Jewelry can be as intimate as your personal style. Some may prefer dainty pieces, while others may gravitate towards statement jewelry items. Whichever position you find yourself in, there are common factors that you should consider when shopping for jewelry: Quality workmanship, durability, easy maintenance, and fair pricing.
That said, the jewelry landscape is vast, and with so many options, it can be difficult to find quality pieces at affordable price points. To streamline your search process, we've compiled a list of our favorites, based on our editors' collections, research, and some expert insights from affordable jewelry designer Jill Johnson.
Find Byrdie's picks for the best affordable jewelry brands ahead.
Best Overall: Missoma
A brand with an all-encompassing collection of jewelry is Missoma. They have pieces for everyone, from chains and pendants to minimal designs and fashion statements. The necklaces range in chain length and metal types, making it easy to find exactly what you are looking for, especially if you love to stack necklaces.
Best Dainty: Omi Woods
Sometimes an outfit or mood doesn’t call for a chunky jewelry piece, and Omi Woods understands that. Their dainty pieces are finely crafted and ethically handmade with fair-trade African gold. Designed for everyday wear, each style can be ordered in several metal options and chain lengths to best suit your personal taste and accommodate your budget.
Best for Gifting: Mejuri
Mejuri’s popularity is a testament to its quality, broad array of options, approachable pricing, and versatility. If you’re not sure what style would be best, Mejuri offers an online shopper that helps tailor your picks—a service that is exceptionally handy for the gifting season.
Best Unisex: Maria Black
If there's something that is rare when it comes to jewelry, it is a brand that is genderless in its designs. That's because creating a true fluidity through universal wearability can be difficult, but Maria Black masters this with ease. And, with its prioritization of recycled metals and lab-grown diamonds, its collections are forward-thinking and sustainable, too.
Best Sustainable: Laura Lombardi
Laura Lombardi has built her namesake brand by using recycled materials. The designer balances this raw industrial style, influenced by New York City, with classical art motifs from Italy to create jewelry that is always tied to a memory. Most of its pieces fall between $100 and $250 and can be worn with everything from a T-shirt and jeans to more polished nighttime looks.
Most Timeless: Oma The Label
If there is one thing that Oma The Label excels at, it's creating supremely crafted gold, silver, and resin jewelry that is also versatile. Toeing the line between trendy and timeless, each piece meshes with virtually any style or circumstance you can think of—a huge win if you’re in the market for pieces that you can cherish longterm.
Best Trendy: Notte
Like the hottest trends, Notte’s pieces are intricate, cool, and niche. Its styles are made from a mix of metals, pearls, pendants, and charms to achieve the brand’s unique vision, inspired by cityscapes, la dolce vita daydreams, and eccentric craftsmanship.
Best Customizable: BONBONWHIMS
You may have seen BONBONWHIMS on megastars Ariana Grande and Kylie Jenner and felt allured by the happy pops of color and creative juxtaposition of beads, pearls, and enamel. The brand offers many pre-made options, as well as customizable ones to best reflect your personality, like an initial ring where you can choose the lettering, color, and finish.
Best Mission-Based: Awe Inspired
This mission-driven brand channels feminine power, diversity, and social justice that showcases itself in the form of mythology-inspired designs. You will find that the jewelry (a mix of gold vermeil, sterling silver, rose gold vermeil, and precious stones) reflects elements of the Zodiac and ancient Greek myths.
Best Pearls: JoeyBaby NYC
JoeyBaby NYC has a wide selection of pieces that prioritizes quality, intricacy, and craftsmanship. Born in 2020, the brand blends metal with a unique design of freshwater pearls that are surprisingly easy to style.
Most Bubbly: Brinker & Eliza
Mother-daughter duo Brinker and Eliza Higgins put their heads and professional experiences in metalsmithing and fashion merchandising together to start a jewelry collection of fanciful design and fair pricing. Bold chains of seashells and heart-shaped charms can always be found in the brand's core collection and boast an impressive fan base of influencers like Arielle Charnas and Whitney Port.
Best Gold-Plated: Yoj
There is something so bold and luxe about this London-based brand. Translated from the Hmong word for "wave," Yoj takes inspiration from the curves of the human body and lines of nature for its gold-plated chains, charms, and pendant earrings (to name a few things).
Best Minimalist: Daphine
Daphine was founded in 2018 by two friends who shared a love for uncomplicated design that's inherently versatile. Their little luxuries are so classic and will quickly become your most treasured daily companions.
