This post has been in the works for a while now but I received a question for my email newsletter and the answer was so in depth that it lit a fire under me to finally finish it!
A reader wrote in…
“I’m writing with a question that might be outside of the scope of the newsletter, but I thought you might be able to help in some form. I really appreciated and learned a lot from all of the information you wrote about investing in your first Chanel bag and I was wondering if you might be able to share something similar about beginning to purchase classic jewelry pieces. I’m in my late 20s and I want to start to buy classic jewelry that I could wear everyday (like nice diamond studs). I don’t really have a budget at this point because I have no idea how to begin or even approach this process so I’m not really sure how much I should plan to spend. I feel like it can be a bit daunting to buy nice jewelry because it’s hard to find any kind of clear guide or suggestions.”
Building a Fine Jewelry Collection
I am going to share my favorites but I do think it’s different for everyone. What’s classic and timeless for one person could be totally different for someone else. For example, if you have a preppier sensibility, a strand of classic pearls would probably make the foundational pieces list. The second is, please remember I am 40. I am lucky to have a few family heirlooms but besides those didn’t have much fancy jewelry until age 29 or 30… that is when I started to (slowly!) buy myself a few things every year. A few nice things every year adds up to build a nice little collection.
The foundational pieces – classics you will wear most.
I thought about this for a while and if I could only keep one piece of my nice jewelry, it would be my diamond studs. They are an absolute classic and they brighten up your face. I have this pair from Tiffany’s. They are perfect. I have really small earlobes so (unlike my giant fingers) for me, smaller is better… mine are the .34 carat size. For something larger and more sparkly, a friend of mine has this pair from Amazon of all places and they are incredible in person!
This might be a case of “my classic is different from yours” but I included my hammered gold hoops from Ippolita (pictured above) as they are one of my most worn pieces of jewelry. Classic and simple and elegant (but not too big or trendy!!) I love them so much. I have had them for 3 or 4 years now and reach for them again and again.
A classic gold cuff bracelet.
This could be anything, depending on your style but I personally love the look of just one really good gold bracelet, all by itself. Of course you can stack as you build a little collection but right now I like wearing just one. A Cartier love bracelet (or Juste un Clou – I have the larger gold one with no diamonds and it’s probably my most worn bracelet). I also really love this bracelet from Croghan’s (the local jewelry store here in Charleston), it is high on my wish list!
Diamond stacking bands.
The ring I probably wear most is my band from Suzanne Kalan. I tend to layer it with other pieces… usually stacking bands from Dana Rebecca and A JAFFE.
A classic gold band.
This may not be for everyone but it’s one of my most worn rings so I wanted to include it – I love mixing in a classic gold band with the rest of my rings. I have this gold “wedding band” from Starling and it’s so easy and elegant, plus it’s made from 75% reclaimed materials, which is kinda cool. I love stacking it on my right hand with my Suzanne Kalan band, or wearing it on my middle finger.
A simple necklace.
Something really delicate with a simple (small) diamond like this Ariel Gordon diamond pendant. Rondel is another favorite – you’ll have fun daydreaming and playing around with their necklace builder. To be honest, my favorite piece is just their simple signature rolo chain. And it’s a little more playful but my Brent Neale bubble initial necklace is one of my most favorite pieces of jewelry, I wear it almost every day.
A signet ring.
Again this might not be a classic for everyone but I love mixing in a chunkier ring with my more delicate pieces. I have a horoscope signet from FoundRae, but Ariel Gordon also has absolutely gorgeous signet rings.
A classic watch.
You cannot go wrong with a classic, slightly masculine watch. I have a few nice watches but you only need one. The watch I wear most is a Rolex. It was a gift from an ex-boyfriend. I have mixed feelings on this but at this point it’s been so long (we broke up 8 years ago I think) that I have no sentimental ties to it. The RealReal is a great place to look for a good watch.
Having a bit more fun.
Once you have your basics figured out, it gets fun to start collecting more playful pieces. I think of my jewelry collection the way I think about my art collection: finding unique and interesting pieces that will play well together… finding things that are a little less ubiquitous… and most importantly, having fun with it! My two absolute favorite fine jewelry designers are Kirsty Stone of Retrouvai and Brent Neale. Irene Neuwirth, Sophie Joanne (her flower rings!), and Alison Lou (whimsical but classic, I love her enamel pieces).
A great cocktail ring.
