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Giving Gold Jewelry and Coins As Gifts: The Interplay of Utilitarianism and Symbolism
Burgak Ertimur, Utiiversity of Califomia - Irvine
Ozlem Sandikci, Bilkent University
ABSTRACT
This paper explores the practice of giving gold jewelry and
coins as gifts through a qualitative research conducted in Ankara,
Turkey, We seek to understand the occasions of gift giving and the
motivation behind this practice of gift giving. We aim to contribute
to the existing literature not only by extending our understanding of
the dynamics of gift giving behavior in non-Western contexts but
also by questioning the tenability ofthe distinction between functionally and symbolically motivated gift giving. We argue that gift
giving behavior is guided by interplay of utilitarian and experiential
motives, whereby the economic values of gifts play a significant
role along with symbolic values,

INTRODUCTION
Gift giving is a behavior with important social, personal, and
economic implications. Given its significance and prevalence as a
universal ritual an extensive literature addressing various aspects of
gift giving exists within the consumer behavior field. Drawing from
anthropological, sociological and psychological literatures these
studies explore the underlying motivations, functions, occasions,
and participants of gift giving behavior. We aim to contribute to the
existing literature by examining the practice of giving gold jewelry
and coins as gifts in the Turkish society. Through our study we hope
to extend our understanding ofthe dynamics of gift giving behavior
in non-Western contexts and also question the tenability of the
distinction between functionally and symbolically motivated gift
giving. Guided by these concems, we first briefiy review the
literature and state our objectives. Then we explain the methodology of the study. We conclude by presenting main findings and
discussing the contributions and future research areas,

MOTIVATION
Gift giving is a topic that has received significant attention
from consumer behavior researchers. Researchers examined various aspects of gift-giving including the stages of the gift-giving
process (Sherry 1983), gift-giving occasions (Miyazaki 1993;
Otnes, Kim and Lowrey 1992; Otnes, Ruth and Milboume 1994),
gift selection (Belk 1976), search time and effort of givers (Belk
1982; Otnes, Lowrey and Kim 1993), gender differences in giftgiving (Fischer and Amold 1990; Minova and Gould 1999; Palan,
Areni and Kiecker 2001), gift-giving and dat...
Giving Gold Jewelry and Coins As Gifts: The Interplay of Utilitarianism and Symbolism
Burgak Ertimur, Utiiversity of Califomia - Irvine
Ozlem Sandikci, Bilkent University
ABSTRACT
This paper explores the practice of giving gold jewelry and
coins as gifts through a qualitative research conducted in Ankara,
Turkey, We seek to understand the occasions of gift giving and the
motivation behind this practice of gift
giving.
We aim to contribute
to
the existing literature not only by extending our understanding of
the dynamics of gift giving behavior in non-Western contexts but
also by questioning the tenability ofthe distinction between func-
tionally and symbolically motivated gift
giving.
We argue that gift
giving behavior
is
guided
by
interplay of utilitarian and experiential
motives, whereby the economic values of gifts play a significant
role along with symbolic values,
INTRODUCTION
Gift giving is a behavior with important social, personal, and
economic implications. Given its significance and prevalence as a
universal ritual
an
extensive literature addressing various aspects of
gift giving exists within the consumer behavior field. Drawing from
anthropological, sociological and psychological literatures these
studies explore the underlying motivations, functions, occasions,
and participants of gift giving behavior. We aim to contribute
to
the
existing literature by examining the practice of giving gold jewelry
and coins
as
gifts
in
the Turkish society. Through our study
we
hope
to
extend our understanding ofthe dynamics of gift giving behavior
in non-Western contexts and also question the tenability of the
distinction between functionally and symbolically motivated gift
giving. Guided by these concems, we first briefiy review the
literature and state our objectives. Then we explain the methodol-
ogy of the study. We conclude by presenting main findings and
discussing the contributions and future research areas,
MOTIVATION
Gift giving is a topic that has received significant attention
from consumer behavior researchers. Researchers examined vari-
ous aspects of gift-giving including the stages of the gift-giving
process (Sherry 1983), gift-giving occasions (Miyazaki 1993;
Otnes,
Kim and Lowrey 1992; Otnes, Ruth and Milboume 1994),
gift selection (Belk 1976), search time and effort of givers (Belk
1982;
Otnes, Lowrey and Kim 1993), gender differences in gift-
giving (Fischer and Amold 1990; Minova and Gould 1999; Palan,
Areni and Kiecker
2001),
gift-giving and dating behavior (Belk and
Coon 1993),meaningsofgifts (Belk
1988;
Wallendorf andAmould
1988;
Wolfinbarger 1990; Richins 1994), self-gifts (Mick and
Demoss 1990, 1992; Pandya and Venkatesh 1992), and returning
gifts (Rucker et al, 1991, 1992),
Many of these studies also explored why people give gifts, and
indicated that gift-giving motivations may range from altruistic to
agonistic (Sherry 1983; Sherry and McGrath 1989; Wolfinbarger
1990),
The commonly discussed motives include compliance with
social norms (e,g, Belk 1976; Gamer and Wagner 1991), marking
and communicating social relationships (e,g, Belk 1979; Ruth et al,
1999),
and altruism (e,g, Belk and Coon 1993), When giving is
perceived as obligatory, gifts tend to be less symbolic, less likely to
communicate feelings, and more practical (Goodwin et al, 1990),
On the other hand, when gift giving is an "expression of love"
(Cheal 1988), great deal of thought and effort goes into selection,
and givers try to select gifts that are likely to communicate the
nature of the relationship and the feelings.
