Showing posts with label jewelry. Show all posts
Showing posts with label jewelry. Show all posts

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Big Diamond

Photo from here, not that I think you want to buy an engagement ring, but to
give credit for the photo

Not long ago, I was standing in a crowded MRT car as the train hurtled towards Zhongxiao Fuxing. I looked down at the guy in the seat directly in front of me. He was  quiet, self-contained, a bit nerdy, had the look of an engineer or first-year market analyst. Those ubiquitous black thick-framed glasses sat on his nose. I noticed that he was pallid, hunched forward a bit, and his hands were shaking.

I was about to ask if he was OK - mostly out of self-interest, because if he was as close to hurling as he looked, my shoes were right in the line of fire - until I looked again and noticed the handles of a small bag wound through his blood-drained, earthquake fingers.

A small, bright blue bag. From Tiffany. Inside was a ring box. And then I thought: awwwwwww. Even though I'm not the kind of girl who melts over diamonds, it was still sweet. I mean, he could have been buying his mother diamond earrings - this is the country where Listen To Your Mom (聽媽媽的話) became a hit song - but judging from his apparent need for a sick bag, my guess is that he was about to propose.

I wanted to then say "加油!" (good luck / you go!)  but didn't - didn't want to freak him out any more than he clearly already was.      

What got me thinking, though, was that diamond engagement rings are only a fairly recent thing in Taiwan and are still not all that common. Someone else commented on this story - saying ask your non-Westernized local friends if they bought or received a diamond engagement ring. They probably didn't, because it's not the "done thing" here the way it is in the USA.

But, you know, I was surprised. I did do just that even though I don't have a lot of married, non-Westernized local friends (I do have a few). The majority of those under age 40 said that yes, they did in fact buy their fiancee a diamond engagement ring. I mostly asked the men - I don't have that many married, non-Westernized Taiwanese female friends. They're generally single or at least unmarried. I do plan to ask a few, though.

One student I was chatting with said that his wife wouldn't marry him until he bought her a Cartier diamond ring (he's an executive at a well-known company, so don't feel too bad. He didn't scrimp and save and go without to do this). Two more admitted that they bought their wives or fiancees rings - both still from Cartier. So Cartier seems to be the default place to buy a ring if you're an under-40 upper middle class Taiwanese man about to get engaged.

My own engagement ring - I think I've posted it before. Check out the AWESOME DRAGON

The one person who said no, he did not buy his wife a diamond ring, was the student over 40. I didn't ask a friend of mine who is 40 because he married at about 20 - too long ago (back when it wasn't a "thing") and far too young and just starting out to be buying diamonds.

I was just surprised at how many "yes"s I got - I expected at least an equal number of "yes" and "no" answers, since there's no history of diamond marketing in Taiwan. All those LED-covered shiny "Bridal Diamond" stores you see - especially around Zhongxiao Dunhua, where Hearts on Fire's sign will make you go blind if you look at it directly - seem to be a new thing, not something that started gaining momentum in the early-to-mid 20th century as it did in the USA.

New as it is, it seems to be surging.

I can't say I'm happy about it: the diamond-is-the-only-acceptable-engagement-ring cult in the USA makes me a bit ill. People can like what they like and spend what they want on whatever they want and yes, diamonds are puuuuurty, but the marketing practices, the prices forced up as high as they are and the whole conflict diamond thing stirs great acrimony and sadness in me. I don't really want to see it come to Taiwan.

One thing that was great about living in Taiwan during my engagement was that nobody questioned the fact that I did not get - and did not choose, and would not have chosen - a diamond. In the US during our brief visit it wasn't a big deal, either, because I surround myself with awesome, loving people who wouldn't make shallow "but it's not a DIIIAAAMMMOOONNNDDD" remarks, but if I'd lived there for the entire engagement, someone who wasn't a friend or beloved relative probably would have said something like that - you can't be just around your loved ones 24/7. Sometimes you have to deal with others. Sometimes those others are great, sometimes they're, for lack of a better word, nincompoops.

But in Taiwan, it was totally cool. I didn't even really need a ring to be accepted as "engaged". No judgment, no problem. I would hate to see that eroded by Big Diamond.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Dreary Day DIY

The purple and silver necklace I made on this chilling, gray Saturday

Every time I've complained about the weather this past winter, I've thought that "well, I'm complaining now, but it's not that bad - I mean it couldn't get any worse than this, so it can only get better from here."

(I'm like that because, as I've said before, I'm an Obasan-in-Training. At barely 30 years old, I am doing a superb job of being ornery and opinionated and - dare I say it? - crotchety. I like to think it's endearing).

Right. So, I was wrong. I didn't realize it was possible for the weather to grow more dismal and dreary but somehow, it did. Clearly the God of Gray Skies (I like to think it's Chiang Kai-Shek) has decided to shed his "favor" upon us with more gloomy vigor.

And when it gets this nasty out, what else is there to do but drink good coffee and do some DIY? You can't go to a museum, because those'll be too crowded on a cold, rainy Saturday. You can go out to eat but how long can you faff about in a restaurant (quite a bit, actually, but only if you don't mind servers "subtly" swiping the broom under your feet at the point where you're staying just long enough to make it awkward).

Not really how I want to spend my Saturday, though. So we headed to George Coffee, where I've done my DIY beading before and they don't mind - I'd feel weird doing it at a lot of the places we otherwise frequent, and many of them have cats. It's fine when my cat bats a bead off the table and I can retrieve it, but a cat in a cafe flinging beads onto the floor is a new level of annoying. The folks at George as so cool about it that the bring me a spare table light so I can see what I'm doing more clearly.

As you may know if you read this blog somewhat regularly, I am totally into DIY, mostly beading and jewelrymaking (I draw, too, but that's different). I made my own wedding necklace:

Photos above and below by Keira Lemonis

...and for our musician (a good friend) and female attendants:

...including the feather-leaf corsage.

And what a good use of the day, too! In weather that would otherwise render me thoroughly unproductive (but I'm also 3/4 of the way through a longer post on vegetarianism and travel, so there's that) I managed to finish off the necklace above. I made a similar one for my friend Emily - in black, green and silver - as part of a "Pay It Forward for Creative People" Facebook challenge, and I wanted my own. So I hunkered down and made it.

The best DIY shops, by the way, are all in the vicinity of (but not necessarily on) Dihua Street. I'm planning to head back to that neighborhood soon, and when I do I'll get the true addresses of my two favorite spots for DIY beading and jewelry supplies and post them here as an update. One of them gives out a discount VIP card (a small keychain you show them) that gives you a 20% discount on most merchandise, and they have some good stuff: from truly expensive pearls and semiprecious stones to crystal to shell to glass to plastic.

The beads in the necklace above are mostly crystal and glass, but the larger ones are all real amethysts (not an expensive stone, so fairly affordable to buy real). The fixtures and findings are, of course, not real silver, but who cares.

Which actually brings me to Reason #14 to love Taiwan: cheap, accessible, generally high-quality DIY materials, especially for jewelrymaking! I bought every one of these supplies in Taiwan, from around Dihua Street, from Yongle Market (the feathers), from the Jianguo Weekend Flower Market (dried leaf skeletons), from Taipei City Mall (a few places that sell semiprecious beads) - all for a lot less than they charge for that stuff back home.

I'm curious to hear how you spend your dreary days in Taipei: we get an awful lot of them and ideas on what to do - what you do - through these depressingly gray months would surely be of help to other bored, gloomy expats in Taipei on days like this.