Imagine you are just starting out in adult life. Or it’s time for a sea change – shifting style, resetting priorities.
But imagine, either way, you want to build a jewelry collection from scratch, and that you have complicated your existence by preferring, strongly, the precious. You may even be allergic to silver, nickle and brass. It happens.
What’s that you ask? Why yes, I’m happy to advise! Show pictures of sparkly bits from around the web? Don’t mind if I do!
Earrings – Baseline in America. Earbobs, as the Victorian called them, have become almost as ubiquitous as shoes. Luckily, earrings can be little, therefore inexpensive, and quite easy to collect.
- Diamonds should be tiny, or raw, not middle-of-the road. Jewelry is too much fun to settle for the equivalent of gem wallpaper. Of course, if you move in Very Large Diamond circles I suspect you do not need advice and are humoring us by playing along. We thank you.
- Accent your pearls. Medium-sized plain pearls make a conservative social and political statement, like it or not. Expand the category by accenting your studs. Now you’re just a little harder to peg.
- Buy one pair of earrings in the color you can wear every day. Mine are turquoise, but you can pick coral, amethyst, or acid green.
Necklaces - may have the most impact of any jewelry. “Statement” necklaces have been all the rage for a few years, but statements in precious metals and stones can require you sell your car, IPO your startup, or marry a prince. As an alternative strategy, collect neck charms, and wear them in multiples. Gold chain required, whether white, yellow, or rose. By the way, take a look at Imogen’s series on choosing the right necklace for different necklines.
Bracelets – Not for the workday in my world. Computers, clanking, say no more. But for nights out, if you are going to wear only two items (which I recommend), then dramatic earrings – offset by a large bracelet or row of bangles – focus attention on your face. I often avoid necklaces at night, because if my neck is covered, there’s no space, and if my neck is bare, well, you haven’t lived until you’ve felt the thrill of an unornamented decolletage with fancy dress. In this scenario, bracelets required.
- Bangles. Love them, but the industry seems to impose a “bangle tax” similar to the “wedding tax,” and gold bangles always cost more than they should. Collect them over time, like rings in a tree trunk.
- Cuffs. Expensive. Here’s where I relent around Go Precious Or Go Home. Alexis Bittar makes brilliant Lucite cuffs, or you can go for something in shagreen, essentially the leather of stingrays. I know!
Rings – Because rings often indicate relationship status, they tend to have meaning you may not, well, mean. Cocktail rings imply a fondness for glamor and flair. Teeny little rings with skulls say you play for the hipster team. We all understand the language of family signet rings. I don’t think there is such a thing as a basic ring wardrobe. You use or create moments of meaning to build a ring language for yourself.
Where And How To Shop?
For the true basics, i.e. a pair of gold hoops, or a gold chain, I recommend stalking the counters of your local department store. Seems that occasionally they really do need to unload inventory, and you can even negotiate for discounts above the 30% OFF! signs.
You should augment your basics with extremely special pieces, (again, no wallpaper) and I recommend finding a local designer you appreciate and/or going vintage. I love both my grandmother’s Georg Jensen bracelet, and my Claudia Kussano earrings. We’ve got a reader here who designed the raw diamond piece in this collage. If you live in Atlanta, why not go find Lee at Katura Design and talk to her? Knowing the creator is a universal plus.
Finally, follow up on your social media recommends. Blue Nile and Etsy create their own social ecosystems, with recommendations, favoriting, etc, In the blog world you’ve got Duchesse’s wonderful recommendations, the audacity of Wendy Brandes, and, of course, Beladora’s fantastic vintage site.
The good thing about jewelry shopping is that just looking is so much fun. Even the jewelry you don’t buy twinkles up your day.