Buying jewelry for yourself, again? Actually, most women take their time developing a personal taste in jewelry. They receive gifts as teens. They spend pennies on costume jewelry accessories as young women. But discovering a personal style of jewelry you genuinely love to wear — and worth the investment in a quality product — takes some time and education.
Jewelry shopping on your own can be a lot of fun. Without pressure from partners or children, you can browse and try things on at discount stores, big box stores, department stores, or the finest jewelers. Most salespeople at the better stores will not rush you. They are used to shoppers’ indecisiveness and reluctance to spend money on something “frivolous.” If you approach jewelry shopping as a personal treat, you can put some information together and shop at your convenience.
A beginner’s guide
- Check your wardrobe. Chances are the clothes you favor make a secret statement about your taste. The wardrobe may be sharp and business-like, conservative and formal, sporty and country. You may prefer fancy and flouncy over tweedy and woodsy. If you spend more time in heels or flats, you will want jewelry to accessorize your primary fashion taste, or you might want all-purpose pieces to cut across your varied styles.
Check your existing jewelry inventory. It may be time to open your jewelry box and clean house. Sorting the rings, bracelets, earrings, and necklaces, you can get rid of what you don’t use. Taking inventory tells you what you need to replace. If you dig deep and take a good look at those dated chains, bracelets, earrings, and necklaces, you can then improve your collection with oversized chains, inlaid bracelets, trendy ear cuffs, layered necklaces, and more. And, with the new materials available, you can mix and match modestly-priced items with high-priced items.
- Look in the mirror. Jewelry should complement your face shape and skin tone. With birthstones a thing of the past, you always have options in pearls and different qualities of gold and silver. You also can choose from genuine emeralds and rubies (even though the synthetics look real). And, there are amethysts and opals to enhance your skin.
Pale cool skin tones, blued with veins close to the surface, look better with rich deep blue, green, and red stones. Pink warm skin tints provide a nice canvas for pastel citrine, moonstone, peridot, and topaz. Silver enhances cool tones, and gold accents warm tones.
Long thin chains and dangling earrings extend the perception of a round face. Hoop earrings fit oval faces. Long necklaces with geometric pendants draw attention away from angular faces. And, chokers round off triangular looks. Of course, diamonds go with anything.
- Put rings on your fingers. Rings can reflect a perky and open personality with fun and flashy designs. You may like to wear them big and loud. But if you are investing in fine jewelry, you should consider your finger size and shape. Big does not fit all occasions and may mark you as out of place at some.
A ring should not cover the knuckle or adjacent finger. Big rings draw attention from your other fashion features. Delicate bands and frail settings serve you better. Of course, it is always the stone that counts. Oval cuts suit just about any finger. And, multiple rings never suit formal, evening, or business events.
- Optimize your lines. A necklace can enhance the lines of your face and body. It alters the perception of your height and weight. Long vertical styles make you taller. “Long” means almost to your waist. However, tall women may choose chokers or 16- to 18-inch necklaces to appear shorter and fuller. Delicate physiques look better with light fine necklaces while fuller-bodied women prefer thicker lines featuring blocky elements.
- Start with something subtle. You can make a statement with jewelry, and there may be a time and occasion for that. But if you are building a collection, you should start with something subtle, classic, and long-lasting.
A tennis bracelet, for example, suits any occasion. As Forbes describes it, “this cluster of pavé diamonds, formerly known as eternity bracelets, was not made for the game or inspired by it per se.” It has become the go-to option for stylish fans as well as the elite tennis players and golfers. It works as well for theater or cocktail wear as it does for apres-ski or work dress.
- Dress up for casual wear. You don’t have to wear jewelry on every occasion. No one needs jewels on the boat, at the stables, or on a hunt. But accents won’t hurt your look. A touch of light at the ears, a stack of bangles, or a modest ring enhances your look in jeans or jodhpurs.
