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!
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photography by Laura Saur.