Everyone’s taste is different but I can’t even tell you how often I wear my Retrouvai lollipop ring. I bought it for myself for my 40th birthday and it’s hands down, without a doubt, my favorite piece of jewelry. I love that it is one of a kind, in my favorite colors (mine is malachite with a green tourmaline center stone). And I would recommend going custom if you go the Retrouvai route; I was able to get exactly what I wanted, in my size… my middle finger is an 8.5 which is hard to find.
It was also really fun working with Kirsty and Janna to choose my stone… I had a pretty clear vision for what I wanted, and Kirsty sourced some incredible stones to choose from. This isn’t any more expensive than buying one off the site, nor is it some kind of influencer/editor perk – you just send them an email.
A Pair of Colorful Gem Drop Earrings.
I am a big fan of a colorful gem drop earring. They look like candy. I love Ileana Makri (an Athens-based designer), particularly her crown collection. The setting and cut of the stones make them SO sparkly. Another fav is Alison Lou. I love the drop earrings she does with a center stone and tonal enamel (like these!) I have a pink pair and am obsessed with them. The hearts are fun too but I prefer the round… I’d probably only do hearts with costume jewelry.
Something playful and unique.
It’s fun to find those signature pieces that are special and unique. Irene Neuwirth has the most incredible more whimsical jewelry. I personally love all of her flower pieces. A friend of mine has a set of her gumball rings (they’re meant to be stacked and look so good together) and they are really fun. Also on the flowers front, this ring from Sophie Joanne will probably be my next big jewelry purchase. It’s amazing.
Right now the jewelry trend I love most is baroque pearls. When a new trend comes out or everyone is wearing something, I try to think if I could see myself still wearing it in 10 or 20 years and usually the answer is no, so I will go to BaubleBar or another costume jewelry site. With baroque pearls, I think they will still be around a while, so felt comfortable investing. I bought these Chan Luu earrings and wear them a LOT. I do also think the BaubleBar version is pretty cute!
Disclosure: If you buy something through my links, I may earn an affiliate commission, at no cost to you. I only feature things I truly love here. Thanks for your support.
photography by Laura Saur.
Loved this post so much! I love your style and I’m in my late 20s so this kind of “fashion investment advice” content it highly appreciated! I would love a post like this about building a luxury handbag collection or generelly about where to save, spend and splurge when it comes to fashion.
Love from Germany!
Oh good I am so glad! I feel like the Chanel bags post is my investment handbag post… I have a Birkin bag and rarely use it but otherwise it tends to be Chanel or something fun from a small business.
Love this post…thanks!
You’re so welcome!
Grace, I love, love, loved this post. Thank you for putting such thoughtful recommendations together and introducing me to some new brands (I’m in love at first sight with Alison Lou).
I LOVE HER! And you are welcome, happy you liked it!
My advice is to invest in real gold jewelry. Real gold is hard to fake and is durable and timeless. You just feel expensive with a wrist of gold bracelets. On the other hand, I don’t wear real diamond studs. The fakes are too good–just keep them small so they don’t look too flashy. No one will ever know. Earrings fall out and get lost easily and I don’t want to be devastated if it comes to that.
This is great advice, Mary!
Absolutely loved this post (and the Chanel post) and would love to read more from an investment series! Have you ever done one on investment classics for shoes, overall bags, maybe even fun furniture brands or glassware? Thanks for your impeccable taste and informative guides as always, Grace!
I am so happy to hear that!
I don’t think I’d be able to offer much re: overall bags (my Chanels are my favorite and most of the rest of my bags are just fun bags) and I don’t spend a ton of money on shoes (it’s pretty much always Sarah Flint, Loeffler Randall, or Margaux) but glassware could be fun.
So fun to read this and dream!! I love my heirloom pieces passed down from family as well – I have even watched my mom take pieces that were passed down to her and transform them into something else and I love that idea. (Just a heads up I think your Ileana Makri crown collection is mislinked.)
Ah, fixed the link! And agree – family heirlooms are so so special.
I’ve also had a lot of fun and success going to a local jeweler with an idea of what I want and they source it for me! I made a “diamonds by the yard” type necklace and added a garnet for my grandmother and I’m in the process of making a band that’s half rainbow sapphires and half diamonds to symbolize new beginnings at a new job! I love having something unique plus there’s typically no charge for the building/customizing of the piece.
Oh I love that, so smart!!!!
