If I had my druthers, I’d be draped in rubies, emeralds, and fat slices of 24k gold at all times—Elizabeth Taylor–style. But, alas, a journalist’s salary doesn’t net gobstopper-esque gemstones.
Thankfully, the non-fine costume jewelry market is in full bloom, offering zillions of mass and niche collections that are both fashion forward and crafted with quality—a pairing that was once almost exclusively the purview of luxury fashion houses such as Louis Vuitton, Chanel, and Gucci.
Edgy costume and plated jewelry is a category many urban fine jewelers have embraced with gusto over the past few years—New York City’s Greenwich Jewelers, which stocks non-fine collections from brands including Alexis Bittar and Chan Luu, comes to mind.
Online, fashion jewelry collections have found a comfortable home on e-commerce sites for contemporary fashion apparel retailers. (Contemporary, as we know, is the category that sits right below designer in price point: think $400 cocktail dresses.)
Revolve, Intermix, and Kitson (all of which also operate brick-and-mortar stores) are among the modern contemporary retailers stocking loads of cool fashion jewelry online, from brands including Fallon, House of Harlow, Eddie Borgo, Erickson Beamon, and Bing Bang.
Upscale mass brands—notably J.Crew and Anthropologie—are also turning out fabulous-looking, high-quality fashion pieces that are easy on the pocketbook. And fine jewelers should absolutely take note of what these retailers are pushing—they’re hugely influential with fashion-conscious shoppers. Remember when J.Crew helped kick off the (still-going) Rolex craze by selling a clutch of vintage watches from the brand online in 2008?
Here are my favorite online spots to scrounge for great costume jewelry:
ShopBop. This multi-brand contemporary fashion retailer packs a huge amount of trend-right jewelry into its inventory. The site is heavy on brass and gold-plated pieces, and buyers can find tiny $250 diamond rose gold studs from ginette_ny, arty Swarovski crystal-encrusted cuffs from Alexis Bittar, angular hammered pewter rings from Avant Garde Paris, every of-the-moment Marc by Marc Jacobs bauble, and delicate gold chains and pendants from Jennifer Meyer.
Holst + Lee Pineapple Princess necklace, $415, on ShopBop
Net-a-Porter. The luxury-goods site is famous for its flashy designer apparel—but it also hosts a well-edited cache of designer jewelry picks, which are typically well-made costume pieces. For instance, a set of three colorful Missoni palladium-and-knit bangles will set a buyer back $210 but will earn her endless oohs and aahs. Moschino, Lanvin, and the newly cool Kenzo also have pieces on the site.
Detail of Alexander McQueen leather and gold-tone bracelet, $245, on Net-a-Porter
Barneys New York Warehouse. I divulge this site with substantial hestiation—even to the trade—since it’s been a style secret of mine for a while. And inventories of styles run very shallow. But, tucked into its product pages are a bevy of designer fashion jewelry pieces marked down to as much as 80 percent off. Think $1,200 Proenza Schouler pieces going for $400. There, I said it.
Juan Carlos Obando silver Saw ring on the Barneys New York Warehouse site, $139
Luv AJ. Los Angeles–based designer Amanda Thomas, founder of costume jewelry collection, Luv AJ, creates bold, tough-girl pieces that are often outsized, but monochrome—perfect for daily wear. The collection is largely costume, but fabrication processes are solid; pieces can take a beating. On my wishlist now: an oversize silver-toned shark tooth necklace (on sale for $100) and a 24k rose gold-plated chunky link bracelet.
Shark tooth ear cuffs from AJ Luv, $55
Alexis Bittar. The former New York City club kid and CFDA Accessory Designer of the Year award winner keeps expanding his retail empire, while turning out consistently unique, relatively affordable pieces (he also creates a fine jewelry collection). Bittar makes jewelry for design junkies. The way he puts together gems and metals is incredibly inspiring.
Kinetic gold-encrusted sculpural hinged bracelet by Alexis Bittar, $495
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