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I feel naked without my core jewelry pieces — my neck, ankle, and fingertips are almost always dripped in my grandmother’s jewelry. And while I recommend having staple pieces that hold either meaning or value, I prefer the rest of my collection to come from affordable jewelry brands that I can rotate through as trends, seasons, and my personal style changes.
But it can be a challenge to find affordable pieces that last more than just a night out — we’ve all experienced earrings that rust quickly or necklaces with flimsy clasps that break instantly — or ones that actually look high-end, even if they’re not. “I try to make sure it looks quality. For gold and silver pieces that means that the color and plating look as realistic as possible versus being too pale or yellow” says Diana Tsui, celebrity fashion stylist. The key is to have fun with it, and remove the stress and commitment of purchasing long lasting expensive pieces.
Below are some of my own favorite affordable jewelry brands, each with their own unique styles to shop from.
Anyone active on social media has probably come across Mejuri a handful of times. But they’re more than just a good marketing campaign. Stylist Diana Tsui particularly loves their chunky dome huggies and sculptural silver waves as “more wearable, everyday version of the giant Bottega earrings that we’re seeing all over social media”. But I find the wide range of styles the most appealing. You can find something from this celebrity-approved brand for every style and occasion, with each product category having over a 100 design options with most pieces under $150
As the brand that I turn to when I want to venture out of my comfort zone, Ana Luisa offers more playful, youthful pieces made from the same gold-plated silver materials that most of these affordable jewelry brands use. Some of their everyday pieces retail for less than $30, removing much of the intense decision making process of selecting jewelry — yes, you can get the pearl drop earrings and the letter necklace. You can buy it, wear it for a few months, and move onto the next style without any bad feelings. Not only because the purchase didn’t cost your wallet, but because their extensive sustainability practices don’t cost the planet much harm either.
Gorjana makes layering jewelry easy. Over the last 18 years since their launch, the husband-and-wife founded brand steadily rose to fame by making attainable and sleek accessories. Despite being delicate and simple, their designs stray from the same old looks you see everywhere else. Take the rope necklace with a clasp charm, a checkered bar bracelet, or a statement band ring for example — each offers a unique touch to an otherwise common piece. The best part? One would never guess that the gold chains dangling from your neck only cost you $65.
There was a time when everyone and their aunties needed to have an Alex and Ani bracelet, almost like a status symbol — and not having one meant you weren’t in tune with current trends. Now, much like other revived Y2K trends, Alex & Ani is making a comeback with their meaningful and sentimental jewelry pieces. While they still carry their iconic charm bracelets, you’ll find plenty of playful necklaces and earrings as well. Their designs take a youthful approach to jewelry, offering colorful gems, butterfly charms, and heartwarming messages engraved into clean recycled metals.
You’re probably familiar with Madewell’s quality clothing, but have you ever browsed through their extensive collection of everyday jewelry? They have both minimalist pieces, as well as subtly quirky charms, all of which are elevated with quality designs and materials. Most of their offerings are gold-plated over brass, but last a surprisingly long time. I personally buy my hoops from Madewell, and the ones I got in 2020 still look quite good in 2023, despite my wearing them in the shower, beach, and sleep all the same.
It’s difficult to find jewelry that’s beautiful, made of quality materials, crafted sustainably, and doesn’t come with a shocking price tag… or at least it used to be. Now Aurate, which is backed by Kerry Washington, offers just that. By using recycled luxurious materials, operating locally, and producing on a made-to-order basis so nothing gets wasted, they can bring forth elevated designs with ever-lasting materials at an affordable price. It’s important to set expectations right, however. Their pieces are affordable in comparison to what the market standard is for the same design and material. So, a diamond earring that typically retails for over $1,000, can be purchased at $250 here.
If you’re tired of seeing the same old gold hoops offered over and over again and need something that’s an extension of your bubbly personality, then Baublebar, which is a favorite of celebrities, like Jennifer Aniston and Julia Roberts, believe it or not, is here to dress you up. There’s no shortage of colorful and poppy accessories, like this Mary Kate bracelet, or this bedazzled rainbow name bracelet. While you can still find some more muted options (personally love this dainty anklet), Baublebar is really more for the outgoing and the playful. On top of their standard offerings, they also have a line of customizable jewelry, or fine jewelry, all of which come at an affordable price point.
Beyond offering fun, trendy, and sentimental jewelry, Oak and Luna actually lets you decide what kind of material you want your jewelry to come in. That’s right, the same necklace is offered in sterling silver, rose gold plating, 18k gold vermeil, rose gold vermeil, and 14k solid gold. Naturally, each is offered at a different price point, so you can find the look that best suits your wallet. They also offer several customization capabilities, like with this name necklace, that accommodates up to ten characters.
