Saturday, February 19, 2005

Ring shopping

G and I went ring shopping today. It was very interesting, because we went into all sorts of shops, from antique dealers to modern designers to Tiffany.

We first went into an antique shop near the Theatertinerkirche. There were a couple of interesting rings in the window, so we went in. I tried on 2 pearl rings and 2 ruby rings. One of each looked good on my hand. The pearl ring had a very small pearl, but it looked so much nicer than the big one. It was 8k gold, with the pearl and two small diamonds on either side. The ruby ring that I tried was a ruby and diamond of about equal size, sort of diagonally across from each other (if you think of the band as horizontal, the stones were diagonal). The ring itself was platinum. I'm pretty lucky in that I can wear both gold and silver coloured jewellery, so that wasn't an issue. Both rings were from around 1920 or so. The man in the shop was very nice, telling us about them, saying his opinion of which one suited me better, saying how the rings were made and how the process of resizing them works. It was hard to say which was nicer. I think I was a bit more drawn to the ruby and diamond one, but the pearl ring was also very nice.

I know I said I didn't want a diamond, but as I said, it was mainly a diamond solitaire I had a problem with. Also, these rings being older, the diamonds in question may have originally come from a troubled area, but I wouldn't be playing any part in contributing to the diamond operations of today. Plus, it seems that most rings have at least a few little diamonds thrown in for effect. So although I'm not going to pick a ring based on its diamonds, I'm not going to give up on a beautiful ring just because it has a 0.05 carat diamond on it.

Second, we went into a jewellery designer shop in the center of town. The window display had for the most part only gaudy (to my eye) rings, but we thought that there was enough interesting stuff to take a look inside. Inside, there was nothing. One woman looking at jewellery and 2 salespeople fussing over her. Plus strangely, two teenagers in the corner, colouring and shading on a piece of paper. When I went to look at what looked like their catalogue, the saleswoman snatched it from underneath me and took it over to the customer her and the man were fussing over. Okaaaaaay. Obviously not interested in our business, so we left.

Next, we went into Tiffany & Co. for a kick. Neither of us were serious about it, but hey, we're potential customers, why should we be scared? But we were nervous. However, the saleswoman was very polite when asked us what we were looking for. When I replied wedding rings, she invited us to go upstairs to look at their collection.
Upstairs was several different styles for rings. She asked us what type of metal we were interested in for the ring, but we didn't have anything in particular that we wanted. If we had, I'm sure she would have then continued on with stone size, etc etc and then whipped one out. There was a fair selection not on display. But without something to go on, she just encouraged us to look around. They have a very stunning display of diamond engagement rings. Not wanting any of these, I didn't bother to try them on, but they did sparkle very nicely under the lights. I tried on one ring with a red stone (not ruby but I don't remember what it was) and two diamonds on either side, but it wasn't so great. The band was very thin and I didn't like that. The woman explained that's done so the attention is on the stones, which is certainly would be, but it was not me. Cut into my other fingers too, because of the way the band was shaped. I also tried on one simple gold band which was nice, but nothing really special. Would be cool to have a ring from Tiffany of course. Fairly affordable too, as gold rings go.

The next place we went was on Maximillianstr. For those of you who don't live in Munich, you have to understand that Maximillian is a street full of very expensive shops and boutiques. If you are a high fashion boutique, you want to be here. Think, Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, 5th Avenue in New York, Bahnhofstr. in Zurich or the Ginza District in Toyko. Well, after surviving Tiffany's quite nicely, we figured we could handle anything on Maximillianstrasse. We went into what seemed to be a Cartier/Wempe combination. I was not impressed, and this had everything to do with customer service. We told the salesman the rings we liked, one of which G spotted which was a diamond solitaire. He pulled them out of the window, put them on the tray and just sat there. Every other shop we had been in, the people told us something about the ring before we even touched it. What was the material, what the stone was, the age, something. He just sat there, I had to ask him to tell us something about the ring. He then rattled off at such a pace that I told him to please slow down. Even slower, he was still fast, obviously not caring whether we really fully understood him or not. When I asked him where the diamond came from, he shrugged and said, "Oh, I'd guess South Africa." This is CARTIER! I expect them to know where their diamonds are from. He did come around a bit and say there was no chance of it being from somewhere like Sierre Leon or something because that wasn't allowed in Germany. Of course he didn't explain how it wasn't allowed or how that would be proven. I was totally underwhelmed with the service there and wouldn't recommend it to anyone. Go to Tiffany & Co. if you want a big name.

