The rich are not impervious to economic ruin, obviously. But where others downgrade to bicycles, they merely suffer a dent in their Lexuses. Their money has far from vanished, but the past two years just hasn't been the right time to indulge in new things they don't need. Perhaps much of that comes from shame. The shame of having, the shame of wanting, the shame of wanting to have — and knowing that they can. But where there's money, those feelings can't last. And why should they? It's been two years since the recession turned Madison into a gloomy wasteland of luxurious clothes not being bought, as the wealthy decided to buy just one instead of two, or something on sale instead of something full price. But the time has come for them to feel comfortable buying diamonds for themselves again, and talking about it in national newspapers like The Wall Street Journal.
Ariane Sommer, 33, a model and author from Los Angeles, bought herself a $3,000 diamond ring at the pricey Italian jeweler Damiani in December.
"I am not only going to treat my friends and family, but I'm also going to treat myself," she said, adding she hadn't bought herself anything special in more than two years.
Statistics show that those with household incomes of $207,000 or more fared better in the recession than lower-income people. The numbers from this holiday shopping season prove it: Buoyed by sales of diamonds and gold after a recessionary spike of lower cost silver sales, Tiffany's just raised its profit outlook; Saks, Neiman Marcus, and Nordstrom all reported significant gains in same-store sales compared with December 2009; and MasterCard Advisors' SpendingPulse reports that luxury spending rose 8 percent in 2010.
But it's important, when we find that happy place again, to remember the depths of darkness from whence we emerged. The depths where, if you bought more than a sliver money clip in Tiffany's, you would look like a bad person. Tim Murphy brought us to that place of utter gloom two years ago with a hard-hitting video report from the front lines of the Avenue that is Madison, where clothes and diamonds festered, wanted but untouched. Never forget.