What you want (but can’t have)

Alone on Valentine’s Day?

Pretend you’re too loaded to care

For the disgruntled loner, the crazy cat lady, and Cameron Diaz, Valentine’s Day is nothing more than a chocolate-coated reminder of your inadequacies. Repeated failure in your efforts to be a desirable human being has found you lacking and unwanted on this, the most love-filled of corporate-sponsored holidays. No Hallmark card trumpets the first-person singular. No flavoured coffee celebrates this particular moment of your life. The prevailing winds of romance and recrimination make one thing perfectly clear to the sad-sack Valentine’s singleton: you are alone and will be forever.
As if that weren’t bad enough, the Valentine’s push, like that of other consumer-driven holidays, is starting earlier and earlier — meaning your spiral of shame and anger can get its vortex spinning well before the last Christmas Visa statement finds your mailbox. Blinking, reindeer-shaped LED lights still festoon neighbourhood balconies, but the most improbable places — like Canadian Tire or Costco — are tarted up in swathes of pink and red crepe paper (because nothing says “I love you” like a five-speed snow blower or a flat of canned tuna).
The cultured and philosophical misanthrope finds him or herself at odds over which aspect of Valentine’s Day is the most egregious: crushing psychological torture or sheer tackiness. Is it more damaging to contemplate the occasional suicide or to be routinely assaulted by the endless parade of cheesy crap covered in red velveteen? (It’s a question left unanswered, despite years of seasonal deliberation, sipping cheap Australian champagne and popping cinnamon hearts like a confectionary-addled Patty Duke in Valley of the Dolls.) A spectacularly self-indulgent ritual, Valentine’s Day has its charms, the foremost being that until recently, the one avenue of pleasure open to the lonely on the day was wallowing.
Well, no longer. It’s time to strike out in a new and positive (but not too positive) direction. The recent opening of several high-end jewelry retailers in Vancouver has made possible a Valentine’s Day walking tour of these dens of gems. Following the “V.D. Tour 2007” allows you to avoid the centre aisle at London Drugs in favour of tastefully appointed, well-lit boutiques that trade in pretty, shiny, gorgeous baubles. Can’t afford any of it? Who cares? Chances are neither can your best friend’s perfect boyfriend.
698 W. Hastings, 604 669-3333
The neo-classical monolith’s vault-like exterior belies its open floor-plan, winding staircase and brass-railinged galleria. Upon entering through the Hastings Street doors, engagement rings are found directly to your right, so veer a hard left towards the estate jewelry shop, where Art Deco brooches share space with Victorian human-hair bracelets, and necklaces featuring opals the size of silver dollars. Cross to the centre case for the modernist designs of Vancouver’s Toni Cavelti. Ask to try on the Egyptian-inspired multi-stone cabouchon-set neck collar (and have a Cleopatra moment as you console yourself with the fact that love didn’t exactly work out for her either). Continue back to the southwest corner, to the brand-new home of Van Cleef and Arpels, the mainstay of Vanna White’s on-air glitter in the 1980s. The Alhambra pattern, a sort of four-leaf-clover design based on Spanish and Moorish symbology, celebrates Birks’ centennial, and is the backbone of its current collection.
456 Howe, 604 683-6878
Just a hop, skip and jump from its former home of 22 years, Cartier’s new location is almost three times larger. The first thing you’ll notice is the insanely stunning Murano glass chandelier that dominates the centre section of the store (owner Daniel Feuermann flew in a team of Italian glassblowers just to mount it). Under the chandelier are four semicircular antiqued brass display cases that form an open circle. Partitioned like a Beaux-Arts Italianate villa, the store’s three sections give the feeling of industrial meets Art Deco meets Paris, circa 1860. The most eye-catching display is the north-side wall of accessories that features Cartier’s maroquinerie (small leather goods). Jaw-droppingly chic handbags in patent oxblood, deep chocolate or black ‘pony’ leather (no ponies actually involved, thanks) are status symbols extraordinaire, especially considering that knockoffs haven’t overrun the web or the Richmond Night Market — yet.
Tiffany & Co.
723 Burrard, 604 630-1300
If you don’t have a suitably soigné hat or giant sunglasses, pretend you do (Holly Golightly would never have let that stand in her way). The company’s signature blue is everywhere, accented with dark, rich woods. Walk along the store’s Alberni Street face until you come to the Frank Gehry collection. The internationally renowned architect (he designed the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain) has created a simple, organic collection of silver and leather. But in the corner you’ll find his masterwork: a silver mesh chain with pearls and unpolished diamonds that costs more than a two-bedroom/two-bath condo in Yaletown. If classic, not cutting edge, is more your style, Tiffany won’t disappoint. They did invent the Tiffany setting, after all.
(Note: As a perceptive reader, you’ll notice you’re less than a block from the Bacchus Lounge at the Wedgewood Hotel, where a perfect chocolate martini awaits, as does a comfy, fireside wing chair. Love yourself. Someone’s gotta do it.) ?