The final shop we went in was the kicker. It was another antique store, but only for jewellery. It was next to, or rather, in the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Munich. We went in and the man was behind the desk working. He smiled, welcomed us and encouraged us to look around. So, we did. Lots of big gaudy looking rings again, but a couple of interesting ones. We saw one ring, a sapphire with two diamonds on the side and thought at first, a bit too much. I have such small hands and fingers that rings quickly look big and nasty on them. But we decided just for the heck of it to give it a try. The man got it out and gave it to me to try. Well, to our surprise, it looked very nice on me. It was also from the 1920s, an Art Deco style. The sapphire was a very very dark blue, I thought it was a black stone at first. It was delicious. It also cost around 5000 Euros. Mmm, not so delicious. I got him to pull another out of his window display which was an emerald with side diamonds, but it was twice the price and to be honest, didn't look as nice on me either, although it was lovely. The salesman was really friendly as well, and had the good idea to get the sales tax back off of it by writing the receipt in the name of one of our relatives or friends who came over for a visit. At 16%, this is a nice little tip to help reduce the cost. However, even with this reduction, it was way beyond what we were thinking of paying for a ring. But funny enough, it's the one stuck in my head now.

It was fun going out and trying rings on, because although we know our budget, we didn't let that limit us too much from trying things on. Today was just a shopping, not a buying day, so why not try different things on? It was great fun and we'll probably have to go out again to check out a few more stores. The antique jewellery was definitely the most appealing and there are lots of those around Munich. I'll keep you posted.


munichsteve said...

Interesting what you mentioned about that Wempe store in Munich.

Before we were married, my wife and I were visiting Berlin and stopped in a jewelry store because they had nice watches in the window. We didn't get a watch, but decided to see what they had for wedding rings. We found a beautiful set of rings and the sales lady was so competent, helpful and friendly that we were about to buy them, but had no plans to return to Berlin to pick them up (we lived in Munich). She assured us that that was not a problem and that she could have the rings delivered to their Munich turns out we were in Wempe, Berlin!

On the appropriate day we rode our bikes to the Munich Wempe shop (as Zee Bride will recall I biked EVERYWHERE in those days!) to pick up our rings and were very disappointed to find the doors locked! On second look, we saw that the shop was indeed open and the sales guy was coming over. It turns out that they only let certain people into their shop in those days! Well, the guy took one look at us (in our slightly sweaty tee-shirts, granted) and rather than open the door began quizzing me through the mail slot about what I wanted. It wasn't until I produced the (equally sweaty) receipt and held it up to the window that he agreed to let us in! The level of service from then on was about the same as your experience, so after leaving with our rings we will never go back.

I never knew there was such a thing as a dress code for picking up wedding rings, but you learn something new every day!

You should be happy. At least they let you in the door!

Anonymous said...

the art-deco / antique-style rings sound really nice, ZB :)
have you got any piccies that you can post, so we can get an idea of what you are looking at?
love from Dee

MollyB said...

If I hate Maximillianstr., does that make me prollig? My xMIL started hating me the day I refused to accompany her shopping there. We were at a conference for their family business, which I'd thought meant, oh, attending the meetings?
Now I'm going to look for pictures I'm sure you posted of the rings you ended up getting! Thanks for posting the link to your blog.