Friday, February 7, 2014

Luxe Valentine's Day Gifts for Ladies

In the words of Oscar Wilde:
I have the simplest of tastes.
I am always satisfied with the best.
Only one more week until Valentine's Day!  My dear godmom have always told her two sons, "Girls are meant to be spoiled."  So, show her your love and spoil her with the best!  Of course, you can easily pick up something dazzling in a robin's egg blue box, or a timeless 2.55 quilted lambskin bag, but she, too, can purchase those luxuries herself.  Instead, opt for something unexpected that she may not buy herself or didn't know she wanted - better yet, needed.

Hopefully, my list below will help!  These are gifts I consider unique, uncommon, and goes the extra mile to earn you those brownie points!

1.  Instead of diamonds, get her heirloom pearls!

Pearl jewelry makes very classy gifts, and are revered as tears of angels.  The most beautiful pearls in the world - the top 1% - are produced by Mikimoto of Japan.  Varieties of pearls they offer:
♥  South Sea: black, golden, white
Largest variety of cultured pearls, size ranges from 8mm to 13mm.
♥  Baroque
Naturally abstract; no two are the same.
♥  Conch
These "flame" pearls are produced by the Queen Mollusk and cannot be cultured, making them the most expensive type of pearl.
♥  Akoya
My personal favorite for its rose overtones, size ranges from 5mm to 10mm.

You can never go wrong with Akoya; they are the foundation of Japanese pearls.  If you are afraid that pearls may portray the wearer to be too polished or mature; don't be.  Pearls are more modern than you think.  Plus, they look better in photos than diamonds due to their dimensional shape and luster.  Diamonds in photos usually reflect light, leading to a white blob of light or a flat circle in photos.  One thing is certain: I prefer this deep sea blue box over the robin's egg any day!

Marilyn's Mikimoto necklace
Marilyn Monroe may have sung, "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend," but her actual preference was said to be pearls.  Perhaps it's because Joe DiMaggio presented her with a 16" strand of 44 Mikimoto pearls on their honeymoon in Japan in 1954.  The famous necklace was later given to her drama coach and friend, Paula Strasberg, which was then handed down to Strasberg's daughter, Susan.  In 1998, Susan returned it to Mikimoto, and it was recently on display at the Pearls Exhibition at the V&A Museum in London (which just happened to be the time I was in London, so of course I scheduled that into my itinerary).

Mikimoto Love Pendant - $1,450
5.5mm Akoya cultured pearl with 0.06ct pink sapphire,
set in 18k white gold on an adjustable 15" to 16" chain

Mikimoto Akoya Studs in 18k yellow and white gold - starts at $340

2.  Limoges for the porcelain princess.

Although porcelain was first made in China around the 7th and 8th Century, the finest bone china today are manufactured in Limoges, France.  If she loves collector's items, vintage treasures, or anything petite and beautiful (What girl doesn't?), then consider getting a limoges box to encase your Valentine's Day message and / or a piece of new jewelry (Hint: makes great engagement ring holders!).  Each of these hinged trinket boxes are hand-painted by a French craftsperson and are truly works of art.  Over time, they still hold their value, making them great heirlooms!  Retail prices from reputable brands like Chamart or Rochard are usually no less than $200 each.  However, online retailers such as One Kings Lane of San Francisco and Rue La La often showcases a collection of these at discounted prices, but must register to become a member.  Otherwise, has the biggest collection of Chamart and Rochard limoges with free shipping for orders over $150.

Chamart Queen Rose Limoges Box on One Kings Lane - $99

Gump's Limoges Cupid - was $238 now $189.99

3.  Get cozy in cashmere!

Any woman would easily have several cashmere sweaters in her wardrobe, but few actually have a 100% cashmere robe!  While most people buy cashmere sweaters and gloves, many do not spare the expense on a long cashmere robe for lounging at home.  Imagine staying in on the weekends, or what I call "CATurdays," in nothing but the softest cashmere.  This is the gift she doesn't know she needs!  Remember, cashmere is a luxury gift fit for anyone and any occasion.

Most 100% cashmere long robes are in the $400 range.  However, I have found two options from very reputable retailers that are below the average price.

