Even in the height of the pandemic one area of fashion retail that seemed to stay afloat (besides leisurewear) was jewelry. That was the case across all levels of the economy.
On a Zoom call or FaceTime people may not have been able to see your drawstring sweatpants. But they could see your face and the upper half of your torso. So wearing a new pair of earrings added a much-needed touch of glamour and uplift. And, for those of us who avoided the mirror for a year, we could still look down and see something pretty or sparkly on our hands.
We’ve been adorning ourselves with jewelry for more than 25,000 years. The earliest version, a necklace made of fish bones, was discovered in a prehistoric cave. Over time jewelry became a symbol of protection and good luck, (e.g., for successful hunting – which could explain the fish bone thing) of connection (e.g., wedding rings) and, as in the case of royalty and clergy, an indication of status and power. It also became a symbol of tribal associations. Today, we wear them as a different kind of “tribal” association. They are reflections of our style essence.
To get just the right type of jewelry that suits your style we’ll look into the elements that go into the construction of different pieces of jewelry. And then we’ll see some examples.
Before we get into the analysis, here’s a very important safety note about buying jewelry. Many of the very inexpensive “fashion” jewelry items on the market these days, particularly those marketed to children and teens, are made with extremely toxic metal; specifically lead and cadmium and to a lesser extent, nickel. They can be carcinogenic, neurologically damaging, or cause enzyme disruption. Silver or gold plating over rhodium and ear wires made from titanium, gold or stainless steel are all non toxic and generally hypoallergenic. In the following links I have tried to include only those that have non-toxic materials, but that information is not always available on the websites.
Getting the Metal Color Right
The metals in our jewelry have a “temperature.” We don’t think of silver as a warm metal. It’s reflective and icy. And we don’t think of gold as cold. It glows, like the fire of the sun. So, your ideal metals will be largely determined by your coloring: whether it leans toward coolness or warmth, or is a combination of both.
People with mostly Striking Contrast (winter) coloring will look good in silver. This is because they often have a skin tone and skin quality, regardless of color, that is highly reflective. Subtle Blended (summer) types, whose palettes have a lot of the cooled-down and grayed colors (mauves, dusty blues, softer lavenders) can also wear silver beautifully.
It’s pretty much a given that those who are mostly Lively Bright (or spring) can wear many shades of gold, with the exception of rose gold. Rose gold is infused with copper and flatters Subtle Blended types best. Copper turns the gold to a soft rose-y shade that can make warmer skin tones look dull or ashy. Subtle Blended types can sometimes also wear copper metals that lean toward pink.
Warmer skin tones, those of Earthy Rich, or autumn color type, can wear yellow golds beautifully. But brass and copper will also flatter their skin tones. And of course, if your palette crosses both warm and cool seasonal color harmonies, you can often wear both silver and gold toned metals.
Shape and Design
To frame this subject, think in terms of yin and yang, the yielding qualities and the stable ones, respectively. If you place a round item on a slanted surface it will move. An item with flat edges will tend to stay put on a slanted surface. Yin is motion and yang is stability.
So, a simple rule of thumb is that those whose features and bodies suggest roundness and curves, the yin style elements, can opt for design elements that have some curving or roundness in their construction. That means that swirling designs, curved edges, and perfectly round beads will work well for them.
Those whose facial features has some angularity or who have a body shape that suggests more straight lines (rectangular shape, square shoulders, sharp elbows, square hands rather than elongated ones, e.g.) can wear design elements that suggest stability and more angular geometric shapes. And as with color, if you are a combination of some curves and some angles, you get to wear both. How much of each is determined by your style essences. Here’s a previous blog post that will give you some idea about how to incorporate different amounts of style essences.
If your face is mostly oval, you can match and echo that shape. But oval faces with some slight angularity can wear a pretty wide variety of jewelry shapes. (That also goes for glasses shapes as well, btw.)
And if you are wearing real or faux gemstones or beads, the facets and shape of the stone or bead will either express motion or stability. Cut diamonds throw reflections every which way. That might be seen as creating motion, but it’s an angled motion, directed in straight lines. Rounded un-faceted stones (e.g., star sapphires and opals) seem to glow from within, holding their beauty inside. Square, triangular, or multiple edged stones are more yang. Rounded stones and beads, especially small ones that are repeated on a piece of jewelry, read as more yin.
Color follows the same general rules as does metals. The cooler your overall color palette, the cooler the colors of gemstones and other materials you can wear. The warmer your palette, the warmer the colors.
Generally, clear stones lean toward yin-ness and opaque ones lean toward yang. But the color and cut will also influence who they can work for. Diamonds or similar white stones share an icy quality with silver. Blue, purple and lilac stones are also cool and work beautifully with silver settings. Green can work with either silver or gold, as it is a combination of cool and hot colors, blue and yellow. Red and yellow stones are quintessentially warm and work better with gold settings, although you will see many opaque stones set in silver, particularly in Native American jewelry.
