DEAR MISS MANNERS: I was taught that ladies do not wear jewelry made with precious stones, particularly those that sparkle, until after five o'clock in the evening. The background for this is that precious stones (except for one's engagement and wedding rings) are for formal dress, which was a nightly event in homes where the financial status made the ownership of such jewelry possible.
Did the advent of well-paying jobs for women, along with credit cards, make it possible for women of any age to purchase such jewelry themselves, as well as being the recipients of such jewelry from persons who may not have had the advantage of being taught the old rules?
What has prompted my question is that I often see diamond earrings, bracelets and pendants being worn around the clock and would appreciate knowing if this is an acceptable practice in correct society. Has correct society gone the way of the chaperone?
What is your feeling about the wearing of rings on every finger, even the thumbs, of both hands, again, around the clock or at any time?
GENTLE READER: Miss Manners' feeling is that she would rather not shake hands with such a person. This has less to do with her disapproval of flashiness than with her fear of being crushed by all those minerals.
However, she does disapprove of the incongruity of fancy jewelry with daytime clothes, and the rule remains in place. How many people flout it to flaunt it is as irrelevant as who pays for it. And the magic hour is six, not five, unless you are counting transportation or going to a Wagner opera.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I attended a social engagement put on by my wife's boss -- a To-Be-Seen Party where several executives and government officials were in attendance. As the party progressed, and more guests arrived, I found myself quickly tongue-tied and looking for a deep well to jump into.
It was a new experience, my being unable to converse with anyone, and not enjoyable in the least. I'm quite sure I came off as aloof or standoffish. I do not wish for this to impact my wife's career and am asking for help. How may I re-establish my small-talk abilities without dominating circles and becoming a boor?
GENTLE READER: By remembering that small talk is supposed to be small. Miss Manners has observed that is when people feel they have to come up with big talk -- something wise, original and stunningly witty -- that they become tongue-tied or boorish. Or do something foolish such as jumping in a well.
Charm does not consist of impressing other people, but of allowing others to impress you. You needn't quiz others about themselves. The smallest opening -- introducing yourself as your wife's husband, observing how much she enjoys working there, admitting that you know few people at the party -- will do to present someone else with the opportunity to talk big. Or to surprise you by being just as charming, in which case you may actually come to think of this as a party rather than an ordeal.