- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 12, 2004

She might be sans Justin, but who needs an engagement ring when you can choose your own several karats of bling? Brittany Spears is just one in a long list of celebrities — including Julia Roberts, Cameron Diaz and Sarah Jessica Parker — who indulge the right hand’s right to a little “frosting” of its own.

The “right-hand diamond” sparkled its way onto the red carpet several years ago as a modern evolution of the cocktail ring, ranging in styles from modern vintage to contemporary to natural to floral. Since then, non-celebrities also have been flashing eye-grabbing baubles.

No beau this Valentine’s Day? No worries. Singer Beyonce Knowles croons in “Independent Women” that she buys her own diamonds.

The right-hand jewel concept was part of a $40 million advertising campaign started in the fall by the Diamond Information Center, a branch of J. Walter Thompson, the advertising agency that handles the De Beers account. Ads sported bold statements differentiating between adornments for the marrying and the non-marrying hand:

“Your left hand lives for love. Your right hand lives for the moment. Your left hand wants to be held. Your right hand wants to be held high. Women of the world, raise your right hand.”

The idea behind the campaign, according to a promotional message from diamond wholesaler Hansa, was that the “evolved” woman of today is financially independent, savvy and sophisticated. She shows no hesitation in rewarding herself for her accomplishments with luxury items — she has earned them. She probably is married, but still adds to her collection of valuable jewelry. And she wants to make a statement.

“The left hand shows our status in society, and our right hand should show our style,” says Carol Brodie, global director of communications at Harry Winston.

The campaign was as much trend-driven as it influenced the trend, says Amanda Patterson, spokeswoman for the Diamond Information Center.

“We became acutely aware that there was a demand for diamonds rings that were not an expression of relationship or commitment, but that were a statement of style,” says Ms. Patterson. The Diamond Information Center noticed this trend specifically on two levels.

For example, the “trend-setting influencers” of the red carpet and catwalks flaunted right-hand diamonds, Ms. Patterson says.

“Couture was showcasing diamond rings on the right hand as if to say, ‘I’m wearing it here because I can,’” she adds.

But interestingly enough, research at the retail level found that 33 percent of the rings the average women were seeking also were of the non-bridal fashion.

Karen Padgett of Arlington is part of the trend. On her left hand, the 27-year-old wears a bow-shaped diamond ring gifted by her parents, and on her right, she wears a platinum band with an assortment of rectangular and princess-cut diamonds.

Ms. Padgett bought her ring to deter unwanted amorous advances in nightclubs and other social settings. Her right-hand diamond becomes her left after a discreet switch in uncomfortable circumstances. But the true reason behind her expensive purchase: The ring was pretty.

“I like to look at it,” Ms. Padgett says.

She is a self-described independent woman, financially stable with a successful career. It’s a style statement, she says.

“I have that self-confidence,” Ms. Padgett says. “I can change it to my left hand and not care.”

Deborah Haynes of Alexandria first wanted a right-hand diamond 10 years ago. She was traveling with her mother after a lucrative craft show. Ms. Haynes, 34, decided to reward herself with a ring. Her mother was adamant that she not select a diamond ring. That was for her husband to buy, she told her daughter. So Ms. Haynes purchased her second choice, a pearl ring.

But two to three years ago, she gave in to her desire and bought a diamond ring similar to the one she had looked at with her mother that day in the store, channel-set diamonds in a yellow-gold setting.

“It’s one of those things that when you’re young you wait for a man to come and buy it,” says Ms. Haynes. “When you get older, you can buy it for yourself.”

But Ms. Patterson is quick to point out that, despite the marketing angle, there is no research that proves that women buy right-hand rings for themselves. Anecdotally, she has been told by retailers, they are apt to be purchased by husbands for their wives.

“Couples come in, and there seems to be a sentiment that you chose this ring, but this one is going to be about me and my own style and my own voice,” she says.

Right-hand rings also are breaking through the diamond ceiling with a flash of color. The stone may be a colored diamond, or “investment pieces” such as rubies or sapphires, Ms. Brodie says. A fashion accessory as much as a status symbol, Harry Winston is making designs centered on colorful semi-precious stones such as amethysts, tourmaline (in any shade of pink), green peridot, orange sapphire and pink morganite.

True fashionistas, she says, even might be inspired to steal from their grandmother’s jewelry boxes.

“The rule of thumb for right-hand rings is that there are no rules,” Ms. Brodie says.

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