Jewelry Etiquette

Woman showing off colorful bangle bracelets
Choose your jewelry according to the occasion. Yatinder Kumar/Getty Images

People have been wearing jewelry for centuries to enhance their overall look or to make a statement of status. While trends come and go, there are still some basic guidelines that are timeless. One of the most important things to remember is that you need to be aware of what is considered proper attire for each situation and choose your jewelry accordingly.

Fashionistas know that accessorizing with jewelry can take an outfit from boring to one that will get you noticed.

Just make sure that the attention you're getting is positive. 

I've heard some people claim that "less is more," but isn't always correct. There are some times when you want to sparkle and shine; the key is to know when it's okay.

Everyday Jewelry

Some pieces of jewelry are perfectly acceptable to wear all the time. For married folks, one such item is the wedding band. If you like to keep track of time, and you prefer not to use your cell phone for that purpose, a wristwatch is always acceptable.

Office Jewelry

When you choose jewelry to wear to work, select pieces that aren't distracting or noisy. You can still show your individuality, but don't wear anything that might offend the higher-ups or clients.

Here are some dos and don'ts for office jewelry:

  • In a conservative office, it's a good idea to stick to stud earrings that complement or match your outfit.
  • In a less conservative office, you can wear stud earrings or small hoops as long as they don't sparkle too brightly or make noise when you move.
  • In a more creative environment, larger earrings are acceptable, but it's still a good idea to select those that aren't noisy, or you'll distract others.
  • Don't blind your coworkers with extra large rhinestones. Save the flash for after hours.
  • Don't wear noisy bracelets to any type of office. Stacking bangles or bracelets that clang against your desk when you're at the keyboard can annoy the person at the next cubicle or station.
  • When you're not sure if you're wearing too much jewelry to the office, go with the fewest pieces possible. A general rule of thumb is that it's okay to wear a watch or bracelet, a ring, a pair of earrings, and a necklace. Anything more than that is probably too much for most work environments.
  • Save your skulls and skeletons for after work.

Jewelry for a Formal Event

A formal event is the time to show how elegant you can be, and this is the time to wear your very best jewelry. Although it's acceptable to sparkle all over, it's best to choose one jewelry piece to emphasize your best feature. For example, if you're wearing your hair in an updo, show off your high cheekbones and stunning jawline with some stunning crystal or diamond earrings.

Remember that jewelry is supposed to accessorize your outfit. Wearing too much of it, even to a formal event, distracts from the overall look.

Jewelry recommendations for a formal event:

  • Pull out the pearls, diamonds, and other precious stones to wear to a formal event.
  • Don't overwhelm your appearance with too much jewelry.
  • Don't wear more than one oversized piece, or you'll appear to be playing dress-up with your mother's jewelry.
  • Select one statement piece and downplay the rest of your jewelry.

    Party Jewelry

    When you're going to a friend's party or going out on a Friday night, almost anything goes. If you enjoy clanging bangles and blinding bling, this is the time to wear it. Don't forget, though, that too much jewelry will steal the attention away from you, and the accessories will overshadow your sparkling personality.

    Old Vs. New Jewelry Rules

    Back in the day, there were so many etiquette rules regarding jewelry, it was intimidating. However, many of those old rules have faded and morphed into something we can easily learn and remember.

    Here are some changes in jewelry etiquette:

    • The old rule about mixing metals is passé. Now you can wear any combination of gold, silver, pewter, copper, and whatever other metals you like.
    • Women were once told that they should never wear a ring on their left ring finger unless it was an engagement ring or wedding band. Now that rule is out the window, and you can wear rings on whatever fingers you want.
    • Once upon a time, it wasn't acceptable to mix real gemstones with faux stones, but now you can mix to your heart's content.
    • Matching sets were once all the rage, but in today's world, you don't need to be matchy-matchy. In fact, it's better if you're not.