Quince, the direct-to-consumer retailer that offers honest prices and quality materials, recently launched a fine jewelry line that cannot be slept on. We’ve highlighted the brand’s stud earrings before, but outside of just earrings, their gorgeous dainty pieces of jewelry appeal to a wide range of people, as their simple yet elegant designs can easily be incorporated into everyday life. Not to mention that the jewelry is sourced responsibly, made with solid gold and real diamonds, on top of being affordable. We have our eyes on their 14k gold hoops and stackable rings, which look (and feel) just as nice as more pricey brands.
Founded by TV personality Kristin Cavallari, Uncommon James creates both trendy and timeless pieces intended to spark some joy and fun into your everyday life. You’ll find everything from poppy pink statement earrings to universally loved heart-shaped rings. Everything in their collection feels effortless and lighthearted, but they never skimp out on quality, as almost everything is gold-plated over brass — exactly what you need in edgy and trendy pieces. These affordable accessories suit women of all backgrounds and stages in life.
If you are not already, it’s time to get acquainted with Asian-American jewelry brand BONBONWHIMS. You are going to see a whole lot of their Y2k-inspired jewelry on Netflix’s newest movie School for Good and Evil, as they designed an entire collection exclusively for their premiere. But even without their big movie break, celebrities, like Bella Hadid, SZA, Ariana Grande, and Doja Cat, all have worn their chunky whimsical pieces, most of which are under $150. Diana Tsui adores the Dessert Remix rings, a two-tiered 18k gold-filled ring, featuring one crystal embezzled band and one dipped in thick enamel. While I’m more of an Evil Love necklace kind of girl, any of their styles would fulfill my nostalgic desire to revisit the early aughts.
Let me introduce you to my newest obsession: Yam. This is the affordable jewelry brand for people who want a little more statement than a Mejuri, but not as in-your-face as a BONBONWHIMS. It’s that slight pop of color and design that adds a modest, yet noticeable statement to your look. Each piece is made to order and handmade in Queens, NY. Despite the one-of-a-kind piece you end up receiving, the price remains gentle on your wallet. Wear their pieces to a special occasion that requires a little more than a gold hoop but a little less than gems and diamonds.
Wandering the streets of New York City, I’ve often stumbled across Catbird, a dainty little jewelry store in SoHo. As the allure of shiny things pulled me into the room, I marveled over the gorgeous minimalistic pieces on display — some were carved with intricate designs, while others held little diamonds up for admiration. For how high-end the pieces look, this woman-run business has (in my opinion) the most honest pricing system. You can find affordable jewelry below $200, alongside icy diamond rings well in their thousands. All pieces are designed, crafted, and shipped from their studio in Brooklyn using almost entirely recycled golds and diamonds, minimizing their carbon footprint significantly. And while the industry doesn’t have a particularly good rep when it comes to sustainability, Catbird makes it a priority to work with the people and earth with utmost respect.
I’m not going to lie, while writing this blurb I may have slipped a few necklaces into my cart. How could I resist such alluring pieces with attractive price points? They craft affordable everyday pieces (found under “essentials” within each product category) alongside their more high-end 14k yellow, rose, and white golds. Each piece from the female-owned brand is handmade sustainably in Los Angeles and loved by celebs like Rosie Huntington and Katie Holmes. Shop here for reliable and quality pieces that ooze delicacy and simplicity.
WWake offers a collection of fine jewelry under $200 that contain opals, emeralds, amethysts and more. Yes, the initial shop page may look intimidating on your wallet. But if you navigate to the “Gifts under $500” tab, you’ll find an array of options made of “recycled 14k gold and ethically sourced diamonds and gemstones”, says Jennifer Ganadia, who co-founded Greenwich St. Jewelers and sources jewelry brands for her store. Each piece is a delicate work of art, adding a subtle yet noticeable elegance to your attire
Say hello to my favorite affordable jewelry brand that sells earrings by the hole. Yes, you heard that right. For the majority of women who have more than one piercing in their ears, you can now shop by your helix, your conch, your tragus, rook, and daith. Did you know all of these words before this moment? Neither did I. But hey! I’m all the wiser and accurately blinged out because of it. For a girl with multiple piercings in her ear, I’m drooling over the wide range of simple to statement designs they have. It should be noted however that their dedicated focus on earrings keeps them from creating any necklaces, bracelets, or rings.
