machine-made spoon of base metal. If the first spoon were discovered to be a clever imitation and in fact only made of base metal, it would no longer be appreciated, even though its function and appearance were unchanged. We’re not conscious of this preference, but we are shaped by the canon of conspicuous waste nonetheless.
As lovely as gems are, they are desireable because they are rare and expensive, not because they are beautiful. They give advantage to the owner because not everyone can afford them.
“The marks of expensiveness come to be accepted as beautiful features of the expensive articles.”
“We readily and with utter sincerity, find those things pleasing that are in vogue. Shaggy dress stuffs and pronounced color effects, for instance, offend us at times when the vogue is goods of a high, glossy finish and neutral colors. A fancy bonnet of this year’s model unquestionably appeals to our sensibilities today much more forcibly than an equally fancy bonnet of the model of last year…The high gloss of a gentleman’s hat or of a patent-leather shoe has no more of intrinsic beauty than a similiarly high gloss on a threadbare sleeve; and yet there is no question but that all well-bred people (in the Occidental civilized communities) instinctively and unaffectedly cleave to the one as a phenomenon of great beauty, and eschew the other as offensive to every sense to which it can appeal.”
“It is not a constitutional difference of endowments in the aesthetic respect, but rather a difference in the code of reputability which specifies what objects properly lie within the scope of honorific consumption for the class to which the critic belongs. It is a difference in the traditions of propriety with respect to the kinds of things which may, without derogation to the consumer, be consumed under the head of objects of taste and art. With a certain allowance for variations to be accounted for on other grounds, these traditions are determined, more or less rigidly, by the pecuniary plane of life of the class.”