The Goods

Who Would Buy Tiffany’s $9,000 Sterling Silver Ball of Yarn?

A Tiffany ball of yarn.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Tiffany.

How to measure the absurdity of an exorbitantly expensive consumer product? Take the $600 Celine plastic bag, for example. To be clear, nothing in the world could justify a plastic bag that costs more than a nickel, but at the very least you can use it to carry things around. But what about Tiffany’s Everyday Objects, a collection that “elevates everyday home and garden accessories” like a tin can or paper cups “with a wit that transforms the ordinary into works of art”? Crafted in sterling silver or bone china, these objects, designed for frugal functionality, are rendered both expensive and useless. The collection includes everything from a $500 silver clothespin to a copper watering can that will set you back a mere $35,000.

According to Tiffany’s website, the rationale for this useless collection of bric-a-brac is that “beautiful things shouldn’t just live in a drawer.” If you’ve been keeping your knitting supplies in a drawer, I’ve got good news, in the form of the most absurd object in the collection: the sterling silver ball of yarn. At $9,000, it isn’t the most expensive item in the collection—that honor belongs to the $275,000 miniature greenhouse with a floor of copper. But the ball of yarn, “inspired by the witty, unexpected window displays of Gene Moor,” most clearly typifies the nonsensicality of the entire collection by being entirely useless. Theoretically you could attempt to utilize the watering can, the paper cups, or the tin can. Say the apocalypse comes, and you need to water your survivalist garden: Thank god, you’ve got a watering can, and who cares if that lustrous copper gets tarnished? And the tiny silver door on the greenhouse looks like it would swing open wide enough to store several Tiffany clothespins.

The ball of yarn, however, has no purpose. Worse: It’s one of those knickknacks that creates more work. The stupid thing will undoubtedly roll off of whatever surface you choose to display it on, and since it doesn’t even appear to unravel, the only thing you can do with it is display it. Even if the yarn unspooled, you would need several more balls to knit the world’s heaviest sweater. This impractical object will deteriorate into a tarnished black mass in a matter of years without a punishing polishing schedule, one that will never truly be finished, judging from the number of nooks and crannies and “handspun strands” on it. And even if you do manage to keep the ball of yarn as pristine as the day it arrived in that signature Tiffany blue box “tied with a white satin ribbon,” you still can’t do anything but gaze at it and be reminded of the $9,000 you could’ve spent on something slightly more useful, like a semester of community college or an artisanal broom.

At their shiny silver core, items in the Everyday Objects collection are made for a very particular brand of rich person. She’s not content to revel in her wealth in the normal ways: owning multiple properties, running “family foundations,” graciously inviting you on her annual ski trip, all expenses paid. No, the subset of rich person who proudly displays this avatar of craftiness on her mantel is one who, despite her groundskeepers and hedge fund managers, still believes she’s still one of the normal folks. Sure, there might two Teslas in the garage, but the house is decorated in rustic chic with carefully homey (and costly) accents. That punishing polishing schedule? That’s the maid’s problem.

Price: $9,000
Who would buy this thing? Renata from Big Little Lies, as a white elephant gift