How do I buy a high quality necklaces (or should I buy them at all)?
October 1, 2013 7:29 PM   Subscribe

Help me buy pretty necklaces.

Currently, I buy necklaces from places like Nordstrom Rack, J-Crew, Ann Taylor, etc... for under $50. Within a few months, the plating wears off and the chains looks pink and/or a tarnished dark brown. I tend to sweat a lot on my neck and I suspect that is eating away at the plating.

- Should I invest in silver/gold necklaces? Are there other resistant materials I should look into? Would those also get ruined from sweat? How would I maintain them?

- Where would I buy such necklaces? Online? What stores? What should I be looking for? What are some reliable jewelry brands?

I'm not looking to break the bank but if I spent 100-250 dollars on a necklace that was really nice and of high quality, I think I'd be happy. I like vintage-looking jewelry. I also like chunky, bold statement types of jewelry-- so I'm not looking for a plain silver pendant or anything along those lines.

Thank you!
posted by joeyjoejoejr to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (16 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
My dad buys the women in my family a lot of very unique, beautiful silver jewelry, and as far as I know he is generally paying in the $20 to $100 range for it- maybe slightly more for my mom ;). He gets most of it at a locally-owned boutique jewelry and clothing store which caters partially to the college crowd, but they get a lot of their stuff from small-scale designers, so there's some amazing, unique stuff in there. I have a collection of silver necklaces, pendants and earrings from him, and it's not so hard to take care of- and it will stay beautiful basically forever.

If you like to wear necklaces with pendants, you want to get simple gold or silver chains, sold separately from the pendant. You can put any of your old pendants on such a chain. The silver will tarnish, but if you keep it in a lined box made for silver, and occasionally clean it with silver cleaner, it'll stay looking like new.

I don't know where you live, but you might check Etsy for jewelry. There are thousands of artisans on there, and some have really amazing and affordable jewelry.

Could you link to the sorts of necklaces you like?
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:54 PM on October 1, 2013

My friend makes stuff like this, and gets good reviews.
posted by vrakatar at 7:57 PM on October 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

I would look on Etsy for the materials you're interested in. Titanium, silver, and stainless steel would be good places to start—just be careful to look closely at the pictures and ask questions about silver items, as "silver" pieces are often just silver-plated, like in stores.
posted by limeonaire at 7:57 PM on October 1, 2013

Another useful Etsy search term: "silver PMC," a.k.a. precious metal clay. These are items made with a special clay that contains silver particles and is then torch- or kiln-fired to leave behind .999 silver.
posted by limeonaire at 8:02 PM on October 1, 2013

- Should I invest in silver/gold necklaces? Are there other resistant materials I should look into? Would those also get ruined from sweat? How would I maintain them?

Silver might tarnish but it can be cleaned; yellow gold just kind of gets grungy but does not tarnish. Whether or not white gold would need replating frequently depends a lot on how your body reacts to it. (Body chemistry is a weird and wonderful thing.) There are other alloys and metals, but for your price range, a decent 10-14K gold piece or a true stamped sterling silver would be a safer bet to try. Gold jewellery tends to survive in exciting places like tombs, mud, shipwrecks, and hoards, so while you might not invest in the crown jewels, if you like gold, the metal itself is pretty sturdy. Silver (look for a .925 stamp) is also awesome, especially if you like slightly chunkier or more solid settings. Off the top of my head, Digby and Iona for upscale, cool necklaces (though mostly pendants). Any local gem/fossil shows? The dealers often sell semi-precious stones set in silver at good rates. I will say that glass beads and other detailed work will require much more care and cleaning; it's difficult to get gunk out of glass beads and they're often strung on coated wire or plastic, the latter of which will not be as sturdy. Check to make sure the clasps are solid and strong and not cheaply attached.
posted by jetlagaddict at 8:03 PM on October 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have found the sales/clearance section at to have real silver and gold plated jewelry often at similar prices to costume jewelry.
posted by slateyness at 8:59 PM on October 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

I buy and wear silver almost exclusively. I have a local jeweler in my hometown (2.5 hours from where I live now) whom I buy from. I'm 45 and I've been buying from him since college. He has a very good idea of my taste and I always come away with exquisite stuff from him. Some of it is more expensive now, but I was getting away with prices in your range for years.

I would check out local shops on Yelp or ask for recommendations from friends whose style you admire. If you're in Houston, Memail me, and I'll send you to my guy.
posted by immlass at 9:32 PM on October 1, 2013

> Whether or not white gold would need replating frequently depends a lot on how your body reacts to it.

