Table Speech

Why Do We Adorn Ourselves? – The Value of Jewelry –

January 23, 2019

Mr. Tomohiro Ueda
President, Uyeda Jeweler

 While most women feel exhilarated by the word “jewelry,” it makes the majority of men feel anxious. Interesting enough, jewelry presents the largest gender gap when it comes to its reception, mainly caused by the misconception that jewelry is synonymous with extravagance, wealth and vanity. My speech today will focus on the following three points: 1) the reason we adorn ourselves, 2) the asset value of jewelry, and 3) the latest jewelry market in Japan.

 The world’s oldest known jewelry/accessory is a set of shell beads estimated to be 75,000 years old, discovered from a cave in South Africa in 2004. Personal ornaments have been excavated from almost all ruins around the world, proving jewelry is among the oldest tools invented by humanity. It is said there are 4 main reasons why we adorn ourselves: 1) to invite good luck, 2) to fulfill our essential needs to play as “homo ludens (playful man)”, 3) to dissimilate ourselves, or 4) to assimilate ourselves. The latest brain science research has revealed that beautiful objects stimulate our nerve cells within the medial prefrontal cortex and drive us to capture them. In other words, we adorn ourselves as beautiful ornaments symbolize vitality and we are urged to fulfill our basic instinct for survival.

 In 2017, a 59.60 carat (ct) pink diamond achieved the record price of about 8 billion yen at the auction in Hong Kong. The asset value of a diamond is evaluated by its weight (1ct equals 0.2g), color and clarity. While the price of a diamond is assessed against an objective standard, when it comes to pricing other colored gemstones, the price can differ largely by various factors, with its quality, country of origin and size playing an important part. But there is no doubt that “beauty” is the core value that underpins all other elements.

 The jewelry market in Japan developed rapidly during the post-War high-economic growth period. Japan had enjoyed the world’s 2nd largest market size following the USA, up to the rise of the Chinese market. Today our market has shrunk to one-third but still totals 1 trillion yen. As our market has become increasingly mature, it has become more polarized. On the one hand, accessories for everyday use have expanded with the advancement of women in the workplace. On the other hand, accessories with high asset value and spiritual worth have come to be handed down over generations. There remains a lot more to speak about jewelry that enjoys a history as extensive as mankind. Yet as I conclude my speech and to make a long story short, “beautiful objects make us all happy.”