Desperate men turn to diamonds

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Call them “Desperate Husbands” — men who wait until the last minute to go Christmas shopping. Men who wear procrastination as a badge of honor.

Girlie men shop online or visit the mall in November, wrap their presents and stash them in the closet.

Real men put off shopping until Dec. 24.

Because men don’t shop. They buy. They are goal-oriented. And what they end up buying is jewelry.

Diamond jewelry, to be exact. Square-shaped or pear-shaped, from Harry Winston to Wal-Mart, from Tiffany’s to Target, the most dangerous place to be on Christmas Eve is between a desperate husband and a jewelry counter.

“We have men rolling up at 3:30 on Christmas Eve,” said Katie Mulcahy, manager of the Old Town Alexandria jewelry store Mystique. “They know exactly what they want. We love that. They’re easier to sell if they’re desperate.”Men, she explained, do not have a Plan B. Most likely, in the most dire cases, say five minutes before the store’s closing, they will buy up rather than down. “A lot of times you can guilt them into spending more,” she said. Because at that point, the only alternative is a Chia Pet from the 7-Eleven.

Mystique rakes in at least one-third of its annual sales in the four days before Christmas, Ms. Mulcahy said. “I’m sure it’s the same all across the country,” she said. “Men put off Christmas shopping until the last minute. It’s like homework for them.”

At the Tiny Jewel Box on Connecticut Avenue in Washington, where earrings, bracelets and necklaces range from $500 to $50,000, a group of regular male Christmas procrastinators compete to see which one can make the final purchase on Christmas Eve.

“The desperate come in on December 24, and they’ll fight each other,” said saleswoman Maggie Hayns, staring down at the sparkling bounty in the store’s display case. “It’s crazy.”

“Men always shop late,” said Terry Chandler, head of the Diamond Council of America. “It’s the nature of the beast.”

Diamond sales are up — U.S. diamond jewelry sales rose 8.2 percent in 2004 to $31.5 billion.

Mr. Chandler, who operated 12 retail stores for the past 20 years, said he has a theory about why men wait until the final buzzer.

“If men are buying something that is not practical, they put it off for as long as they can. And jewelry is not practical.”

Holiday shopping is a pressure-filled experience for the desperate husbands.

“Some men resent it,” said Jim Rosenheim, chief executive officer of the Tiny Jewel Box. “They have a resistance to demand. Others just want to get off the hook. And we’re lazy.”

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