Casual wear is also an opportunity to wear the “lesser” gemstones. Amber, carnelian, jade, tanzanite, topaz, tourmaline, turquoise, and more — when these are cut, mounted, and polished, they can make a markedly fresh appearance for casual events.
- Dress for your neckline. A neckline seems to call for jewelry as a big or subtle statement on all occasions. A look at your wardrobe should tell you what necklines you prefer. If you tend toward modest or shallow necklines, you will want to choose shorter chains with delicate pendants if any.
If you prefer v-necks, you multiply your choices. A chain or lariat that replicates the neckline doubles the impression. The deeper the neckline, the more options you have. However, if the deep neckline reaches below the breast line, you’ll want to minimize the jewelry.
- Legacy styles: Much jewelry settings, especially estate jewelry, favors one legacy style or adaptations of those fashions evoking romance and nostalgia:
- Art Deco dominated the fashions of the 1910s and 1920s with angular geometric effects like arcs, chevrons, pyramids, and zigzags. It introduced new metals and bold glass and ceramic colors. Elegant bracelets, brooches, and pins included sleek panthers, cobras, and finely bred dogs.
- Arts and Crafts designs have had a lasting effect on architecture and design since the early 1900s. It emphasized crafts and handmade or roughhewn quality with woods and natural metals. Stones evoked the beach, forest, and desert.
- Art Nouveau favored fluid and floral designs. It dominated the late Victorian and early Edwardian eras. And, individual pieces have retained their value and inspired new designs in modern and synthetic materials including stones not known at the time. Styles are curved and sinuous often with themes intertwined with other lines.
- Celtic designs are delicately interwoven vines and lines derived from the ancient Gaelic, Irish, Scottish, and Welsh symbols.
- Damascene describes historic Spanish work inlaid or engraved with black enamel, gold threads, and/or silver strands. :
- Stone cuts: Diamonds and other precious and non-precious jewels are cut in many ways. In Diamonds, “Cut” is the most important determinant of value because it defines the reflection and refraction of light.
- Baguettes are cut a narrow rectangle.
- Brilliant cuts have 58 facets in a specific pattern. It is only appropriate to stones with the proportions to do so.
- Briolette is a faceted pear-shaped stone.
- The cabochon is a dome-shaped stone without facets, but a Buff-top Cabochon features a domed top over a faceted pavilion.
- Caliber cuts are small stones faceted and cut into oblongs, rectangles, or squares set closely used to add details to designs.
- Culet describes the pointed bottom of a pavilion. It is polished with a tiny facet or pointed without a facet.
- Cushion Cut is an old-fashioned cut with rounded corners on a square cushion shaped stone.
- Emerald Cut is not used for the highest quality diamonds. It is a rectangle or square cut into three steps on four sides and the corners.
- Marquis cuts are trendy, faceted, and elongated oval stones tapering to a point at both ends.
- Old-European and Old-Mine Cuts are variations on the Brilliant Cut with a high crown and a small table with a circular girdle.
- Oval Cut refers to faceted, elongated stones rounded at both ends.
- Princess Cuts are highly-faceted square-cut stones, brilliant cuts for square shaped to improve brilliance.
- Radiant Cuts combine the rectangular emerald shape with the light of a brilliant cut.
- Round cuts are the most common cut of all for diamonds and gemstones.
- Rate diamonds according to the 4Cs. The Cut empowers the stone’s shine and sparkle. A good cut can make even a minor jewel look bigger and better. A diamond’s Color comes from its ability to break down the incoming light. The highest quality diamonds appear colorless, but some shoppers look for pinks and yellows because they like the color. Clarity grades the diamond’s internal (inclusions) and external (blemishes) imperfections. You may not see them, but the clarity score lets you know. Carat has to do with a stone’s weight. That may or may not have anything to do with its size or shape.
Something else to think about
The New York Times reports, “A gradual fashion trend toward less bold jewelry has helped fuel interest in affordably priced precious pieces, which tend to be dainty.” So, you might build your new collection on well-selected small and dainty pieces.