For the first time in my adult life, I’m developing a taste for fine jewelry and it’s lead to some recent obsessions with a handful of contemporary jewelry designers I’d like to introduce you to.
I once read that buying jewelry is an art form and I have come to agree. As discerning as I can be about clothes, I haven’t bothered to cultivate an eye or taste for beautiful jewelry and have a pretty bad track record of buying myself cheap costume jewelry or gold vermeil (pronounced “ver-may”…even some of the sales women I’ve met recently get that one wrong). Until very recently, the only pieces of jewelry I own and like were all gifts from friends, my husband, or my parents.
But last year, several of my girlfriends pooled their money to buy me some gorgeous jewelry: A delicate, yellow gold necklace with a horizantal bar encrusted with tiny diamonds, a rose gold necklace with three small triangles, inlayed with diamonds, a pair of yellow gold diamond hoop earrings, and a pair of small rose gold, triangle-shaped diamond earrings. This was by far the most generous gift I’ve ever received (apart from my wedding ring) and the most luxurious and expensive jewelry I’ve owned. And I LOVE it.
These beautiful pieces, given to me with love by people I love, have served as my entrée into the world of fine jewelry. But I find that I’m overcoming two obstacles:
- I’m cheap. I have a hard time spending money on jewelry.
- I’m very hard on my jewelry. After years of wearing inexpensive jewelry, I’ve formed some bad habits and I’ve learned from experience that the best pieces are the ones I can wear all the time. If I can’t wear it while I sleep, workout, and shower, there’s a pretty good chance I’ll either lose it or simply not wear it.
Neither of these obstacles is going to go away overnight and, quite frankly, I’m not even sure they should. Anyone who likes to buy jewelry can attest to the fact that there is a dramatic cost differential from one brand to the next, even when two pieces appear to be identical. Like anything else, two brands can offer the same quality goods at very different price points, so it’s important to cost-compare to be sure you’re getting the best deal.
As for my tendency to ask a lot from my jewelry, while I could definitely stand to be more careful with it, I’m never going to relax my standards for durability and I’m happy to prioritize function over form if it means keeping a special piece forever.
Fortunately for me, today’s trend towards delicate, 14k gold jewelry is well-suited to both my budget and my bad habits. So, without further ado, meet my current jewelry obsessions:
I first became aware of Mejuri thanks to their prolific ads and promotional placements on Instagram. Advertising on Instagram has become somewhat obnoxious in it’s pervasiveness, in my opinion, but in this case, I think the strategy has probably worked. I, for one, am a big fan of the brand’s uber-delicate pieces, especially their thread-thin rings which are perfect for stacking and these engraved charm necklaces. And I think I need a pair of these 14k gold thumbtack earrings for only $69.
(Note: As you’ll see later in this post, Mejuri is not the only company claiming to have the market cornered on high-quality, low cost jewelry.)
Nearly every jewelry design copy in the business seems to have a long list of celebrity clients these days, but EF Collection – my favorite jewelry designer on this list – has a particularly impressive roster. Just think of the first Hollywood “It” Girl that comes to mind and she’s probably been photographed wearing something from EF Collection. Emma Stone, Jennifer Lawrence, Reese Witherspoon, Charlize Theron, Naomi Watts, Jessica Alba…do I need to continue or are you getting the idea?
Whether these A-list ladies like the jewelry, their stylists do, or the company has a well-funded marketing department giving the pieces away to said celebrity and/or celebrity stylists, the designs are super cool. I’m particularly obsessed with the huggie earrings, which are at the top of my wish list.
Maya Brenner is an L.A. native and has become known for her monogrammed, initial necklaces, earrings, and bracelets, as well as her state-shaped pendant necklaces.
A few friends of mine gifted me a “T” necklace a few years ago. I made the mistake of taking it off in our hotel room when we went to Montecito two years ago and it’s been lost ever since. I finally stopped calling their security office about four months ago. I’m still sick about it, because this necklace personifies everything I’m looking for in jewelry. I almost never took it off and it withstood several waterski trips, workouts, showers, and more to great success. One day, I will replace it.
I was first introduced to Gigi Clozeau when Vogue.com published one of their now-discontinued editorials, Five Days, Five Looks, One Girl, on Cynthia Smith back in 2013. In one of the looks, Cynthia is wearing several beautiful necklaces (one of which was from the next designer on my list, Garland Collection), including a long, delicate, gold strand with resin beads, reminiscent of an antique rosary. I’ve thought about the necklace ever since.