Plated is plated, regardless of what color gold is used. White gold is an alloy just like yellow gold, but with a slightly different mix of metals, if you're comparing apples to apples between 10K or 14K in white gold vs yellow gold. White gold can however contain more nickel than yellow, and allergic reactions to nickel are not uncommon. Won't harm the gold any if you're allergic, it'll just give you a rash.

"Sterling" silver is just a guarantee of the percentage of silver (92.5%, hence the .925 mark), but that little bit of alloy material also makes the silver a more durable and better material for jewelry. However, some people have a skin Ph that causes sterling silver to tarnish really, really super-fast and even can degrade the metal pretty quickly. Other people -- like me -- are the opposite and can keep their sterling cleanest by wearing it a lot.

Big craft festivals like Sugarloaf, smaller craft/art shows, and Etsy are great places to find sterling and gold jewelry at a wide variety of styles and price points.

Oh, and yes, I think that the durability of gold and silver is worth it.
posted by desuetude at 10:40 PM on October 1, 2013

Honestly, I've started going the other way and buying cheapass statement necklaces from H&M, Forever 21, Target, etc. Are they as classy as a $200 silver necklace? Do they last as long? Hell no. But big flashy trendy pieces already have a short shelf life in my eyes, and I'm not worried about losing or breaking them.

However, I buy the cheap stuff sparingly (how many huge necklaces do I need, after all?), and cheap jewelry with mostly non-metal elements (e.g. beads) tends to look and feel better than all-metal stuff. Also, if I want to wear something for years or give it as a gift, I'll buy silver, preferably something handcrafted - the quality is hands-down better and I prefer the look to commercial mass-made stuff.

Regardless, I don't look twice at jewelry from J. Crew or Ann Taylor unless it's marked way down. It's usually the same quality as the really cheap jewelry, just priced higher.
posted by Metroid Baby at 3:48 AM on October 2, 2013

If by "necklaces" you mean "pendants on chains", you could invest in a good 14k gold chain, depending on weight & quality it would probably cost $200 to $300, but you could use it with any of your jewelry.
posted by mr vino at 4:10 AM on October 2, 2013

My favorite costume jewelry (and some real pieces as well) have been from major art museum gift shops. There is a wide variety, including some things that read "old lady" rather than stylish, but there are always stylish unique things as well and I've found the quality to be reliable across the price spectrum.
posted by fingersandtoes at 4:25 AM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

Plated is plated, regardless of what color gold is used.

I think Jetlag was referring to the fact that white gold is often rhodium plated to make it "whiter", which I never really understood, but whatever.

If you search for "sterling silver statement necklace" on etsy and put in your price range you'll get loads of results. Solid gold stuff doesn't tarnish but the price will depend on how much gold is in the pice, since the price of gold is high right now.

I have no opinion on whether you "should" buy more expensive jewellery, but I like shopping on etsy.
posted by quaking fajita at 5:02 AM on October 2, 2013

To echo Metroid Baby:

I recently bought a really expensive (>$2500) handbag for the make and for the leather. But as far as jewelry goes? Cheap Forever21 and H&M stuff will do it for me. In the first three months of wearing the jewelry, no one will know the difference between a $3 "gold" necklace with a "diamond" pendant, and a $200++ real necklace. When it gets tarnished, I send it the recycling scrap yard and buy a new one. I figure that I could buy 100 fake versions for the price of one real version. If no one knows the difference, then none the wiser. I don't have to worry about maintainence, polishing, keeping it safe, etc.

(Does not apply for cheap synthetic "leather" versus handcrafted leather though... I can tell the difference on looking at it).
posted by moiraine at 5:24 AM on October 2, 2013

May I suggest Mignon Faget? My mother still has some pieces that are at least 30 years old and only need a bit of polishing to get them back to their original beauty.
posted by tafetta, darling! at 6:51 AM on October 2, 2013

I agree with tafetta, darling! - Mignon Faget has some great pieces. I am wearing her fleur de lis earrings right now. I've had them about 6 years and they are still in great shape, just need polishing with a silver cloth every once in a while.
posted by radioamy at 10:02 AM on October 2, 2013

I have a Lois Hill necklace that I think I spent about $150 on -- it's technically a locket and has differing patterns on each side, plus I can change the length a little for different effect. I get a lot of compliments on it. Her stuff can be found cheaper on ebay or with a google search.
posted by MeiraV at 6:07 PM on October 2, 2013

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