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Jody DeFord, Red’s Shoe Diaries, modeling vintage jewels at G. Thrapp Jewelers

It wouldn’t do for me to develop a taste for vintage gems. As much as I love beautiful things, I’d be bankrupt by now. Or would I? After visiting G. Thrapp Jewelers last week, an excursion organized by the IMA’s Fashion Arts Society, I was almost persuaded that collecting jewels, especially the vintage or antique variety, could be more than just fun.

Owner Gary Thrapp regaled us with stories about the appreciative value of estate jewelry–any piece of jewelry once owned by someone who is—you guessed it—now dead. He described a diamond ring that lingered in his store for months. When it became clear that the local market wasn’t interested in the $15,000 ring, Thrapp took it to Christie’s in New York. It sold at auction for $97,000. That’s a mighty handsome return on an investment in my book.

With that kind of appreciation, I wondered whether investing in antique jewels might be as solid an investment as any other. Not necessarily, according to an article in Forbes earlier this year. Collecting jewels is trickier than picking stocks, it seems. The selling price of a vintage piece of estate jewelry depends on a lot of things, including its history, condition and current tastes. More to the point, jewelry isn’t a liquid investment.

The standouts

My favorites from the G. Thrapp visit were 1950s pieces.

And then there were these fabulous earrings with angel-skinned coral, diamonds and (I think) emeralds.

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They look as if they were made for my friend Jody DeFord, whose brilliant red hair and green eyes set them off like none other. They came with a matching bracelet. Mr. DeFord, if you’re looking for Christmas ideas for The Mrs., may I suggest that you give Mr. Thrapp a call? Your wife looked like a real movie star in these emeralds. Warning: the earrings and the bracelet are sold as a set.

Did you know that a serpent is an ancient symbol of eternal love? Mr. Thrapp shared that tidbit with us just before one of our fellow FAS members arrived. “If a man gives you a ring with a serpent design, it means you’ve got him right where you want him,” Thrapp said. Having joined our group later, our friend missed that point. But she arrived with a pouch of antique jewelry bestowed by her mother-in-law. As she presented them to Mr. Thrapp for inspection, I took note of the unusual ring on her finger–a gold serpent!

Fashion and Philanthropy

If you like the earrings Jody is wearing, do me a favor: Go to the Pink Ribbon Connection and make a donation in any amount to benefit women in central Indiana who are dealing with breast cancer. It’s all part of a year-long project called the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pink Sweater. When I visited G. Thrapp’s web site, I was thrilled to see that Mr. Thrapp has a heart for combining fashion with philanthropy, too. Check out the video on his main page.

What’s your favorite gem? I wonder what would happen if I invested all the money (and time)  I spend on fashion in something that actually holds its value. Ever think about that?

Life is short. Wear the good stuff.