The company is family owned and crafting their jewelry in the South of France – and it sort of shows. The website is “coming soon” and their necklaces are difficult to find, making them all the more alluring and special. Still, there are a few online retailers with inventory, the largest of which can be found on CohoUSA.com. If you don’t mind buying used jewelry, you can find several pieces on Vestaire Collection. But be warned, even the used stuff goes quickly.
Garland Collection was “born in L.A., but raised in New York”, just like founder, Nicole Mann Novick’s children. The line is known for their signature collection of nameplates, ID bracelets, cufflinks and signet rings, but also curates vintage costume jewelry.
If Rihanna and Jackie Kennedy had a baby, I feel like it would wear Garland Collection. The pieces themselves are slightly oversized and flashy, and yet also deeply personal: A family heirloom in the making, for sure.
Like Mejuri, Au Rate (pronounced like “orate”) is branding themselves as a leader high-quality, low-priced goods, and ethically operated, sourcing all their materials from conflict-free regions. The young, beautiful founders, Sophie Kahn and Bouchra Ezzahraoui, met at Princeton and run the company from their NYC offices. I especially love the gold skinny cuff and the connected necklace.
Who Offers the Better Value?
So, between Au Rate and Mejuri, who offers the best value? Out of curiosity, I decided to compare the two retailers using the Mini Circle Ring from Au Rate and the Beaded Ring from Mejuri, both in 14k rose gold.
On price alone, Mejuri comes out on top. But to be fair, the comparison may not be exactly apples-to-apples. Only Au Rate publicizes the total weight of the ring (1 gram), but the width of the two bands is close, 1.5mm vs. 1.2mm respectively. I’m sure there are metrics I don’t know about that would make this comparison more fair and accurate. But if the Au Rate ring costs $100 per millimeter and the Mejuri ring costs $57.50 per millimeter, it begs the question: Is an extra 0.3 millimeters – which is possibly undetectable to the naked eye – worth an additional $81?
I’m not qualified to answer to this question conclusively. But this exercise proves my point: When it comes to paying for jewelry, it never hurts to do a little research and make sure you’re not overpaying for the same quality offered for less money elsewhere.
When Michelle Obama wore a piece from the stone collection, Kathleen Whitaker rose to a new level of name-recognition, but in truth, the company was launched in 2003 and is most known for the earrings I’m crushing on hardest, the Staple Studs. Her pieces are elegant, refined, and quite unique. Some of them are so small and delicate, in fact, that they can easily go unnoticed, and in that way, they make a strong statement about the woman who wears them.
You can purchase items directly from KathleenWhitaker.com or, if your in Southern California, you can usually find her jewelry at your nearest Mohawk General Store (locations in L.A., Santa Monica, Silver Lake, and Pasadena.)
Olivia K Jewelry
Yet another L.A. native (what is it about the City of Angels that inspires such lovely jewelry?), Olivia K jewelry is owned and designed by Olivia Kazanjian.
I first learned about Olivia K when my girlfriend gave me a blue, rose gold, small fleck bracelet a few years ago and I don’t think I’ve taken it off since. This jewelry is the epitome of low-maintenance cool. Since receiving my first bracelet, I’ve purchased a gold and diamond nugget ball bracelet and a black, big fleck gold bracelet (for the very attractive price of $42). I wear all three bracelets every day and never take them off. I love them because they’re pretty, chic, and durable.
The fact that her jewelry doesn’t cost a fortune only makes me want to collect more. And at that price point, they make great gifts, too. Most recently, I purchased the kids gold fleck bracelet with dusty rose thread and rose gold flecks as a gift for my seven-year old goddaughter and she loves it.
The one item I have yet to find from any of these retailers, the one at the very top of my wish list? A long, 26″-30″ gold pendant necklace to complete my layered ensemble. A Gigi Clozeau necklace and pendant may be the answer. But I’m surprised more retailers aren’t making these, as I think there’s a demand for them. (Maybe we’ll all get lucky and they’ll read this post and rise to meet the need!)
So tell me, who are some of your favorite jewelry designers that I should add to my list?
Thanks for reading.