Affordable fine jewelry may sound like an oxymoron, but thanks to a recent boom in direct-to-consumer brands, the landscape is changing. And due to the advent of Instagram, it feels as though new brands are popping up every week with an interesting twist to stand out from the pack. Still, you don’t have to pick between DTC disruptors and time-honored jewelry houses—there’s enough 14k love to go around.
Whether you’re looking to indulge in pieces touching on fall 2022 jewelry trends or invest in timeless staples (and yes, that includes some of the top luxury jewelry brands) to go with your best evening bags, read on for our roundup of eye-candy jewelry worth investing in, ahead.
If you were a suburban mall rat who got their ears pierced at a kiosk (because, let’s be real, who hasn’t?), you’re probably familiar with Piercing Pagoda. The store has since rebranded itself as Banter, which offers the same services, but with a more curated, modern selection of jewels. Think: diamond butterflies, 14k Cuban links, and more—at the affordable luxury prices you remember as a teenager.
High-quality fine jewelry usually comes with an equally high price tag, but Stone and Strand aims to make fine jewels more accessible. It offers the same quality, but without the mysterious markup. In terms of the designs, the New York-based brand marries simplicity with fun pops of unexpected color. We’re particularly fond of this rainbow tennis bracelet, a playful twist on a classic.
If simple, yet personal jewelry is your vibe, look no further than BYCHARI. Founded by Chari Cuthbert, the brand’s ethos is that simplicity is luxurious. Dainty necklaces and stackable rings are highlights, but its bestseller is a custom letter necklace. And if it looks familiar, that’s because Meghan Markle is a big fan.
Auvere is what happens when you add love to the mix. Literally. Founder and designer Gina Feldman Love ditched her career as a real estate lawyer to follow her creative passion in jewelry design, met her future husband Steven Feldman, and together they launched Auvere in 2016. Working exclusively in 22k and 24k gold, the founders intend for their jewelry to be loved forever. And they make that objective easy with beautiful, timeless designs.
At Sarah Chloe, it’s all about you. Seriously, you can customize just about anything you want with this fine jewelry brand. Named after her firstborn daughter’s bracelet that she custom-made, designer Zahava Ryzman wanted to make things personal, for everyone. The brand offers everything from signet rings to diamond initials and bracelets you can engrave with longitude and latitude coordinates.
Not all jewelry needs to be dainty and meaningless. Khiry jewelry is intended to stand out, hold meaning, and tell a story. After being told that luxury goods could only emerge from Paris and Milan, founder Jameel Mohammed sought to change that narrow misconception and subsequently created Khiry, “founded to subvert the conventions of the luxury sector [and] to make pointed statements about the value of Black life and culture.” The line consists of Afrofuturist designs and sculptural pieces inspired by nature, art, and history.
Influencers, get in line. Made in L.A. (aka the breeding ground of social media stars), Babygold appeals to all your grid needs, with diamond nameplate necklaces, gold hoop earrings, and stackable chain necklaces you’ve definitely seen on your timeline, all at prices that don’t require you to have a massive following.
These are not your grandma’s heirlooms. Just because you’ve grown up doesn’t mean you can’t embrace color. Stephanie Gottlieb has an incredible knack for coupling high-end jewelry with unexpected pops of enamel and cotton candy-colored gemstones.
Have you, too, been daydreaming of owning a diamond tennis necklace? Join the club, then peruse The Clear Cut’s offerings. You might recognize its opulent engagement rings from your Instagram feed, but its non-wedding diamond jewelry is just as dazzling.
Follow enough jewelry lovers on IG and you’re bound to see one wearing a piece from Mejuri, a Canadian brand that makes items you can wear 24/7. Because of its direct-to-consumer business model (i.e. you can only shop items from its site), prices are lower than traditional luxury brands. You can stock up on the pieces you love without feeling like your bank account was ransacked.
