a good sign.

“Cool,” she said finally.

“It is cool,” I replied. “Thank you.”

“Haha,” she wrote. “I was expecting diamonds.”

“Well it’s not an engagement ring,” I said.

“No, it’s not,” she agreed. “It’s nice!”

“It’s heavy,” I replied. I don’t know why that’s important but it feels like it is. In fact, I can almost hear my father saying, “You hit someone with that, and you’re gonna leave a mark,” which is maybe where I get my warped sense of romance in the first place. Who looks at a ring and immediately imagines what it would be like to punch someone in the face while wearing it?

I don’t care what anyone says, I think this ring is perfect. It’s better than an engagement ring. It’s like five engagement rings smashed together and then set on fire. And if that’s not an apt metaphor for my love life, I don’t know what is.

I’m a longtime believer in giving myself gifts. I buy myself something special for Valentines Day and Christmas and I always make sure I have something new to wear on New Year’s and my birthday. When I get a promotion, raise or bonus at work, I gift myself something proportionate. I justify this frivolous spending in two ways: I should treat myself exactly as well as I would my significant other (if I had one) under the same circumstances; and I shouldn’t have to wait for someone else to show up and buy me nice things when I’m perfectly capable of doing it myself.

Anyone who’s been following my adventures for the past year knows that I have no problem spending money on myself. But lately my gifts have come in the form of airline tickets and car rentals, as opposed to my old standbys of handcrafted furniture and designer handbags. I didn’t need this ring, but I loved it. And I think every woman in her mid-30s deserves to have at least one piece of jewlery on heavy rotation.

Self-gifting is an expression and reflection of self-worth. If you’re not doing it yet, I hope you start. And may you pick a place that throws in a free bottle of champagne and some chocolates.

  1. That’s a knock-me-down ring if ever I saw one, and the bracelet on the other arm works really well with it.

    Took me a long time to get over the “I’m not worth it” syndrome, and while I usually manage to justify what I buy (frankly it is hard for a woman my age to justify Legos, lol), I don’t justify myself out of doing it.

    And truly, I never could see the sense of letting someone else buy your perfume, either, since they are smelling it on a different woman (and one would want to know why and where–or maybe not) who does not have your scent attached.

    You probably made that clerk’s whole week. Definitely a win win day.

    • You’re sweet. I wear the bracelet every day… so that was part of the appeal of the ring. They match. And they both go with my high tops. So important.

      I hope you buy yourself a gift for your next birthday, holiday or special occasion. Something nice. Nicer than Legos. You’re worth it. I’m all but certain.

  2. Oh, I do. This year I’m due for the ‘good perfume” and I have all summer to decide. But hey, Legos are my one lace indulgence that never goes bad.
    (We all have ’em)

  3. I’m with you girl! Self-gifting is a way of life for me. Well, I mean, who else would buy me those gifts (rolling my eyes).

    When I bought my condo, the final contract signing happened near my bday. When I went to the bank, the bank manager said ‘happy bday, oh I see you bought yourself a big gift.’ I replied, ‘yup, that’s how I roll.’

    • YES! One day, I hope to buy myself a condo half as fabulous as yours :) I hope you’re enjoying it to the max!

  4. I LOVE buying myself presents. I do for every Birthday! Your ring is beautiful.
    When I read your story all I could think of was that scene in Pretty Woman, where the sales clerks at the fancy Beverly Hills store wouldn’t serve Julia Roberts’ character. “Big mistake! Huge!” ;)

    • Good for you! We should all buy ourselves presents… and when we do, may the clerks assume we’re movie stars and not prostitutes. Thanks for reading! xx

  5. As a traveler you may appreciate my recent birthday gift to myself. I bought my first piece of Briggs & Riley luggage. I don’t travel as much as you but enough that I wanted a good piece of luggage after having bargain basement brand pieces for most of my life. Self gifting is the only way you get exactly what you want! I love the ring!

    • Good for you! I totally applaud that. One day I will invest in good luggage. But for now, it’s all utilitarian… Osprey all the way :) Thanks so much for reading and I hope you take your new suitcase out for a spin soon! xx

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