A great outfit does a lot of things. It sets the tone of your look, quietly expressing who you are, who you want to be, and what you want to accomplish today. But even the best outfits can be elevated with the right jewelry—which is why there are a few different jewelry items every woman and femme should own.
Some jewelry purchases are all about being gripped by the item and the moment; others are more planned. If you’re building up a catalogue of jewelry basics, these three categories are a great place to start. They’re items with a lot of flexibility, so not only can they be selected to suit the individual, but they can be worn with a wide array of outfits, too.
Think of jewelry basics like a great kitchen knife, or an excellent dress shirt. The right ones let you do a lot with very little!
1. Every woman should own one truly great necklace!
I’m a necklace person, so necklaces are the first thing I recommend when someone is building up their jewelry repertoire. They’re a low risk jewelry item: everyone can wear them, and they always fit. But despite being low risk, they’re often high impact, which makes them the perfect place to start.
My necklace collection is pretty minimal. If I won’t wear something at least once a month, then I won’t buy it. But what’s stayed constant throughout the years is that I always have one “magic” necklace—one item that I can add to almost any outfit and have it look great. My first “staple necklace” was a short string of baroque-shaped pearls that belonged to my mother; my second, a simple black velvet choker.
Today, my go-to necklace is fine gold swoop encrusted with diamonds (a particularly thoughtful gift from my beau). Its princess length chain and light weight make it easy to wear with anything, and it completes any outfit without being attention-grabbing. But while I like simple, no-nonsense pieces, there’s a wonderfully broad range of necklaces out there. Some personalities are best suited to attention-grabbing diamonds; others, to colourful lengths of rope and beads.
How to pick your perfect necklace
I always think that necklaces are a great item to own a variety of, but there’s a certain allure to having just one or two “perfect” necklaces that you swap in. Having a grab-and-go piece that makes sense with any outfit is great for indecisive dressers, busy parents, and high-achievers who want to save their decision-making power for the big stuff.
I’ve talked up the value of variety quite a bit, but if I had to pick just one item, it would be a pendant necklace. Choose a metal that matches your wardrobe: white gold or silver if you wear a lot of cool colours, like grey, blue, purple, and green, and gold if you wear a lot of warm colours, like red, beige, coral, peach, and brown.
Another great way to choose your perfect necklace (especially for the indecisive) is to go with something that’s sold as part of a set. Necklaces with matching earrings make it easy to create a cohesive, elegant look without having to second-guess your choice.
2. A classic set of earrings
If you (or your recipient) have pierced ears, I recommend owning at least one classic set of earrings. Choose either hoop earrings, pearl earrings, or diamond studs for a simple look that goes with a wider variety of outfits. These earrings can be purchased in a matching set, but are also a fun item to choose on their own!
Three takes on a classic
Small hoops are a refined way to bring attention to your neck, ears, and jawline, while large hoops are designed to make a statement. (I love small hoops that feature a line of gemstones in the centre, like these gold hoop earrings.)
Pearl earrings tend to come as studs (or solitaire) earrings, but are also available as small drop or hoop earrings. Even though flashy fashion earrings made from materials like embroidery thread and polymer clay are having their moment right now, pearls remain a popular choice—especially for big events or nights on the town. For a trendy take on the pearl earring, consider a set of midcentury-style drop pearl earrings with a bit of colour, like these black cultured pearl drop earrings.
Finally, diamond studs are the most popular choice when it comes to “must-have” earrings. They’re eye-catching and simple, and pair well with anything. Variability in metal, size, and stone type mean they fit any budget, and they’re an easy item to upgrade through different stages of your life. Whether your diamond studs are something that you purchase for yourself with every job milestone, or something you celebrate your partner with when they succeed, there’s plenty of ways to go from small silver studs to jaw-dropping diamonds.
Variation in styles will help make your wardrobe more flexible, so if you’re not sure where to start, try building your collection on a few “must have” pieces. Pendant earrings, studs, and hoops are all appropriate for different occasions, but simple stud or drop earrings are an ideal item to begin with for versatile wear.
3. A great piece of fashion jewelry
Here’s something that you won’t find in every jewelry guide out there. We’re used to seeing the classics: every woman should own a pendant necklace. A set of stud earrings. A beautiful right hand ring.
But why not something fun?
Everyone, I think, should own one great piece of fashion jewelry. Something that makes a statement—something that makes you feel wide open and confident every time you put it on.
The perfect piece of fashion jewelry can be anything, but I find that it’s often something you receive as a gift: the perfect piece that someone else saw that was so you that it made them think of you immediately. You know; something like this high-low mix of fashion jewelry and fine stones that had me at lemon. Keep your eyes open for a huge bracelet that looks like a curvy baguette, or dangly earrings from a book series that you loved as a child. (Radish earrings, anyone?)
Mix your fine and fashion jewelry
For wearers who want to mix the two categories, classic pieces with a bit of whimsy are a great option. Look to designs like this six piece earring set from Le Reve, with subtle epoxy butterflies and flower studs. Your jewelry collection should be something you enjoy every time you dip into it, whether you’re dressing for work or a dinner date.
Sure, everyone should own a couple staple items of fine jewelry. But why not make your third staple item something that you can love right now, with all your heart, with room to love something else next year?
Check out Best Buy’s best Valentine’s Day gifts of 2021 for even more jewelry inspiration.