Deciphering & Adapting Must-Have Jewelry Wardrobe Lists

It’s an intriguing project—identifying the items that make up the perfect jewelry wardrobe essentials. One of the latest iterations appears in the October 2011 issue of Lucky magazine, in the feature “How to: Wear Accessories.” Lucky identifies what it terms the “Classic 9” accessories, stating, “You’ve heard of the little black dress? These are the accessory versions every woman should own.” Six of the nine items on Lucky‘s list are items of jewelry: earrings, a wristwatch, two bracelets, and two necklaces—more specifically, chandelier earrings from Roberta Chiarella RC2, a round-face watch from Seiko, engraved bangles from, a chain cuff from DANNIJO, a “pearl” choker (glass pearls) from Monet, and a pendant necklace from

Jewelry wardrobe lists are useful in providing ideas for building a jewelry wardrobe, but they are best approached with the skepticism due anything touted as “one size fits all.” Consider the items on Lucky’s list:

Chandelier Earrings:

If you are to choose one pair of earrings for your classic jewelry wardrobe, something more versatile would be a preferable choice to chandeliers, which are wonderful at night and in creative environments but not appropriate for professional wear and conservative environments. Lucky states that chandeliers have “major neck-elongating potential,” but if you have a shorter than average neck, chandeliers will only make your neck look shorter. Try on various styles of earrings until you find the style that looks best on you.

Earrings are a mainstay of most jewelry wardrobes because they draw attention to the wearer’s face. For most women, medium-size hoop earrings are a versatile and classic look. Diamond or other gemstone stud earrings are another almost universally flattering and classic choice. You may find that some other shape and size work best for you.

Round-Face Watch:

A round-face watch is a classic style, and in the size pictured in Lucky may well suit most women beautifully. Having said that, any number of details may make quite a different style of wristwatch the preferred choice for an individual—details such as the shape of the watch face, the readability of the face, the style of the strap or bracelet, the color of the watch (silver-tone or rose gold may be more flattering than the gold-tone pictured), the watch’s features, the situations in which the watch is to be worn, and the prestige of the brand. For many individuals, a wristwatch is one piece of jewelry that is worn every day. Choosing a style that suits one perfectly can and should require quite a bit of deliberation.

Lucky adds the styling tip: “Wear it [the round-face watch] loose, to make your arms look lithe.” For optimal functionality, however, a watch that fits well around the wrist and doesn’t slide up and down is much more professional and less distracting. 

Engraved Bangles:

For many women, bracelets wouldn’t make the “must-have” list at all. For example, someone who works at a desk or computer all day may find it distracting and unpleasant to have her bracelets bang against the work surface. Or someone may prefer a link-style bracelet that more closely conforms to the wrist.

Bangle bracelets are a classic design, to be sure. The description “engraved bangles” brings to mind something quite different from the charm-style gold vermeil designs pictured in the magazine. A classic bangle bracelet is of uniform width, slips over the hand and has no clasp, unlike the designs shown. However, I like the personality reflected in the designs pictured, and I like the personalization too. Jewelry personalized with initials is not only unique to the wearer; it also creates a legacy for future generations to enjoy. Bracelets like these pictured in Lucky could well be someone’s signature jewelry.

Chain Cuff:

Here’s an item that is out of place on a list of classics, although it can add a lot of style to an ensemble. Notice that the oxidized silver-plated style pictured does not coordinate well with any of the other jewelry pieces selected by Lucky. You would not wear this bracelet with the chandelier earrings or pearl choker.

A chain cuff is visually heavy and can look out of scale on a woman of delicate features or bone structure. On the other hand, if this type of bracelet is very much your style, use this as a guide in choosing earrings and other pieces of coordinating scale and color.

Pearl Choker:

The concept is classic but the variation shown in the magazine is less so. A classic strand of genuine pearls belongs in almost every woman’s jewelry wardrobe. A multi-strand necklace of glass pearls with crystal accents is much less versatile, although it can be a fun and festive addition to a wardrobe.

Pendant Necklace:

With regard to pendant necklaces, Lucky states that “63% of you never leave the house without one.” The pendant necklace pictured is quite large—about 2.5 inches in height—and is provided on a 34-inch chain, long enough to be worn doubled around the neck. As lovely as the pictured pendant necklace is, this is quite a different style of jewelry from the kind of pendant necklace I expect most readers would identify as something they wear on a daily basis. It is much more likely that the pendant necklace referred to by many if not most of the readers surveyed refers to a delicate pendant on a short, fine chain.

A jewelry wardrobe list built by committee is unlikely to produce a collection perfect for any one individual in particular. At the same time, your own list of must-haves may well turn out to be an eclectic mix because it is put together with an eye toward your wardrobe needs. Your list may eschew pearls or chunky jewelry or anything yellow gold, or it may be built exclusively on those styles. You may well find that a cocktail ring or a vintage brooch is part of your signature look—categories that Lucky omitted entirely.  

Approach every jewelry wardrobe must-have list with an eye toward individualizing the list to suit your own face and form as well as your own unique personality.

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