Color, color, and more color—this is where this DTC brand shines. Sure, you can find your regular gold hoops and eternity bands, but TLL’s rainbow tennis bracelets, diamond daisies, and playful charms are what the brand is quickly becoming known for. That, and the enthusiastic celebrity fan base, which includes Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry, and Rachel Zoe, to name a few.
Anyone interested in a diamond-studded wrist piercing? Maria Tash is an OG East Village piercer-turned-fine jeweler who brought fine body jewelry to the masses. There was no curated ear game before her deft hands reached for a needle. Her fine jewelry line allows you to create a constellation of diamonds from head to toe.
Based in New York City, designer Matthew Harris set out to make beautiful jewelry that was actually accessible. The results are thoughtfully created styles that mix precious stone like malachite and tiger’s eye with diamonds and 14k gold into modern, sophisticated pieces. Entry-level styles include diamond studs and sweet necklaces starting around $200, but even his jaw-dropping architectural creations are affordably priced and look as if they belong in a museum.
With a background in sculpture, Wing Yau designs jewelry with a holistic approach. The ethically sourced brand takes on a celestial form with styles like its best-selling constellation earrings and grounds them with conflict-free diamonds and Wwake’s signature stone: luminescent opal.
When you think of modern heirlooms, the first brand to come to mind is Foundrae. Co-founded and designed by Beth Bugdaycay, her tokens are meant to empower and protect its wearers, with medallions and enameled cigar rings symbolizing love, resilience, and strength.
Jacquie Aiche is the queen of boho-chic fine jewelry. As one of the first designers to herald fine body jewelry, her brand is where spirituality meets diamonds. We’re talking about inlay lapis lazuli, diamond-embellished belly chains, and weed-themed jewelry for the 14k tokers out there, including Rihanna herself.
Louis-Ulysse Chopard, a Swiss watchmaker, founded Chopard in 1860, but it has since expanded into jewelry—specifically, the diamond showstoppers seen on the red carpet. Still, its jewels shouldn’t be reserved for Hollywood premieres. In particular, the Happy Hearts collection is something you could easily wear every day.
Designer Vania Leles is bringing the voice of Africa to fine jewelry with her luxury label Vanleles. Taking inspiration from traditional African prints, the Nile River, and the snow tops of Mount Kilimanjaro, her chic pieces should be—and can be—your future crown jewels.
Though the brand launched in 2014, its latest development, the Design Studio, has our full attention. There, you can moonlight as an engagement ring designer by working with more than 3,500 style combinations to create your perfect piece. The diamonds come from Diamond Foundry—a Silicon Valley-based firm that produces lab-grown diamonds using solar technology—and acquired Vrai in 2017. Once your ring is designed, it’s made in Los Angeles and then sent to you. This experience is perfect for those who truly can’t stand shopping IRL.
If you think anything like Irene Neuwirth, fine jewelry should come with a heavy dash of playful imagination. Hand-cut tourmalines sculpted into hibiscuses, candy necklaces made from opals that look good enough to eat, and more colorful baubles have made this brand’s styles instantly recognizable.
You can have solid gold, rubies, and enamel with a side of kitsch when you shop Alison Lou. Under the creative direction of Alison Chemla, the beloved brand has become synonymous with cheeky emoji studs and lucite hoops in a rainbow of colors (worn and loved by Emily Ratajkowski).
The famous French jeweler has a storied relationship with coronated kings and the Kardashians alike. Its cult-like fans continue to stock up on Cartier jewelry like its iconic love bracelets in 2022, but it’s quietly been providing high luxury goods since 1847.
Are you the type to love fine jewelry and tarot card readings? Allow Sofia Zakia to be your new favorite jeweler. The designer weaves astronomy, mythology, and spirituality through her pieces, so you can be sure to feel personally connected to every single one.
You can’t talk about fine jewelry without a Tiffany & Co. shoutout. From 2000s-era charm bracelets to jaw-dropping engagement rings, the jewelry in Tiffany’s iconic blue box is meant to be cherished, worn with ease, and passed down for generations to come.
