The value of use for a piece of jewelry is determined by how many times it is worn over a lifetime. If a piece costing $10,000 is worn five times a year for forty years, each wearing comes to $50. On top of that, forty years later the value of the piece still remains. If the price increases due to inflation, it is like wearing the piece for free and getting change.  Furthermore, if there is a value of $10,000 for each wearing of the piece, that comes to a value of use of $2 million. In any case, the key to whether an appropriate choice was made lies in the number of times a piece is worn. Even if an engagement ring, which is not thought of as being worn often, is worn just a few times each year, that adds up to quite a number of times, and if its high-pronged diamond setting is matched to a band-type ring, the two can be worn and enjoyed together in a splendid and refined way.

In modern-day Japanese society, real jewelry is worn in daily life, but there are only two types of formal occasions where jewelry is worn. One is at celebrations and parties such as wedding receptions, and the other is during travel or at school functions. In the classless society of Japan, fancy parties such as those given in the West are nearly nonexistent, and there are no opportunities to wear extravagant necklaces or earrings. The jewelry trade in Japan has called for “creating occasions to wear jewelry,” but since there is no basis in that society for such occasions, in reality this would be difficult. Perhaps it would be most fitting to nurture and take advantage of the jewelry scene that conforms to the existing society and customs of Japan.

The appearance of a gemstone may change drastically depending on lighting conditions, causing stones to look beautiful under one type of lighting and lose their beauty under another. There are doubtless many people who have experienced disbelief when looking at a blackish ruby under the fluorescent lighting of their homes, wondering if it is really the same stone that they saw earlier under the bright spotlights of the stone showcase. Such a difference in appearance under different lighting is one of the characteristics of gemstones. Generally, red gemstones such as ruby are more attractive under incandescent lighting, while blue gems like sapphire show a more distinct blue color under fluorescent lighting. The rainbow-colored dispersion in diamond is displayed most beautifully when viewed in sunlight or bright artificial lighting.

The buyer and wearer of a gemstone may or may not be the same person. In Japan, middle-aged to elderly women will often make purchase decisions for items of several thousand dollars on their own. This is probably due to the fact that in Japanese society, the wife is often in the fortuitous position of “finance minister” over the husband’s paycheck deposits. Also, the logic is that jewelry is something that will eventually be passed down to daughters and daughters -in-law, and therefore is not a frivolous use of money. In the United States, it is customary for a husband to buy jewelry as a Christmas present for his wife. Even in Japan, an engagement ring is purchased by the groom and presented to the bride. I believe it is advisable to spend three month’s salary for an engagement ring. Considering that an engagement ring, unlike other gifts, is something that will come back with the bride after it is given, it makes sense to invest wholeheartedly in an engagement ring that will express your love, even if it means cutting back in other areas for a while. For a bride who already owns a diamond, as elegant ring with a ruby, emerald, or sapphire of gem quality as the main stone is recommended.

The chart on the next page lists stones in order of their Mohs hardness, from diamond at 10 down to lapis lazuli and turquoise at 5 to 6. Other than emerald, gemstones down to amethyst at hardness 7 have no problems with durability under normal use. In spite of its hardness, emerald is fragile and must not be worn while emerald in activities such as sports, household cleaning, or gardening. An elderly woman I know wore an emerald ring continuously for two years, after which the stone was badly chipped and fell out of its mounting, having become a worthless piece. Apparently this person had worn the ring every day, even while working in her garden.

Even a diamond will become somewhat scratched after it is worn over a long period of time, a phenomenon that can be observed in pieces reentering the market. The original condition can be restored by slight refinishing, but about two percent of the stone’s weight will be lost. When buying a 1-carat diamond, it is advisable to keep this in mind and give yourself some leeway by choosing a stone of 1.10 or 1.20 carats, avoiding stones that are between 1.00 and 1.02 carats.

Also, diamonds attract oils, causing surfaces to become cloudy and lessening their brilliance, so it is necessary to clean them every so often. The safest and most effective way to clean a diamond is to fill a wash basin with lukewarm water and brush the sides of the diamond with a soapy toothbrush. After rinsing, simply wipe it with a towel. Avoid washing jewelry directly in the sink to be safe in the unlikely event that a stone may come loose from its mounting. There is no need to worry about removing dirt from the back of the non-transparent stones jadeite, opal, turquoise, and lapis lazuli, but it is extremely important to clean the underside of all transparent stones just as with diamond. The reason for this is that the beautiful brilliance and color are affected by the refraction and reflection of light entering and existing from the bottom as well as the top of the stone. It is wondering to enjoy one’s own gemstones while maintaining them in the finest condition.