Wearing jewellery is an ideal way to draw attention to the parts of your body that you love. Delicate collarbones or graceful hands and wrists can be enhanced with striking pieces to not only make you feel beautiful, but express your individuality.
If you've got an event coming up or you're looking to find an heirloom piece, this guide will help. From precious metals to sparkling stones, we'll decode the jargon and explain how best to use jewellery to enhance your appearance.
Jewellery can be broadly categorised into either fine or fashion variations. Fine jewellery is often delicate and features careful craftsmanship involving precious metals and stones. Due to the attention to detail required and expensive components, this kind of jewellery is usually valuable and therefore reserved for special occasions. You'll find that fine jewellery tends to come in timeless styles that don't date quickly, like fashion jewellery might, making it a good place to start if you're looking for an heirloom piece.
Fashion jewellery tends to feature much more variety, allowing you to dabble in anything from exotic tassels and fringes one month to grungy leather and choker styles the next. You'll frequently find unusual mixed materials such as imitation pearls, metals, charms and beads being combined to make quirky pieces.
If you're looking to quickly update an outfit for a casual occasion, like a coffee date or dinner with friends, you're likely to find a piece of fashion jewellery that complements or enhances your personal style. Fine jewellery is much more of an investment and it's wise to take time when choosing your piece. What you pick may last you a lifetime and beyond, especially if you intend to pass it on to family or friends. This kind of jewellery is ideal for more formal events and special occasions, like anniversaries. Consider brands like Thomas Sabo, Pandora and Links of London.
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Faced with a choice of white gold versus silver, or rose gold versus yellow gold, you might be unsure of which way to go. While all precious metals look striking, considering your skin tone is the best way to pick something that perfectly complements you.
If you're not sure of your exact skin tone, take a look at your wrist or the curve of your neck in natural light. If your veins appear blue, your skin tone is cool and if they appear green, it's warm. A combination of the two likely indicates that you have a neutral tone – which means plenty of jewellery options for you! Remember, pale skin doesn't automatically denote a cool skin tone and vice versa. Metals like white gold, silver and platinum are a beautiful complement to cool tones, while yellow gold and rose gold will enhance warmer skin tones.
If you've had darker hair and recently lightened it (or vice versa), you might find that certain metals look more or less striking with your new colour. When selecting brooches and hair jewellery, you’re better off choosing something that visibly contrasts with your hair. For example, white gold or silver could easily 'disappear' against light or blonde locks, while brooches and hair jewellery in shades of rose gold and yellow gold will subtly enhance your hair's rich tones with just enough contrast so that they don't blend in completely.
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While looking at skin tone can be a great way to understand broadly what will suit you, you don't always need to be swayed if you have a favourite metal in mind. However, it helps to know how different metals will react to frequent wear if you want to buy an item that will last.
Silver is very light and strong, but it's prone to tarnishing and scratching. This makes it better suited to jewellery items that won’t frequently come into contact with other objects, such as necklaces and earrings. Pure gold (which is measured in carats) has similar qualities to silver, as it's also a soft and malleable metal that is rich in colour but delicate. This again means it's ideal for jewellery that won't be bumped into or brushed against easily.
Gold is often reinforced and its natural colour altered when mixed with other, stronger metals. When gold is added to nickel (or a nickel-free alloy) you get a pale, white gold. When it's combined with hardy, rich-toned copper, you get rose gold. Both white gold and rose gold, with their enhanced strength that safeguards against nicks and dents, make a good choice for rings and bracelets.
Platinum is the strongest and most valuable precious metal. Its distinctive silvery-white colouring and superior hardiness make it ideal for use in jewellery that's visible, exposed to the elements and touched frequently, such as wedding rings.
The deep tones of rubies, emeralds, sapphires or similarly hued gemstones look striking when contrasted against glimmering gold or rose gold shades. Sparkling diamonds, of course, hold a special wow factor, but their pale tones can be emulated beautifully with cubic zirconia or pale aquamarine and paired with platinum or silver metals. On the other hand, pearl and opals have a brilliant iridescence, offering a distinctively different look.
If you're looking for an investment piece, opt for your favourite precious stone paired with your choice of metal. Not only will this give the piece longevity, both in terms of style and being hard-wearing, but the item is likely to hold its value, too. For more casual-focused pieces that you aren't likely to wear for long, gemstones are a better option. Opting for less valuable stones gives you free rein to choose brightly coloured or fashion-focussed pieces.
If you want your jewellery to have a personal meaning, consider choosing a piece featuring your birthstone. Each month of the year has a corresponding stone, such as amethyst for February. A pair of drop earrings made with your stone is a lovely statement piece.
Though there are some loose rules to follow when selecting jewellery, the sheer variety of styles, metals and stones available allows you to unleash your creativity. Adorn yourself with what makes you feel good. Most importantly, if you want your jewellery to last, make sure you're picking fine metals, precious stones and fine craftsmanship to choose a piece that will stand the test of time.