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How To Buy Jewelry Like A Designer

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Jessie Ajluni | Thursday August 24th 2017

When it comes to buying jewelry I must admit that I am far from an expert. When I was younger, I would constantly chase the next big costume jewelry fad. Spending money on pieces that would be in my wardrobe for a few months before I tired of them. On the other hand the idea of spending the kind of money on fine jewelry pieces always seemed so far from my reach, let alone my bank account. Even now, the only pieces of jewelry I can say I wear with any consistency is my wedding ring and a couple vintage pieces my grandmother gave me.

But times they are a changing. Enlisting the help of some major players on the fine jewelry front. I’m picking on everything from the pieces they can’t live without to how to care for those lovely jewels once you’ve bought them. So read on pretty birds and check out what the cool designers have to say and take a look at their even cooler pieces in our round up below.

Shelley Sanders, Designer of The Last Line


What is your most favorite piece of jewelry you’ve ever owned?
My engagement ring, it actually was one of the first pieces of The Last Line. My husband designed it and worked with the jeweler for months. It was a design we always talked about and one day there he was with it and it all took off from there! For me, jewels can be more than adornment—they can be memories, symbolic, tokens of love and celebration.

What should you look for when investing in fine vs. fashion jewelry?
Jewelry is personal, there are pieces you want for now and things you want forever. I am a believer in the forever pieces and investing properly, but of course pepper in the fun pieces. Everyone needs their core pieces, whether that is a diamond stud in the perfect size or a group of tennis bracelets that go with everything. I think every girl needs at least one jaw dropping, make your girlfriends ask, “Where did you get that,” that make you feel oh-so-special, piece.

What are the current trends you are seeing in the jewelry market?
I think we can all agree women are shopping and wearing fine jewelry differently then ten years ago. Gone is the mentality that fine jewelry is reserved for special occasions or can only be purchased as a gift. As a designer, I wanted to create pieces that can be worn but not worried about. We see so many women now shopping for themselves, purchasing pieces that become everyday staples.

When designing the line, I wanted to incorporate color and work with stones beyond the usual suspects of emeralds, rubies, and sapphires, so you will (soon!) see some lapis, tiger’s eye, carnelian, and malachite. I love the idea or refreshing the classics with new colors and reviving jewelry techniques of the past to create modern heirlooms. Jewelry is classic, I wanted to honor that with a new lease, but stay true to the great styles and silhouettes.

For me, how a woman mixes her jewelry collection is what makes it cool, I love the idea of working vintage into new pieces, adding an earring jacket to your favorite stud, etc. All our earrings can all be purchased individually, so mixing it up is fully encouraged!

What’s your best tip to keep your jewelry in perfect condition?
Fine jewelry requires maintenance: gentle cleaning using a soft cloth and non-abrasive jewelry wash at a bare minimum. If you’re looking for an A+, remove your pieces before you shower, swim, etc.— like good champagne, your jewelry should be extra dry for the best experience.

Annette Lasala Spillane, Founder & CEO of The Artisan Row Accessories (TARA)


What is your most favorite piece of jewelry thatyou’ve ever owned?
That’s a toss-up between the bracelet I refashioned when from an heirloom piece (a diamond cigar band) when I was 18 and my wedding set.

What should you look for when investing in fine vs fashion jewelry?
When investing in fine jewelry, much like with other big purchases, look for a feeling tells you ‘I have to have this’ and that feeling is really not unlike falling in love (I’m not kidding). It has to be a piece that instantaneously lets you visualize yourself feeling so great in different outfits, on different occasions and moods for a very long time (unless you have to sell a kidney in order to afford the jewelry, then at that point, just walk away). Five years ago, I imposed an embargo on fashion jewelry purchases because I had accumulated an embarrassing amount of them that eventually got thrown out.  That said, when *that* feeling strikes for a fashion piece, I do make exceptions like I did about 18 months ago for the Oscar dela Renta impatiens flower drop earrings.  

What are the current trends you are seeing in the jewelry market?
All kinds of statement earrings still – symmetrical, asymmetrical / mismatched earrings, and single earrings. Also, heirloom coin or medallion pendants (or heirloom looking pieces).

What’s your best tip to keep your jewelry in perfect condition?
Clean them in an ultrasonic cleaner and dry before storing (I clean mine for 60 seconds once a week). 

Isadora Tang, Founder of OTEM


What is your most favorite piece of jewelry that you’ve ever owned?
I’ve worn this gold pendant of Nefertiti around my neck for the past ten plus years. It’s this old school 80s token that I found among my mother’s box of random jewelry that she’s kept through the years. To me it’s a symbol of female power. I wear it with a few other pendants as a long charm necklace, and I rarely ever take it off. 

What should you look for when investing in fine vs. fashion jewelry?
Fine jewelry is all about craftsmanship and quality, so pay attention to the details. Additionally, in my opinion, fine jewelry should be chosen as a lasting reflection of personal style. Fine jewelry says something about you in a more permanent manner — unlike fashion jewelry, which can come and go with trends and seasons, high quality fine jewelry should literally last forever. So looking for pieces that you won’t grow tired of wearing, or can imagine passing down to your children, is key. 

What are the current trends you are seeing in the jewelry market?
I’ve been seeing a lot more playfulness with how people approach jewelry. There seems to be a more daring attitude and a willingness to mix things up and layer up. For example, the trend of earring stacking this summer is really fun and allows for a new way to experiment with wearing jewelry for self-expression. Especially with fine jewelry — the market has fundamentally shifted in terms of what people want. It’s more about the everyday rather than the dramatic occasion piece.

What’s your best tip to keep your jewelry in perfect condition?
The key is to keep it clean. It’s amazing the dramatic difference between dirty and clean jewelry — especially when it comes to diamonds and gemstones. Luckily it’s easy to clean jewelry by soaking it in warm water and some jewelry cleaning solution (purchased or diy is both fine), and then brushing it with any old toothbrush. Most nice jewelry stores will also be willing to clean your jewelry in an ultrasonic and steamer for free, and that makes a world of difference. The other thing I would say is to store your jewelry separately in pouches or small ziplock baggies while traveling — helps prevent scuffing and scratching. 

Jason Hoehn, Co-Founder and Creative Director of Huckleberry Ltd


What is your most favorite piece of jewelry that you’ve ever owned?
A brass and polished stone belt buckle made by my grandfather and the first piece I ever made, a yellow gold and white diamond horseshoe ring, which is still in my collection.

What should you look for when investing in fine vs. fashion jewelry?
If we are talking about investing in terms of resell value, focus on the brand and quality of materials. In terms of personal investment, focus on the versatility of the piece and how often it can be worn.

What are the current trends you are seeing in the jewelry market?
I’m seeing a further divide between true fine jewelry and the lower tiers with a focus on art inspired one-of-a-kind pieces.

What’s your best tip to keep your jewelry in perfect condition?
Perfect condition? That’s impossible. My advice is wear it and love it, if it gets beat it up, have a trustworthy jeweler in your Rolodex for cleanings, repolishing and repairs. That’s a service we offer to our clients free of charge.


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