Fully support investing in quality jewelry you love. Such a great post! I love the GA gold ring you have, where is that from? I’ve been wanting a big initial ring but haven’t found any I love. May need to go custom for it! Love the horoscope ring you have, so pretty!
an indigo day
It’s from Ariel Gordon!!! Here is a link! thestripe.me/3JLfnXj
Love this post, Grace! Another post idea might be how you think about fine jewelry — what you look for in terms of quality, wear, how often you’ll use it, etc!
Thanks for the suggestion!
Thanks for the inspiration! I loved that you included your gold hoops in this, and how you stressed how it’s different for everyone. The only fine jewelry I have (besides my wedding set) is a pair of diamond studs that belonged to my grandmother. Now you’ve got me contemplating investing in a nice bracelet!
Yes!! It’s truly so different for everyone!
This is a great post! Love your jewelry collection! I have two additional suggestions: I have found nice gold jewelry at TJMaxx (a pair of classic gold hoops I’ve worn for ages) and the “estate” section in your local jewelers. Often estate jewelry is priced less than it would cost if it were new, and you can find something unique, plus they may be more flexible on price. I have a bunch of gold bangles, and I’ve collected all of them this way.
I love these tips, thanks for sharing!
Hi Grace – I loved today’s post so much. I’m 30 years old and realized I’ve never bought myself fine jewelry, everything I own was either my mother’s or gifted to me by a man. I’m now so excited about treating myself to something! I’m curious if you could share wether you have a system you love for keeping jewelry organized and cared for? Thank you!
I don’t have a great system… I love the Stackers trays from the Container store though!
For storage, I use clear acrylic jewelry ‘chests’ (they aren’t big though) and you can add additional organizers inside like lipstick organizers to keep necklaces from tangling. I’ve seen good ones at Container Store and Overstock!
Such a fun topic! I love jewellery.
I would like to add that it’s also totally fine if you are not into what is traditionally considered a classic investment piece or fine jewellery. I’m the first grandchild in my family and at some point my grandparents wanted to gift me classic diamond studds to mark a special occassion. I found it really difficult to start the conversation, but knew I would never wear them. It’s just not my style and I look and feel much better in larger statement pieces. My grandmother was quite surprised, but gifted me her costume jewellery from the fifthies and sixties instead. Twenty years later I still cherish these pieces like I would a more traditional family heirloom.
I have started to collect vintage costume jewellery (ranging from flee-market finds to vintage designer pieces like Chanel). While my taste in everything else is quite classic and minimal I love to make a statement with my jewellery. It’s not everyones cup of tea, but it makes me really happy. I find that costume jewellery can wildly vary in quality, but the right ones can stand the test of time just as well and might be worth your investment. Just do you!
I could not agree more!!!!! Kind of like with my cocktail ring. I could have gone way more classic but this is something that’s so super me, I wear it multiple times a week!!
This was my favorite post of yours in a while (and I read every day!). SO many new-to-me brands, I found myself clicking on a ton of links – so, thank you! I’ve been eying a Jade Trau charm necklace for years now… thinking that may be a big purchase in the fall, finally! I have a few dainty gold fine jewelry necklaces I stack daily now, all collarbone-ish length, but I love the idea of one of her longer chains that sits at chest level. I also love the idea of a classic tennis bracelet (though maybe with a more modern look) to stack with my Tank Louis (30th birthday gift!) someday…
Oh I am so happy you enjoyed it!
I love the idea of slowly investing in nicer pieces. 2 years ago I bought some solid gold hoops from Costco. I wear them almost every day. No tarnish or anything. It was the first time I realized how special and heirloom solid gold can be. I recently bought a gold chain bracelet that was welded on. It brings so much joy. Brings some sparkle to my everyday. The next piece I want is a solid gold bangle.
I love that! 🙂
Hi! Thank you for this post! I was wondering – where did you get your little travel jewelry case? I am looking for a pretty one in that size (hopefully in a rich, emerald green!) for a trip I am taking this summer (fingers crossed!).
Here’s a link! Such a fun little $18 find! https://amzn.to/3IkAyiU
This blog post is simply one of the reason why you have been my favorite blogger for the past two years. I have been highly influenced to purchase jewelry that is timeless, and jewelry that is fun and makes you smile. You influenced my 30th birthday gift with a unique and imperfect multicolored diamonds starfish pendant necklace – the meaning behind the Starfish Story – “making a difference to that one”. Thank you for sharing your more special(expensive) and more everyday(affordable) finds!
