Claire writes: My little brother is graduating from law school next month and I’d like to get him something practical to commemorate the occasion and show him how proud I am of him, but I’m not sure what would be a good option. I bought him a Jack Spade bag once for Christmas which he promptly returned (to my chagrin) and he has the handwriting of a 4th-grade serial killer, so the ol’ engraved Cross pen is probably out too. Do you have any classic suggestions other than good old cashola? My budget is about $200.
For an occasion as important as this, and a relationship as close as brother and sister, you want a gift that is classic and will last. For men, the usual suspects are pens, watches, bags or jewelry.
Watches are out – $200 can certainly buy a wearable watch, but not one so nice you’d want to have it for the rest of your life. I think the low end for that sort of watch, even vintage, is three or four hundred dollars.
Bags are out, too. For one thing, you already struck out once in this department, and for another thing, the kind of bag you’d want to give would likely cost more than $200. You’d probably want to give him a briefcase, given the nature of the occasion, and something wonderful that would last him his career would cost more than your budget allows. (When my wife graduated from law school, I got her a briefcase. And other, more romantic stuff.)
You’ve removed pens from the list, as well. You could find a wonderful pen for that amount of money, but if he isn’t going to use it, then it isn’t worth buying.
That leaves jewelry, which for men means cuff links. Here, there are many wonderful options. I’d suggest heading to the vintage fine jewelry section of eBay and looking at the cufflinks therein. You’ll want something simple, that is clearly not a novelty piece. I’d say you should go for solid gold or silver; that budget will accommodate precious metal.