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How I Win Over Young People Who ‘Don’t Like Jewelry’

Sell jewelry as the powerful talisman it always has been.

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WHY DO WE, HUMANS, have such a thing as jewelry?

I don’t think it was intended to mark status originally, back when we were walking around naked and hunting bears and living in caves. I think, on the contrary, it was because of the unforgettable experience of suddenly coming face to face with something amazing, a small thing that shimmered, so unlike anything else in your life, so special, that from that moment on, you knew your life was changed forever.

You held onto that gem, or pearl, or gold crystal, and knew you had to hold onto it, no matter what. But how? You had no pockets, you wore leaves, or maybe nothing! So you had to figure out some way of drilling it, or wrapping it, and, inevitably, hung it about your neck. In every culture, the first jewelry is always a pendant, one thing protected. When you have something around your neck, you are going to fondle it, and soon you become very attached to it; maybe it will protect you and become your secret power. And that, which I call Transcendence, is why we have such a thing as jewelry!

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So when your customer moans, “My daughter does not even like jewelry!” smile and resolve to bring back the magic. In a corner of my gallery, there is a partially enclosed space called the Gem Room with drawers of tourmalines, amethysts and colored sapphires and such, and I enjoy inviting people in to discuss custom work.

But when I see a young adult coming in, quick, before they whip out their electronics, I challenge them: “You look like someone who would like raw gems! Let me show you something unusual!” and I whisk them away to the Gem Room (while the parent goes about their business). I place in their hand a large raw lapis, full of pyrite stars, a piece of opal rough with a shimmering stripe in one corner, or a huge slice of watermelon tourmaline. A transformation! They are now alive.

Then you say “Wouldn’t this be right for Game Of Thrones (or a warrior in Wakanda)?” Then tell them where it came from, how hard it is to find and ask them, yes, to imagine themselves as a prehistoric human walking out of a cave, suddenly finding something amazing like this: wouldn’t they want to somehow keep it? But they have no pockets, they’d have to find a way to drill it, wrap it, maybe, and that is how jewelry comes into being. Then you walk away and let them play for a while.

You know that now they get it.

Eve J. Alfille is the owner of Eve J. Alfille Gallery and Studio in Evanston, IL.

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