However, it appears that there are two assumptions underlying
the gift giving literature. First, there is a distinction between
utilitarian and experiential gift giving, and a tacit understanding
that either utilitarian or experiential motives underlie gift giving
and that they cannot operate simultaneously (for an exception see,
Wolfinbarger and Yale 1993), Second, it seems that the symbolic
value of the gift has more importance than its economic value.
Because most of the value of the gift stems from the thought and
effort put into its selection, gifts of cash or gift certificates appear
as inappropriate, impersonal and too materialistic unless they are
given in certain contexts such as weddings.
This study aims to extend the literature by examining a gift
giving behavior in which the distinctions between utilitarian and
experiential
motives,
and economic and symbolic values are blurred:
giving gold jewelry and gold coins as gifts. There are several
reasons for our focus on gold. First, gold and gold jewelry seem to
share many aspects of a gift identified by Belk (1979) including
communication, social exchange, economic exchange, and social-
ization. Jewelry is often characterized as a favorite, popular and
traditional gift item (Wolfinbarger 1990; Belk and Coon 1991), It
is a highly communicative product (Holman 1981) that carries
social cues (Belk and Zhaou 1987), Gold and gold jewelry also
facilitate social exchange. Jewelry is perceived as expressive of
social connection (Wallendorf and Amould 1988) and symbolizing
relationships in rites of passages (Noble and Walker 1997), Gold,
on the other hand, serves as a symbol of continuance and merit, and
signifies attainment of high standards (Clark 1986), It is also a
medium of exchange that can function as a store of value, and
therefore, has an economic value.
Furthermore, gold is a major investment, adomment and gift
item in the Turkish society. In fact, Turkey constitutes one of the
world's biggest gold consumption markets, ranked as fifth in
demand (Turkishtime,org
2003),
In
Westem markets gold jewelries
are usually low carat and they are bought primarily as items of
adomment. In Asia and Middle East, on the other hand, most ofthe
gold jewelries are high karat, which can be easily converted back
into gold. In Turkey, the main karat marks for gold jewelry are 14,
18 and 22, The 14 and 18 karat jewelry are usually considered as
modem designs, whereas the 22 karat gold jewelry is perceived
more as an investment
tool.
The gold
coins,
on
the
other hand, come
in five different sizes. In Turkey, gold jewelry and coins are
traditionally given as gifts in ritualistic occasions. Receiving gold
also plays an important role
in the
empowerment of Turkish women
(Sirman
1991),
The gold items the bride acquires
in
her wedding are
considered as her property and wealth, and serve as a safeguard
against misfortunate events (Neuberger 2001), In this study we
explore the occasions gold jewelry and coins are given as gifts, and
discuss the underlying motives and meanings as well as the func-
tions gold gifts serve,
METHODOLOGY
Given the exploratory nature ofthe study we adopted qualita-
tive research methods which are deemed better for obtaining an in-
depth understanding of the phenomenon (Denzin and Lincoln
1994) and capturing consumers' own perceptions and subjective
apprehensions (Berg 1989), The study was conducted in Ankara,
Turkey in the summer of
2003,
In the light of previous studies
suggesting that women are more involved
in
gift exchanges (Fischer
322
Advances in Consumer Research
Volume 32, © 2005
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