Jewelry 101: A Masterclass in Accessories

Article Highlight: 6 Tips for Buying Jewelry & Be a Gift-Giving Pro

Jewelry can make a very special gift, but it's not always easy to know how to shop for someone else. Fortunately, if you keep a few real-world tips for buying jewelry in mind as you shop, you'll end up with the… Keep reading »

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Nothing shows off your personal style like jewelry. From delicate chains to statement pieces, there are lots of ways to express your fashion sense and build a wonderful jewelry collection.

Getting Comfortable With Jewelry Basics

Like any niche industry, jewelry has certain terms that get thrown around. Understanding this jargon can help you make informed choices about which jewelry you should wear or purchase. It's also good to get a basic understanding of popular jewelry materials and the markings you see on your jewelry.

Most Jewelry Is Marked

If you look at your rings, necklaces, and other pieces, you'll see small stamps or marks that indicate metal content, manufacturer, and other things. Take some time to review common jewelry markings so you'll be able to tell what you have in your jewelry box.

Jewelry Materials Affect Value and Durability

You'll see jewelry crafted from many different precious metals. Each metal has its advantages and disadvantages, and these can affect how you choose to wear a piece and whether it fits within your budget:

  • Gold - Gold comes in several colors, including yellow, rose gold, and white gold. The purity of gold is measured in gold karats, with 24k being pure gold. The higher the purity, the softer and less durable a piece is (and the more valuable it is).
  • Silver - Silver jewelry is more durable than gold, and it's also less valuable. However, silver is still a beautiful choice for fine jewelry, particularly for pieces you plan to wear often. Sterling silver is 92.5% pure silver, and it's a common choice for jewelry.
  • Platinum - Platinum is another white metal and is one of the most costly options for jewelry. It is precious and cool-toned but is stronger than gold. Platinum jewelry is extremely valuable, and this material can be a good choice for special pieces.
  • Titanium - While titanium isn't really a precious metal, it's incredible durability makes an option for fine jewelry you plan to wear often. Titanium jewelry can stand up to abuse, and it's not as costly as other materials.
  • Gemstones - Diamonds and other precious gemstones can dramatically affect the value of jewelry. Gemstones can also have meanings, such as the birthstones associated with each month.

Choosing Jewelry to Wear

Whether you're looking through your collection or shopping for some new pieces, choosing jewelry is about looking at the options and considering your personal style. The pieces you choose need to match your outfit and your personality. Here are some tips to help.

Consider Your Jewelry Personality

Are you into turning heads with your statement jewelry, or are you more into traditional or classic pieces? You can take a jewelry personality quiz to find out or simply look to your own wardrobe. If most of your clothing is simple and understated, that's a good indication that you prefer traditional jewelry. Similarly, if your wardrobe is full of bright colors and loud prints, you may love making a statement with necklaces and earrings too.

Think About Your Neckline

The neckline of your clothing is another major factor in determining what type of jewelry you should wear. For instance, if you're wearing a one-shoulder dress, you should stay away from necklaces that conflict with the asymmetrical neckline. Look at different options for earrings and necklace lengths to determine what will work best with your top or dress.

Look at the Colors and Patterns in Your Outfit

In general, your jewelry shouldn't fight with your clothing to get attention. If you're wearing a lot of bright colors or a bold pattern, you may want to keep your jewelry simple. On the other hand, when it comes to jewelry for a black dress, you have tons of options.

Don't Forget the Formality Level

In most cases, the jewelry you wear to the beach is not the same jewelry you wear to a gala. Just as clothing has a formality level, jewelry does too. For instance, an ornate diamond necklace is very formal, while a simple sterling silver chain can be a casual choice. Try to match the formality of your jewelry to the clothing you're wearing.

Remember Practical Considerations

Some jewelry, such as a delicate pearl necklace, is not suited to rough wear. The materials in your jewelry will dictate how durable it is, but the design can also be a factor. For instance, the type of clasp on a necklace can affect whether it will stand up to daily wear. As you choose jewelry, it's a good idea to remember these practical considerations too.

Think About Subtle Meaning

The jewelry you wear can send signals about you as a person. For instance, if you wear a locket, it shows you may be romantic or sentimental. Even more importantly, the finger you choose for a ring can tell people whether you're married and even offer clues about your profession, sexual orientation, and more.

Buying and Selling Jewelry

Shopping for jewelry can be fun, but it can also feel overwhelming. There are a lot of brands out there, and there are tons of places to buy and sell. The key is doing your research and taking your time before making any big decisions.

Get Familiar With Jewelry Brands and Stores

From costume jewelry brands and retailers to high-end fine jewelry designers, these are a few notable names in jewelry:

  • Tiffany & Co. - Perhaps the most famous jewelry brand, Tiffany & Co. is all about fine materials and simple, classic styles.
  • Park Lane - This fashion jewelry brand was a staple of stylish women in the 1960s and 1970s, and vintage pieces from Park Lane are still popular today.
  • Jan Michaels - Jan Michaels is a jewelry artisan and designer of statement brooches. These pieces are very collectible.
  • Brighton Jewelry - This famous fashion jewelry brand is an affordable choice for staying on trend. There are Brighton Jewelry outlets around the country.

Be a Smart Shopper

Jewelry is an investment, and being a smart shopper means learning how to get a good deal on valuable pieces. Keep these tips in mind:

  • Research before you shop. Take some time to learn about the materials used and the value of the pieces you're considering.
  • Shop in lots of places. Try speciality jewelry stores, but also shop in thrift stores and other places to buy designer jewelry.
  • Compare prices. You may find the same piece for much less at a different store. Take some time to shop around.
  • Don't forget to shop online. Online jewelry stores sometimes have the best deals, and they make it easy to compare prices.

Sell With Confidence (and an Appraisal)

Before you sell any of your collection, take some time to get a jewelry appraisal for any piece that might be especially valuable. This allows you to set the price fairly. Then, if you choose to take it to a gold buyer or sell your jewelry online, you can make sure you ask what it's worth. Having background knowledge allows you to sell with confidence.

Caring for Your Jewelry

Taking care of your jewelry properly is also important if you want to keep your collection in good shape. There are a few tricks to help:

  • Organize your collection. Jewelry organizers come in lots of different styles, and they can help you see what you have and prevent chains and necklaces from getting tangled.
  • Store jewelry in a dry place. Avoid storing jewelry in the bathroom or any other place with a lot of moisture. This can damage some gems.
  • Keep everything clean. Dirt, dust, and oil from your skin can damage some delicate gems, and will keep all your pieces from looking their best. There are lots of jewelry cleaners to try, but gentle soap and water can work for many items.
  • Polish silver gently. Silver jewelry tends to tarnish, especially if you don't wear it every day. Use specialized polish or silver cleaner to gently remove the tarnish without harming the surface of the jewelry.

Jewelry Is an Extension of Your Personality

Ultimately, jewelry is an extension of your personality. Choose pieces that show who you are, whether you're selecting them from your jewelry box or buying new jewelry in stores or online. Then take care of your investment so it can represent your personal style beautifully for years to come.

Jewelry 101: A Masterclass in Accessories