Best for Sensitive Skin: Tini Lux
To ensure comfort on even the most sensitive skin, Tini Lux crafts its styles in biocompatible titanium and offers a good bang for your buck, with extra savings from promotions offered throughout the year.
Best for Maximalists: Mayol
If you're a sucker for glamorous charms with a campy twist, then women-run brand Mayol is perfect for you. It's favored by maximalistas like Dua Lipa and Bella Hadid for its colorful charms and chunky gold-plated chains.
Best Gold-Filled: BYCHARI
Established in 2012, BYCHARI is a reflection of designer Chari Cuthbert's approach to effortlessly elegant style. Each handmade piece is designed for women who appreciate simplicity and wearability. Most, if not all, her pieces are gold-filled or made from 14K gold to achieve a combination of quality and durability.
What to Look for When Buying Affordable Jewelry
“A key factor in determining a good quality piece of jewelry is its weight; gold and silver are weighty metals,” explains Johnson. “If you hold a precious metal-based piece next to an identical piece made out of metal alloy, you will feel the discrepancy. There are jewelers who will hollow out ring shanks, and/or thin out pendants to save on costs. Higher-end jewelry feels structurally complete versus feeling abnormally light or hollow.”
Of course, pure metals generally don't fall into the affordable category; such jewels generally come from designers cutting corners and opting for mixed materials, like vermeil. According to Johnson, vermeil jewelry has at least two microns of gold plating on top of a pure sterling silver base. “For plated or vermeil jewelry, it’s important to look for evenness in gold color and to ensure that the plate/coating has a smooth, luxurious hand,” she says. “The karat weight of the gold being plated is also important. Higher gold [mixtures], like 18k or 24k, are softer and therefore wear off more easily."
Sustainably & Ethically Made
When looking to buy jewelry, it is important to consider how a piece was sourced and made. A great place to start is by looking into how the brand recycles its materials. It's important that it outlines its production process. Questions to consider are: Is it ethically made, with environmentally responsible processes and cruelty-free practices? Are the workers paid fairly? You may also take note of whether a brand does or doesn't make use of lab-grown diamonds, which are inherently conflict-free.
Types of Metals
The most common metal types are gold, platinum, silver, silver-filled, base metal, and titanium.
- Sterling Silver is long-lasting and durable if properly taken care of; however, it is softer than gold or platinum and can tarnish.
- Silver-filled is made by using a silver wire that is applied by heat and pressure to a cheaper metal.
- Gold is available in yellow gold (the purest form), rose gold, green gold, and white gold, and available up to 24 carats.
- Base Metals consist of brass, titanium, copper, nickel, and iron. These can corrode over time.
- Platinum is one of the rarest and most expensive types of metals that is often used for designing wedding bands.
- Titanium is a hypoallergenic, scratch-resistant, and lightweight metal.
What's the difference between gold-filled and gold-plated?
Despite its name, gold filled jewelry isn't actually filled with gold. Rather, “[it's] made by wrapping very thin layers of solid gold sheets around a base metal, usually brass,” Johnson says. The gold sheets are bonded to the base metal through a process involving heat. The result is a thick layer of gold that usually constitutes 5 percent of its weight. Gold-filled jewelry was popular in the ‘50s, Johnson adds, when jewelry wearers "took greater measures to preserve the longevity of their jewelry.”
Gold-plated jewelry, on the other hand, has a layer of gold that is applied over the base metal. It is often immeasurable in weight but generally doesn't exceed one percent, which is why gold-plated jewelry can wear quickly over time.
How long does gold-plated jewelry last?
“[The longevity] truly depends on the quality of the plating and the integrity of the base metal,” Johnson says. “When cared for properly, certified gold-plated jewelry can last a lifetime. When worn consistently without proper care, gold-plated jewelry can start to fade after three to four months.”
How should you store jewelry?
Johnson suggests storing jewelry in a jewelry box or pouch when not in use, plus cleaning your pieces regularly, given that elements such as air pollutants, dust, perspiration, perfumes, lotions, hairspray, make-up, suntan lotion, deodorant, and body oils can dull the appearance of gemstones and metals.
Why Trust Byrdie
Byrdie contributor Nateisha Scott has years of experience in fashion with a personal love for collecting jewelry pieces. With constantly sourcing new jewelry pieces from brands that are both sustainable, ethically made, and uphold impeccable quality, she has been able to narrow down a range of brands that showcase fine and quality jewelry pieces.