Privilege Blog

Jewelry To Wear When You Are Almost There

Let’s talk jewelry. Why? Because it’s sparkly, and pretty, and fun to wear? Well, yes, but there’s more to the story. Let’s talk jewelry at work. As usual, I’m talking conservative work environments, in law, finance, or technology, where you can change the effect of a black suit and white shirt simply by switching out, let’s say, that 18-inch strand of angelskin coral beads for a silver pendant.

More precisely, because these dress codes are labyrinthine in nature, let’s talk about pieces that are neither I’m-an-executive-so-deal-with-it, nor your starter pearls. Madeleine Albright, for example, had a brooch collection and wore one every day. That’s executive bravado. We’ve all seen starter pearls, and understand their role.

But there comes a time in your career when you start to feel the swell of an upward trajectory. What then?

I recommend jewelry that can pass for normal, but isn’t. Not quite. The necklaces below all look like fairly generic pendants, from afar. Jennifer Meyer’s medallion, on closer glance, sports symbols of luck. Elizabeth Locke, a favorite of mine, uses Venetian glass and heavy gold chains, to inch you very close to executive territory. And if you work in a traditional High WASP industry, for a traditional boss, in a traditional geography, flaunt your adherence to those same traditions with a monogram. A little one, just big enough for the interested to decode.

Jennifer Meyers, via Ylang 23 $2750, Elizabeth Locke’s venetian glass, and rose gold monogram from Charm and Chain $623

How about earrings? How many posts, and how many white pearl studs, can one woman wear in a lifetime? From Vicente Agor, a San Francisco designer whose work is quite original, these transparent quartz earrings dangle without visual weight. All the fun, no visible folly. The hoops are also his, just hoops, plain gold hoops, but transformed by hints of Morocco. What more subversive than the hookahs, tiles and sins of an imagined Morocco? I imagine Moroccan reality is quite different, but then that’s the role of reality, isn’t it?

Or, if you must, keep to the world of small and precious, but embrace gold pearls, not white, and briolettes.

Vicente Agor “Ice Shelf” danglers, golden South Sea pearls via Beladora $1850, Vicente Agor hoops via Delamina $540, ruby briolettes via Beladora $1450

Now, it’s been known to happen, not infrequently, for a career to tick upward while the pay scale lags. Similar jewelry choices can be found on a budget closer to entry level. J. Crew offers a collection of vintage-style necklaces. Beladora2 carries estate jewelry for a good deal less than the cost of new. And the pair on the right can be found at Anthropologie.

Mesh purse locket $175 by Eddie Borgo now sold out, (boo!) similar, $55, via J. Crew, gold and rose quartz pendant via Beladora 2 $195, irregular crystal-encrusted posts via Anthropologie. $28

I doubt I need to caution you about “statement pieces,” i.e. large bib necklaces of enlaced enameled ovals. You’re speaking the language of appropriate excellence here, and the only expansive statement should come from your bank. Don’t forget to contribute to your 401K. If you can excuse some obvious word-play, early retirement makes a statement all its own.

Career Jewelry Recommendations Updated for 2017


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38 Responses

  1. Excellent choices – both covet-able and accessible, no easy feat. The order of the day in my office is matching sets of necklace, bracelet and earrings. I disapprove of such arrangements but feel I must wear *something*. Any of these would fit the bill nicely and keep me from looking barren in a sea of coordinated beads.

  2. Very sound advice and selections Miss Privilege, especially the “…jewelry that can pass for normal, but isn’t.” A little personality in this area never hurt, as long as one avoids the ‘statement pieces’ you reference.

    And if there ever was an establishment that could tempt me to splurge instead of do the 401K contribution, Beladora is such a place!

    Sending you a smile,

  3. The Young One’s paternal grandmother who, despite 20 years in Indiana and 30 years in Texas, still speaks with the most delightful patrician Boston accent, was an executive with J.C. Penny for the last 25 years of her working life (at 76,she’s been retired for 10 years). She wore conservative navy/grey/black suits every day – if she was feeling wanton, they were pantsuits – and very little jewelry…except for a brooch. Very rarely were they understated, and very rarely were they expensive, but were always tasteful and eventually became her hallmark. It also made her extremely easy to shop for. :) She is an absolutely lovely woman (we’ve always gotten along extremely well), and would not consider herself a trend-setter, but in this case I do believe she was.

  4. Then there are those of us whose grandmothers spent all their money on jewelry. I have beautiful, expensive pieces and no idea where to wear them since I do not go to formal events. When should relatively large sapphire and diamond dinner rings, for example, be worn?

    1. I would wear one to dinner. It doesn’t have to be a fancy dinner, just somewhere you would dress a little nicer than normal. Or heck, even dinner at home!

  5. I like “R”s funky but not large posts.

    In my journey into potential new work/office homes I’ve noticed that the largest jewelry is most likely to be on the person who greets you at the front desk.

  6. Ok…I just couldn’t help but make a comment on this.

    If you had put $10,000 in your 401K plan one year ago and invested those funds in the broader stock market in the S&P, your account would be worth $8,912 today or down 10.88%.

    If you had instead invested your $10,000 in gold, that investment would be worth $12,600 today or up 26%.

    Note: the average long term (decades) return on the stock market is about 6-8%

    I’m not advocating liquidating your stock portfolio but I want to point out that jewelry isn’t just an accessory. It’s a long term investment too!

