The basic jewelry wardrobe. Many websites tout the importance of a basic jewelry wardrobe, and offer all kinds of suggestions about what it should include. But the reality is that the way we live now, with our more casual, active lifestyles, and with the rise of cheap, trend-driven mass produced jewelry, what we need, what we use, and what we can afford, has changed. So lets explore the idea of the basic jewelry wardrobe, the origins (and past lives) of the items it currently includes, and the options one has in creating a jewelry wardrobe tailored to their own needs and preferences. For now we will focus on the basic jewelry wardrobe for women. We will get to men. Later (possibly much later), I promise.
For starters, when people talk about the “basic jewelry wardrobe” what they are referring to are the basic set of items most women have used to adorn themselves for the last sixty or so years. The basic jewelry wardrobe of a victorian woman, or someone in 17th century France, would have been very different than that of a woman today (and keep in mind, the average woman wouldn’t have had any jewelry at all, historically speaking).
So what’s that basic set of items everyone (including me) keeps going on about? It varies based on who you ask, but it usually includes a pearl necklace and pearl stud earrings, a pair of diamond solitaire stud earrings, a gold chain necklace, a diamond solitaire pendant, a gold bangle bracelet, a diamond tennis bracelet, and many also include a diamond engagement ring and wedding band on that list. And maybe a nice watch.
So lets break it down a bit. First, I think putting the engagement ring and wedding band on the list is silly nowadays. A woman doesn’t always marry, and not all who do get a diamond engagement ring anyway (it’s a newish trend by the way, which we will discuss another time). Historically, though, the engagement ring often was (and still often is) the first major piece of jewelry a woman could call her own. So that’s why it’s on so many people’s lists, even though it won’t be on mine.
Since I am dispensing with jewelry one does not buy for one’s self, that leaves the pearls, the bracelets, the chain, the diamond earrings and pendant,and the watch. We will explore each of these in depth, looking at a variety of topics, including anthropological and historical origins, technical information, styling, and whether/when this item is practical in the modern context. I expect this series to unfold over the next few months, if not longer. I hope you will join me.
In the next installment of the basic jewelry wardrobe, we will explore the lustrous world of pearls, their physical origin and their role in culture, beauty, and adornment, as well as their place in the modern jewelry wardrobe.