Pearls represent the Moon, and every one of us, by virtue of the fluids in our bodies, is influenced by the Moon. But pearls come in many different shapes and colors. Pure white works best for those who have a lot of winter coloring. Many spring types can also wear both pure and slightly yellowed white pearls. Summer types look lovely in pinkish pearls. Autumn types can wear warmer shades of white pearls. The dyes used in dyed pearls are thought to be non-toxic to humans. Some of the darker baroque pearls in blue, green, and plum can look beautiful on those with deeper, warmer autumn colors in their palettes. Mother of pearl jewelry is best for Angelic types. ( BTW – Rose quartz is another stone that is complementary to those with very cool color palettes.)
Opaque stones generally read as conveying more forward energy, more yang. But the color, shape, and size of the stone has a great influence as well. Bright turquoise, if it is clear without other colors in the matrix, usually favors Striking Contrast and Lively Bright coloring. But of course, Native American people, who can have many shades of skin tone, wear it beautifully. So, there’s not a hard rule about this. Some of the darker turquoises, especially those that lean toward green and have a lot of variation in the matrix can work for Earthy Rich color types. Lapis looks beautiful on people with a lot of Striking Contrast or Lively Bright coloring.
Many of the darker, earthier semi-precious stones, like Jasper, will only work for an Earthy Rich color type. They often incorporate multiple colors and have a lot of variation in their matrix. Coral, as it comes in shades from white, to delicate pink to deep red, will flatter just about any color palette.
As for other materials, leather and cording, especially when in a woven design, is mostly a yang expression. When combined with small repeated stones it becomes lighter, and more yin. Any jewelry item that incorporates a lot of leather will work best on Dramatic and Natural types. These also seem to most often complement those who have a lot of the Earthy Rich or Striking Contrast color palettes.
Lucite or similar synthetic materials can be playful, ethereal or more conservative, depending on the shape and color of the item. Paler shades of transparent lucite have an Angelic quality. Opaque lucite can have a Dramatic, Youthful, or sometimes Classic quality, depending on the style. The bangle pictured here has more Classic elements, the earrings, although also fairly conservative, suggest a little more Natural, because of the more yang shape. And multi colored items in lighter shades usually have a Youthful quality, like the necklace below.
Small colorful beadwork can read as Youthful unless the design pattern itself becomes a statement, as we see in this traditional Zulu necklace to the left. That gives it a little more pizzazz. But overall it still has a more playful and Natural quality. Where you will find a lot of Dramatic style is in Native American jewelry. Inlaid stone on metal is most often a Dramatic as well as Natural (by virtue of the design element) expression, unless the stones themselves are small and the piece itself is also fairly small.
That’s also the case for beads. The larger the bead, the more yang it expresses. The smaller the bead, the more yin it expresses. Little beads in, for example, earrings, especially dangling ones, require some playfulness, in one’s style. These more High Spirited and Youthful examples demonstrate that. This also applies to the overall construction of any piece of jewelry. Wide cuffs, statement necklaces, bold rings require more yang energy to pull off as an accessory.
Speaking of which, the dimensions and bulk of an item or a grouping of items will determine how much they complement your body size and proportions, as well as your personal style. For example, if your bone structure, body, or style expresses more of the yang qualities, you can wear larger statement pieces. If your body, bone structure, and style are smaller or more delicate, look for more yin elements.
Chain link necklaces are always popular and come in many varieties. Thick and bold linked necklaces are very popular right now. If you buy a high quality one in gold or silver, like those made in Italy, it just doesn’t have a “sell date.” They tend to be forever pieces. Unless they are extremely exaggerated in size, they are pretty much a classic style that almost anyone can wear. If you find them attractive and don’t see yourself as a very classic type, just look for smaller scale links. But delicate chains are also having a moment, or depending on your style, a lifetime of moments.
Here are some examples that reflect one or more of the seven primary style essences. Generally, single delicate chains have a wispy quality that Youthful and Angelic types can wear particularly well. But if you love them and don’t necessarily see yourself as highly “yin” you can still wear them. Just consider grouping a few together and/or vary the link sizes. That can add the volume you might need to create balance with your style.
Angelic lariat necklace:
Youthful/Angelic/High Spirited necklace set:
Classic/High Spirited necklace:
Ettika 18k gold plated double chain necklace
So I hope this summary will help put into context why you might gravitate toward certain types of jewelry. The options are enormous, of course, and these are just a few examples. And I hope they help you recognize which trends might work for you, and which to avoid. If you are contemplating a major and expensive purchase, these guidelines may help you find just the right item that can be a lifetime treasure.
[Some of the items shown here are from my affiliates. If you purchase one I might receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. It helps keep my website going. I am also an Amazon affiliate and earn small commissions from them as well.]
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