Christmas Gifts: It's not just the thought that counts

From silks to scarves, candles to corsetry, there's plenty for the informed male to buy his soul-mate. By Fiona Campbell

The male complaint that they "don't understand what women want" is an age-old whinge. But it's worth putting in the extra effort, because a carefully chosen Christmas present will put the love back into the Yuletide season and seduce/delight your nearest and dearest at will.

Luxury items are always welcome, such as Lapis skin scrub with real gold (pounds 14.99 from Nawar, 0181 342 8887). Or try this box (pictured below, centre), entitled "Now I know what love can be" from Halcyon Days (pounds 70, 0171 629 8811).

An individual piece by a crafts designer will go down well. Kei Ito's wrap is a good example (pounds 180, 0171 739 4551, or from the Crafts Council shop at the V&A, 0171 589 5070). Stunning work from young designers can be found at Walter Castellazzo Design (0181 340 3001).

Rose features strongly in perfumes this Christmas, for example Guerlain's delicate 'Allegoria - Rosa Magnifique', and Jean Paul Gaultier's 'Fragile', which is sophisticated and fresh. Meanwhile 'J'Adore' by Christian Dior has a mellow floral scent. Or better yet send roses (from pounds 20 plus p&p, Forever Flowering 0181 392 9929).

Light seems to be essential in cosmetics this Christmas, and every company has a glitter range. Particularly sparkling is the Benefit Kitten powder puff (pounds 19.50, 0901 113 0001).

The pashmina holds sway as the most glamorous comfort present around. Go for embroidered pashmina shawls from Madeleine Trehearne (from pounds 450, 0171 435 6310). A pure silk limited-edition handmade throw costs pounds 175 from Castellazzo (as before). Alternatively, there's an Aubrey Beardsley scarf, (pounds 74.95, Victoria and Albert Museum, 0171 942 2689) or an Anthony Whishaw scarf (pounds 70, Royal Academy Shop, 0171 300 5719).

For those with a marked passion for special lingerie, Rigby & Peller strongly recommends a gift token. (Rigby & Peller range, 0171 491 2200). Wolford's laced-topped Affaire stockings are pounds 16 (0171 937 2995, or www.wolford.com), while Marks & Spencer have a stunning Agent Provocateur range (balcony bra pounds 25, string tanga pounds 10). Another tempting gift is Scarlet's elegant silver necklace (pounds 89, 0171 738 2104).

Membership of the Royal Academy Friends (0171 300 5760) is a wonderful gift which entitles you to free access to all exhibitions and the members' room. Or treat the woman you love to a pampering at The Sanctuary (0171 420 5151).

Alternatively, National Geographics - The Photographs (pounds 35) is a fascinating and sumptuous selection of pictures from around the globe, which will please those with itchy feet.

The best candles are either David Linley's delicate floral fragrance, (pounds 19.95, 0171 730 7300) or The Pink Room's candle, (pounds 30, 0171 229 02222). Culpepers (0171 379 6698) have Karma Sutra burners (pounds 17.95) which can be given together with Jasmine essential oil (pounds 27).

Small gifts which will definitely be approved of are Crabtree and Evelyn's aromology 'Romance' pulse points stick (pounds 7.95, 0171 603 1611), Culpeper's Comforting Shower Gel (pounds 3.25, 0171 431 8928), L'Occitane's Jasmine Mandarin bath oil (pounds 12.95, 0171 290 1421), or rose petal soaps (pounds 3.90 from Norfolk Lavender, 01603 739555).

So what do women want? Most of us want pashminas and candles, perfume and fine jewellery, although some just want all our DIY jobs done. Secretly all we want is an expression of patient, selfless love, without having to ask. Happy shopping.

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