Jewelry isn't just adornment. When you look at a woman's jewelry, you're seeing who she is. And it's not just her socio-economic status. A woman's jewelry is where her age and hipness intersect. While jewelry can't literally make you look younger, it can certainly make you look very less than hip.
Admittedly, this is a state portrait of Queen Elizabeth II. But think about it. Do you wear jewelry as if you were posing for an official portrait?
What follows is my advice on what not to do with your jewelry.
1. Don't wear jewelry like medals. Our jewelry tells the world what stage of life we're at. Religious medallions, the starter studs you get when you first pierce your ears, your high school and college rings, your engagement ring, wedding ring, baby presents and anniversary gifts all tell people where you are in life. Think about it--people can probably guess your age within about half a decade simply from the jewelry you wear.
The answer? Remember jewelry's primary purpose as adornment. If a piece doesn't work with your outfit, don't wear it.
2. Don't wear too much. I'm no minimalist. Far from it. But I slip in and out of various social groups, some with younger and some with older women. One thing I notice about the older women is the sheer quantity of jewelry they wear.
I see one group of women every week, and many of them are in their 60s. I often see them wearing three obviously real, expensive yellow gold bracelets on one wrist, an expensive watch and another bracelet on the other wrist, plus rings, earrings, and maybe a pin or a necklace.
This looks uncoordinated and a bit insecure. Remember, elegance is refusal.
3. Don't flaunt your wealth. OK, maybe wealth isn't the right word. But when you reach mid-life, you tend to have accumulated some Important Pieces. And hey, good for you if you have. Enjoy. But don't wear them all at once. Say you've got an 11-carat diamond engagement ring. How about wearing a couple of long strands of gold chain studded with crystals instead of a Serious Necklace?
4. Don't confuse style with price. In case you haven't noticed, right now jewelry is all about cascades of semi-precious stones, brown diamonds, and crystal. It's pearls mixed with tulle and chain. It's glass beads and charms on long, long chains, fringe necklaces, and statement necklaces as big as a baby's bib.
It's not classic, expensive pieces. It's not diamond ear studs, 18-inch pearl necklaces, and Cartier tank watches. These are great basics, but they're unexciting, and they're not current. If that's the only kind of jewelry you're wearing, chances are you look ossified.
5. Have fun. Branch out and find something frivolous to wear. If you don't know what's current, check out ShopBop for inspiration. You might have some candidates in your jewelry box. And of course, if you bead or wield a glue gun, you're in luck.
For a look at Forever XXI's amazing, dirt cheap jewelry, (the ring below is $6.80!) click here.
Check out Nordstrom's costume jewelry, sorted by price with the lowest first, here.
Anthropologie and Banana Republic have great stuff--pricey, but watch for sales.