Neiman Marcus' cashmere robe in red was originally priced at $505, and is now $227.  Want to add a personal touch?  Have it monogrammed for $237.  See photo below for placement of monogram:

Neiman Marcus Red Cashmere Robe

Historically famous Gump's of San Francisco offers their cashmere robe in cranberry for only $298:

Gump's Cranberry Cashmere Robe

4. It is always sweater weather [particularly in San Francisco].

How cute are matching couples?!  When I say matching, I don't mean wearing identical garments.  I like to have a little differentiation with style.  Cardigans are wardrobe staples because they work on so many levels.  Dressed up or dressed down, they are the perfect layering piece for all seasons.  For a couple's matching cardigan, my favorite is Comme des Garçon PLAY, which are unisex v-necks made from 100% wool.  How cute are the iconic hearts?!

For women: burgundy For men: navy

5.  You better know her favorite flower!

Just as you should know her birthday, you should also find out her favorite flower!  This will definitely earn you extra points when you surprise her with her beloved blooms - and not only for Valentine's Day!  For instance, if you come across a floral shop or flower stand on your way home from work and noticed that they carry her favorite flowers (maybe it's in season), pick them up for a just-because gift.  This will definitely keep things fresh!

If you're going to do roses, try another variety besides red roses, unless that is her absolute favorite flower (see image below for a special bouquet of red roses).  There are hundreds of rose species out there - from English roses, garden roses, to tea roses.  You just need to know which color she prefers.  For cut roses, I like Crown Majesty; they last longer and are very attractive.  I got them one year for my grandmother on Mother's Day from Organic Bouquet.  They were gorgeous and truly had a regal feel to them.

Crown Majesty Roses by Organic Bouquet - $49.95

Diamond Roses by Calyx Flowers - $229.95

Another idea to consider: live plants.  Perhaps she does not like cut flowers, or maybe her favorite flowers are orchids.  Once only found in exotic and tropical places, phalaenopsis orchids can now be found everywhere: Costco, Trader Joe's, Safeway... but a great place to buy orchids is actually at your local Whole Foods Market.  Prices are very reasonable compared to florists and the quality of their plants is always better than other retailers.  Tip: When choosing an orchid plant, try to find one with at least two spikes (two vertical branches) rather than a single spike.  Also, look for plenty of buds and healthy green leaves.  Once you have chosen your orchid plant, ask a Whole Foods associate from the floral department to wrap it for you.  They have a rainbow of ribbons, tulle, and tissue paper to make your orchid pleasantly presentable.

My floral arrangement: Two orchid plants on a bed of jasmine
in a decorative cachepot, and tied with layers of ribbon

6.  Forego the Godiva heart box of chocolates.  Get Charbonnel et Walker!

Purveyors of fine English chocolates since 1875, Charbonnel et Walker is globally known for their delicious champagne truffles.  They also hold a Royal Warrant as Chocolate Manufacturers to the Queen.  Where can you find this English brand here in the States?  No worries; all the high-end retailers like Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Bloomingdales carries these lovely confections.  Also, Neiman Marcus' Valentine's Day Event is going on right now: receive a box of Charbonnel et Walker truffles with your regular-priced purchase of $200 or more plus complimentary gift packaging, use code NMLOVE.

Charbonnel et Walker Milk Chocolate Vintage Red Heart - $65

7.  A gift is incomplete without a hand-written note!

Niquea.D's handmade cards are made from the finest papers, embellished with Swarovski crystals, and comes with a beautiful coordinating envelope as well as a faux wax seal.  Never just seal an envelope when you have means to a wax stamp.  Old world charm always impresses!  Each card is keepsake quality and photos do not do them justice!  Niquea.D cards can be found at your local Papyrus store.

My favorite: Pink Heart - $9
Inside: You light up my life

Love Heart - $10
Inside: blank, for your personal sentiments

Thinking of You Butterfly - $15
Inside: with love

Key to My Heart - $15
Inside: Love is the master key that opens the gates of happiness / I love you

Galloping Horses Love (very fitting for this year) - $20
Inside: Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all - Helen Keller
Our life together is exceptional in everyway / love forever

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