    Also, since you mentioned Madeline Albright and her statement brooches, keep a look out for pins and brooches to be big in the fashion magazines this Fall and Winter.

  7. I wish I had your sound advice when I had a corporate job. I found the ins and outs of jewelry in the workplace to be incomprehensible so I just avoided wearing anything but the plainest most discrete pieces. Now I am actually grateful that retirement allows me to wear what I want. When I do go back to work I know where to turn for advice.

  8. I have the monogram necklace, and I wear it every day, to business meetings and after school carpooling, alike. It is my favorite!

  9. I love the monogram pendant. As a child, mum had a nameplate pendant made for me ( well before SJP thought of it) sadly I don’t have it anymore.

  10. If only…
    In my art classes, I try to wear pieces inspired by the country we’re ‘visiting’…this week it was African tribal rings and Egyptian inspired bracelets (I choose these because my hands are always dangling infront of the students).
    I don’t even remember the last time I wore something as elegant as what you’ve shown here…it would be a nice change though. Maybe it’s high time my students learn about the business world so that I can sport a Beladora pendant & earrings…or even just some starter pearls (loved that)!
    xo J~

  11. The venetian pendant reminds me of the Victorian & Edwardian pendents in their quite elegance. Ida

  12. I like to wear pieces from Mignon Faget. They are small, elegant, and fun. My current favorite is a silver hot pepper pendant paired with a small red bean pendant to express my New Orleans roots. In the winter I like to wear a silver rhino pendant. It’s a little bigger so works better with winter clothes than summer clothes.

  13. Marsha – I don’t terribly care for seas of coordinated beads:). And I never wear bracelet, necklace, AND earrings, unless it’s some kind of grand festivity.

    TPP – Sending you a big smile right back.

    Jan – She sounds as though she had impeccable style and a sense of humor. Those patrician Boston types often do have both.

    Stephanie – Thank you!

    Hostess – Well, yes, sorry;).

    R. – I saw those and thought, hmm, those too, with the right outfit.

  14. MJ – What is it about the rawer stones? I’ve always liked them, and now they are all over.

    Lynn – Wait! Wait! One can get them reworked. I am getting ready to have a bunch of my old stuff melted down and cast into a cuff. Since I never wear large rings, I’d probably get those redone too.

    Ms. Givens – Vicente also supports strong women and loves his mother. Really, what could be better?

    RoseAG – Badabing! That, my dear, is true.

    Belle – That is all quite true. And I hadn’t even thought of it. Thank you.

    Patsy – I know, aren’t they?

  15. Pink Martinis – Sigh. And thank you:).

    Mardel – Do you think of going back to work ever?

    A Farmer’s Wife – You take care too. I wondered if anyone would pick up on that little aside:). Thanks.

    Madeline – You have that actual necklace? I love the way it’s so little, and I love that it comes in rose gold. Nice, wearing it to transition from work to carpool.

    AN – Aw. I got my daughter a great big initial necklace, just for fun, but she won’t wear it:).

    Jessica – Well, it’s true, we have a culture and an art. Teach Winslow Homer and Edward Hopper, wear pearls. Kind of makes sense:).

  16. Ida – Yes, I see what you mean. They also feel sort of medieval to me.

    Karena – xox to you too:).

    That’s Not My Age – Hahahahaha. Let us all pause in appreciate of the cheap and trashy:).

    Emmaleigh – So Artsy Cousin. Like, right on the nose.

    Susan – Who knew, indeed:).

  17. These are terrific options. This post made me realize that while I’ve updated hair and clothes, my perfume and jewelry need freshening up.

    Sigh. Always something.

  18. Lisa, I found you through Corporette and just wanted to say that I’ve spent the past few months reading your entire blog. Your writing is beautiful and you’ve inspired me to start my own. I also wanted to share that your post on initialed/monogramed pins contained a link to an etsy search, which I clicked on while bored out of my mind at work…which lead me to a beautiful vintage gold pin with my initials. Which I snapped up at the equally gorgeous price of $3. Thank you =).

  19. Mildred – Glad you like them. A woman’s work is never done, in many ways:).

    Melanie – Isn’t rose gold a great take on a classic?

    HijabEng – Thank you so very much. I will look at your blog, and thank you again as I read. Enjoy the pin. It sounds like a stroke of fate.

  20. I am late to this discussion but enthusiastic! And say, go real and go vintage or antique. That way no one can fault you for indulgence (those rose-cut diamonds could have been Aunt Jane’s.) Avoid any and all obvious logos. No one employed in a serious job, even as a first job, needs to wear little babyteeth pearls now that pretty 8mm freshwater strands can be had for a few hundred dollars.

  21. Really, if you are going to wear pearls the larger sizes are still popular in trashy and more realistic. With all the colors available now you don’t have to look like you’re wearing the “starter set” now. I think they look good on us older women especially, sort of I’m important but still accessible kind of vibe.

  22. I love your recommendation to wear not-quite “normal” jewelry. I always love it when I see someone wearing unique jewelry, like food- or sports-based earrings, but such things aren’t always acceptable in a professional setting. However, wearing some jewelry that looks normal but has a personal meaning or has some hidden quirkiness is empowering and exciting, and can give you a little boost to get throughout your day. You can play with or look at the little piece of jewelry you have and just smile, knowing that your jewelry has a secret meaning that no one else knows.

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