What is “Unique”?

We all want to be unique. Failing that we all want our things to be unique. At least that seems to be the conclusion marketing gurus came to a few years ago. Lately it seems that the drive to label things unique —or custom, or limited edition, or “couture” or whatever the catchphrase of the minute is— has become a compulsion completely divorced from reality.

My enough-is-enough moment came during rush hour on the interstate. At 10mph you have a lot of time to read billboards. Worse, you have a lot of time to really think about what the billboards mean. I won’t torture you with all the details —the sun beating through the windshield, the minivan driver convinced that persistent honking could just make a few thousand other vehicles disappear— suffice it to say I had a lot of time to stare at a billboard for a chain offering “personalized” burgers. Yep. Personalized  burgers. Personalized mass produced burgers. Apparently being able to request onions or no onions makes it “personal.”

Now I don’t know about you but I have always thought that “personal” is, well, personal. Ditto unique. And as for customized? For something to be truly custom it should be at least a little more customized than a selection of options chosen from a narrow menu shared with a few million other people.

I’ve always thought that jewelry is the most personal object most people will ever buy or wear. (You could probably make the argument that jewelry that is received as a gift is doubly personal… but it probably depends on the circumstances of the gift.) And yet… these days an awful lot of jewelry isn’t much more custom, unique or personalized than a t-shirt.

I grew up in the jewelry world and I have worked making mass produced jewelry and I will never dismiss or demean the value of “commercially produced” jewelry. Mainly because I understand the parameters that limit and define what you can do if you are making 500 necklaces or 2,000 bracelets or 20,000 rings for that matter. Quite simply it isn’t just about price. In the world of jewelry design volume is as much of a limiting factor as cost. If you are mass producing a design the cost of the materials will limit what you can do, but the volume of materials you require will also limit what you can do. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how much money you can afford to spend, you just won’t find 20,000 identical stones in a particular size, color or quality.

The natural world is the mother of “unique.” Any given gem source has the potential of producing the good, the bad, the ugly and the incredibly beautiful. And all within the course of the same year. The natural world is about variety. Mass production is about consistency.

Personally I love consistency —for certain things. I also love variety. Most of all I love honesty. I also think people who want something unique should have the option of having something that is really unique, personal, collectible, maybe even, gasp, custom! So I’ll make you a deal. I promise that every single strand of beads on our website really is rare or unusual for some reason (or really really pretty) and that every single one of our Finished Necklaces really is one of a kind.

Yes, one of a kind. Not one of five hundred, or ten thousand or even one of fifty. One of a kind. Completely unique. Just like you there will be only one. And you’ll promise to have a bit of compassion next time you see a woman having a mini-meltdown when someone asks her if she’d like her ice-tea “customized” with a wedge of lemon. Deal?


Unique Gems


Not Unique