Based in San Francisco, California, Harwell Godfrey is helmed by founder and designer Lauren Harwell Godfrey with the power of healing in mind. Her pieces, made of 18k gold and gemstones, reference the elements, ancient motifs, and more for colorful, meditative pieces you’ll own (and wear) for life.
Bulgari is an Italian luxury brand that, while it has expanded in fragrances, hotels, and more, is at its core a fine jeweler. Founded in Greece in 1884, the company has dedicated more than 130 years to crafting everything from its iconic serpent bangles to celeb-backed B.zero1 rings.
Not all pearls are made equal. While many brands have made strands of the oceanic orbs, it doesn’t get more classic than pearls by Mikimoto. The company was founded by entrepreneur Mikimoto Kōkichi, who is credited for creating the first cultured pearls ever, thus kickstarting the industry.
You see a cable-twist bangle, and you instantly know who made it: David Yurman. The brand was founded by David, a sculptor, and his wife, Sybil, a painter, which explains its artistic approach to jewelry.
Based in Los Angeles, Ceremony focuses specifically on rings for special occasions. Wedding? Engagement? Graduation? Whatever it may be, Ceremony describes its pieces as “a collection of rings for marking new traditions.” And with its direct-to-consumer model, Ceremony minimizes the markup of its 18k gold and precious stone bands.
Find the new minimal with Khadijah Fulton, the designer behind Los Angeles-based White Space. Her style ranges from clean minimalist lines to undular, natural forms using baroque pearls, but at its heart, all jewelry is intended for personal daily wear. She is also the jewelry designer behind Vrai, so you can trust that she knows what she’s doing when it comes to sourcing materials ethically and keeping costs down.
This brand believes you “shouldn’t have to choose between high quality, fair pricing and doing good,” so it creates jewelry made of durable materials (like 14k and 18k gold, Japanese pearls, and S1 clarity diamonds) through sustainable production methods. Shop individual pieces, or try its service Curate by Aurate, where you can take a style quiz and Aurate will send you five pieces free of charge. Take a week to figure out what you love and return what you don’t. You’ll only be charged for the individual pieces that you decide to keep. Win-win.
Unlike other brands mentioned here, Menē exclusively works with 24k gold. Each piece is priced based on the real-time value of the pure gold weight, plus a design and manufacturing premium, which means that the price for a piece can change depending on the day. According to the website, “this premium is never more than 20 percent of the precious metal value each day. The result: a $500 Menē ring will have at least $400 in gold or platinum value at the time of purchase, while $100 is the revenue earned by Menē.”
Los Angeles-based designer Kat Kim, who studied at Central Saint Martins in London and the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, brings a design quality unlike any other to her striking jewelry pieces. Using ethically sourced materials, KATKIM’s eye-catching jewelry, which still has a minimalist appeal, is for special occasions and every day.
If color is what you’re looking for, you’re sure to find it in Katherine Jetter’s vast array of sparklers. The designer makes jewelry for bold types, so if you want to make a statement—no matter how you describe your personal style—you can’t go wrong. Plus, Jetter constantly features stones like tanzanite, moonstone, and opals, so if you’ve been curious about other options beyond diamonds, emeralds, sapphires, and rubies, this is the brand to shop.
There’s something about Japanese design that just hits different. Such is the case with Milamore’s jewelry, which draws inspiration from Japan’s heritage and culture. You’ll be mesmerized by pieces from the Kintsugi collection, which are inspired by the art form of the same name, as well as its more minimalist pieces. Consider this fine jewelry brand like wearable art.
From everyday pieces you never take off to beautiful styles for black tie affairs, LAGOS’ range of jewelry will suit your every need—there’s even a range of straps for your Apple Watch. When in doubt, opt for one of the brand’s signature caviar pieces, which are sure to be in your jewelry box for ages.
Justine Carreon is the market editor at ELLE.com covering fashion, Dutch ovens, and fashion again. When she isn’t approaching style through a modern, accessible lens, she’s scouring eBay for vintage Levi’s and pretending she knows how to surf. Before joining ELLE.com in 2015 she worked as a freelance writer and stylist in New York City.