5 luxury objets d'art from the Society Awards Exclusives Collection. From left to right, Fossil Stone Obelisk, Society Star, Boticino Marble Stepped Obelisk, Polished Bronze Society Star, SA Crystal Book

Trends like luxury toast – seriously, luxury toast – are to blame for your holiday gifting troubles this year. Luxury, it seems, has grown a broad definition where, with marketing spin, it can be just about anything. Luxury ice, garbage cans, doorstops, vacuums and so the list could continue ad infinitum.

So, how do we spoil the people we care about this holiday season? Money alone doesn’t buy it. The brands that create true luxury do so through masterful control of the nuances; it’s the details by which a luxury gift succeeds or fails.

Before the red sole on Christian Louboutin shoes became an iconic brand signature, it was designed as a thoughtful surprise, a small but meaningful gift to the wearer.

A signature detail of David Alan’s rings is a single pink diamond set inside the band, such that only the wearer is privy to its existence. The diamond is hidden yet provides a powerful secondary gift to the owner–a very intimate detail on a very personal possession.

CEO of Porsche Design, Roland Heiler, believes that, “the aim of luxury…is for something to be a lifelong companion.” Indeed, there may be no greater gift than a gift given and cherished.

Historically accurate designs and techniques are utilized to craft Jacob Bromwell’s Great American Flask out of pure, solid copper. As the flask is used, as it gains stories and character, the material also grows a charming patina. It’s the sort of object that gets passed down to children and grandchildren. There is absolutely a luxury to that permanence.

The electric feeling of childish excitement at opening a present is not easily shaken post adolescence. A cursory YouTube search reveals over twenty million “unboxing” videos. Experts in packaging design and user experience craft these moments with great attention to detail.

Apple touts one of the world’s most elegant unboxing experiences–no scissors are required, there are neither extraneous nor missing parts and once you press start, you find a charged battery.

Tiffany & Co packaging creates an instant connection with the recipient through its iconic blue box. It’s an unmistakable visual cue that manages to communicate the brand flawlessly. In some instances, however, the Tiffany box creates a level of anticipation poorly matched to the reality of its contents (e.g., key chain).

A luxury gift encompasses far more than the physical product­–it extends to the shopping experience and continued brand interactions. Customer service has become its own channel for brand differentiation in the luxury experience.

Nordstrom’s renowned service is about more than an exceptional return policy–it ‘walks the talk’ of a relationship-centered approach. One story stands out–a man in Portland walks into a Nordstrom and asks for an Armani tuxedo for his daughter’s wedding. Instead of informing the man that they did not carry Armani tuxedos, the associate took the man’s measurements and quickly sourced one from a distributor. This sort of service is what guarantees a positive experience should your gift recipient ever need attention.

If all else fails, know that the sort of house that doesn’t happily welcome a guest with Champagne likely has no business accepting company. We might suggest the 2014 Veuve Cliquot in ‘Ice Jacket’–a signature yellow isothermic cover, and functional secondary gift, that will be valued beyond the life of that first bottle, and trust us, there’s always another bottle.

By Jeff Lien for Mode Design Group / Society Awards