Thank you for such a kind comment…. the necklace sounds incredible!!!!!
Hi Grace where are the earrings in the first slot on the left from? They look like two gold balls I couldn’t see the link in the article.
Hi! They are Alison Lou – they’re pink, just upside down!
I loved this post! I subscribe to your newsletter so I was really excited when this question came up in your newsletter, and loved your answer there, but the idea to provide a really in-depth blog post on this topic is genius, and so, so helpful! I’m mid-30s and finally decided I was DONE with the H&M jewelry haha…starting to invest in fine jewelry but there really isn’t a lot of info out there about what pieces to choose, what designers, etc. so this was incredible! Thank you!
you’re so welcome!
Excellent choices. So in love with the hammered hoops. I agree with a beautiful jewelry collection – as it can be passed down to children. Thanks for sharing.
or nieces and nephews!!! 🙂
This is great advice that I wish I had when I started out my fine jewelry collection. I love how you emphasized the importance of building the collection slowly. I love rings and my favorite brand for rings is Mejuri. Their diamond line ring, eternity band, wishbone set and pavé slim signet are some of my personal favorites. I know this isn’t for everyone, but I love pinky rings. The Mejuri pavé croissant dome ring and Zoë Chicco round diamond halo signet ring are in my top 10 favorite pieces in my collection. Last year I treated myself to a chanel mini coco crush crush ring for my birthday and I am so happy with it. If I could only choose one bracelet out of my collection I would choose my diamond cut 14k gold beaded bracelet from Nolita diamonds. I could go on and on about jewelry, but I’ll stop here. Thanks again.
Mejuri makes beautiful things!
I also wanted to thank you for introducing me to new brands. I feel like I have covered all the basics in my collection. Now I am looking to add more unique and special pieces. The my little world elephant pendant from ole lynggaard copenhagen is on my wishlist. The pieces from foundrae are absolutely stunning! They are some of the most beautiful and unique pieces I’ve ever seen. I would like to add one of the astrology medallions to my collection soon.
You’re so welcome and now I”m off to chekc out Ole Lynggaard!
Hi Grace. You once shared a custom long gold chain necklace where you could add charms. I believe it was local to Charleston. Can you remind me of the name? Thanks!
Hi! Yes – not fine jewelry, but Hart Hagerty – love her work. Her pieces are gold fill which is kind of like the next best thing to solid gold, they hold up really well!
Loved this post! After seeing your Suzanne Kalan fireworks band awhile ago, I started collecting her mini fireworks eternity bands and wear the yellow, rose and white gold ones stacked on my right hand. Thanks for turning me on to such a great designer! It’s classic with a twist. I also wear three gold and silver Cape Cod bracelets from Dennis, MA with my Love bracelet 24/7.
Oh good, I love that! Such a fan of her work!!!!
Love this post! I love my wide cigar band for stacking as well as a super delicate gold chain in a mid length. It grazes below my collarbone and adds a tiny bit of shine for every day.
Question: any thoughts on good places for mens jewelry? Classic chains or signet rings, etc.
I don’t have any off the top of my head! Sorry!
This post could not have been more timely!! I am turning 30 this year and have been thinking of gifting myself a piece of fine jewelry. I have a pair of diamond studs and a pair of rose gold hoops that I wear all the time, so I think my next purchase will be a bracelet (been eye-ing the Cartier ones for months already!) Thanks for all your great content!
Oh good, I’m so happy to hear that!
Great post. Agree that diamond studs are a great place to start for building a collection. A few points that come up for me:
1) vintage/second hand jewelry! Tends to be interesting, at a slightly lower price point, sustainable, and comes with a cool story. Both my wedding and engagement rings are vintage.
2) for newer pieces, I can’t say enough good things about Noemie (hellonoemie.com). Their stuff is fantastic quality (especially compared to Mejuri, in my experience) and well-priced.
3) costco has exceptional quality diamonds for the price. Surprising but true. I have amazing 1 carat diamone studs from there.
Thank you for the tips!!!
On the studs your friend got from Amazon, the reviews are not very good, and mention that they are not real diamonds. Any insight? Or insight from your friend on appraisal?
What? That’s nuts. I just looked at the reviews and you are right, though it looks like the really bad reviews are filtered to the top and the majority of the reviews are indeed positive. They look great on her and I don’t really feel comfortable asking her if they are real/appraised. According to Amazon they are AGS appraised.