Ten Wilde gets you as close as possible to a vintage-look without actually having to shell out the money for said vintage piece. Shop here for an array of pendants that have that old-school appeal to them. Many of the pieces vary in material, so I recommend checking the product description each time. As you browse through their catalog (and impressive Instagram feed filled with our fave celebs), you’ll find a number of staple pieces to add to your collection. But it’s this Te Amo necklace for two that’s captured my heart.
Instead of dropping thousands on jewelry, Bonheur Jewelry will let you appear you like you did — but for much, much less. It only takes one look at the mini crystal hoop earrings made from Swarovski crystals for onlookers to be in awe of your iced out ears. The brand lets you have fun and worry less about maintenance or material. But in my experience, the pieces still hold up for a long time, regardless of the price. It’s what we call a win-win.
You can find it all at Kendra Scott — from fine to demi fine to costume jewelry. Each is separated into categories that make it easy for the shopper to select and choose what suits them best. Not only do they have our classic rings and necklaces, but also smart watch bands and accessory organizers, as well. It’s a one-stop-shop for all types of jewelry at any time of your life.
Missoma creates sophisticated jewelry pieces that take your everyday favorites and turn them into subtle statements. Navigate to the gold and silver categories to easily find stunning pieces under $200. It should be noted that the gold plated jewelry is 18k gold, rather than your usual 14k, making them more durable through time. Stylist Chantelle Malarkey recommends taking each piece off and storing them properly before sleep. Make sure to avoid any contact with water, too, if you hope to make them longer lasting.
I finally found out where everyone has been buying their face outline earrings, and they’re only $32. Because this one might be the most affordable jewelry brand among the list, anyone with a tight budget yet refuses to compromise on trends (or quality) needs to take a look at these beautiful collections. Originally founded in France — and then later brought over to the states — this female-founded and led company creates vintage inspired jewelry intended to stand out and bring forth confidence.
What to Keep in Mind
The biggest difference between expensive, fine jewelry and costume jewelry is the material. Fine jewelry is typically made of responsibly-sourced gold, silver, and platinum or encrusted with diamonds and sapphires. Affordable jewelry on the other hand is often gold plated silver over other materials, such as copper, and bronze. The gold tends to wear off over time, revealing whatever material is used underneath. It’s also common for some people to experience rashes from certain metals, if they didn’t know they were allergic to the base material.
There is also gold filled jewelry, which contains a little more gold within the jewelry making it last longer. This, along with platinum, is much more durable, says Chantelle Malarkey, fashion blogger and stylist. They’re a great in-between option for anyone wanting long lasting products at an affordable price. For a full breakdown of least to most valuable materials, click here.
The diamond and jewelry industries don’t have a great reputation for ethical business practices. That includes everything from mining practices, safe working conditions, and environmental impact. Modern jewelry brands have adapted to more conscious sourcing methods, committing to a sustainable business model. These brands will have a section on their websites where you can read about their promises to earth. Make sure to check those out before purchasing.
Your Questions, Answered
What’s the difference between gold-plated and gold-filled?
Gold-plated materials only have a thin layer of gold coating the underlying material. Gold-filled materials have an additional two or three layers of solid gold covering the base. Both can vary in karat, but the gold-filled products will last longer and typically come with a higher price point.
What karat gold should I look for with affordable jewelry?
The happiest medium between affordability and durability comes in the 18k gold-plated jewelry. Most brands offer 14k gold-plated jewelry, which look great and can last a while depending on usage and care. But in order to have a more sturdy piece that puts up a fight against time, opt for 18k.
How do I make affordable jewelry last longer?
The quickest material to deteriorate is the 14k gold-plated over copper pieces — go for a higher karat if you want more longevity. Once the gold wears off, copper leaves a green-ish residue on your skin or for some, a rash due to allergies. If you want to make your jewelry last longer, Jennifer Ganida recommends removing all your pieces “before bed, working out or going to the beach. Clean it with a jewelry cleaner and store in a secure place”. We also suggest taking it off before you shower as water can cause a lot of wear and tear on your pieces.
Why Shop With Us
Bianca Kratky is a commerce writer for InStyle with two years of experience covering fashion and lifestyle products. You will never find her without at least five or six jewelry pieces dangling around her, always sporting quality pieces that don’t wear or tear. In order to write this article, she consulted stylists, jewelry experts, and fashion bloggers (Diana Tsui, Jennifer Gandia, and Chantelle Malarkey) to get an insider scoop on what to consider, where to shop, and which brands are most loved by celebs and professionals.