Welcome to I Tried It Month, where we’ll be publishing a new fashion, beauty, or wellness article every day in January that features a first-person account of shaking up an old habit, pushing beyond a comfort zone, or simply trying something new. Follow along for 31 days of storytelling, including everything from going without a cellphone for 40 days to trying the polarizing low-rise pants trend.
In March of 2020 when we thought quarantining to stop the spread of COVID-19 would last just a few weeks, it was relatively easy to transition from commuting into the Who What Wear offices in Manhattan every day to working from home in my Brooklyn apartment. While I eagerly swapped my uniform of skinny jeans and boots for leggings and oversize sweaters, much of my WFH routine remained the same. However, reflecting upon the myriad challenges and adaptations we faced over the past year, it dawned on me that I had inadvertently made a change that I was unhappy with: I completely stopped wearing jewelry.
As one of the more casual dressers in the Who What Wear office, I tended to express my personal style by changing up my jewelry every morning. Whether it was swapping my petite diamond studs for Chan Luu pearl huggies or layering a few different necklaces or bracelets each day, I found it both easy and fulfilling to experiment with my look through simple accessories. And while I have always been a big believer that you don't need a “special occasion” to wear your favorite piece, it became clear that my WFH routine had become completely devoid of any sparkle whatsoever.
With that in mind, I resolved to revisit my everyday jewelry (plus a few sentimental pieces) during the week between Christmas and New Years Day. Since purchasing new pieces or borrowing from family members wasn't in the cards this year, I enlisted the help of Kendra Pariseault, an incredible jewelry designer and personal friend, to get some tips and tricks for incorporating jewelry back into my everyday attire. Read on for advice on how to rediscover hidden gems in your jewelry box, give old items a second life, and choose meaningful pieces that can be worn for years to come.
1. Unearth Forgotten Gems
While going through my old jewelry boxes, I rediscovered several pieces that had not seen the light of day in years. Although a few timeless classics could easily be reintroduced into my current rotation of accessories, others were quite obviously dated, damaged, or both. Luckily, Pariseault reminded me that diamonds (and other precious stones) never go out of style.
In fact, she strongly recommended that I consider taking some old jewelry apart and using the pieces to design something new that I would be excited to wear today. "I have clients who combine many pieces from their mother, grandmother, in-laws, and maybe even some pieces that haven't been worn since their high school days. It is a fun way to repurpose jewelry that has sentimental value." Of course, it is important to remember that re-setting pieces can be quite expensive. Although you may already own the stones, significant labor and design work goes into the crafting of something new. However, Pariseault also shared a smart pro tip: you can always scrap the metal from the original jewelry pieces and receive a credit for your metal, which will help bring the cost down. Gold prices are high right now so it's a good time to scrap!
2. Cleaning Older Pieces
Of course, some of the older pieces I found showed signs of aging, including tarnished metal, dull stones, or in several cases, a broken clasp or prong. Instead of letting these sentimental pieces languish, I decided that using some jewelry cleaner or taking a beloved item to a jeweler for a repair were both worthwhile investments.
Again, Pariseault came through with some helpful suggestions. "For regular maintenance, especially engagement rings and wedding bands with diamonds and gems, I recommend a household dish soap (anything that claims to degrease) and a bowl of water. Simply soak the piece in soap and water clean gently with a very soft towel like a bamboo facecloth." Sounds simple enough, right?
For those of us committed to the DIY route, Pariseault shared a few precautions: Do not attempt to clean any jewelry over the sink—it is too easy for something to fall down the drain. And never use an at-home ultrasonic cleaner, because it can loosen your prongs.
If you want a steam clean, bring a piece to your jeweler every six months or so. The jeweler will check and tighten prongs after cleaning, helping to keep your piece sparkling and secure.
After unearthing and cleaning the jewelry I already had, my biggest challenge was remembering to wear something every day. Since WFH had significantly altered my morning routine, I no longer had accessorizing on my list of things to do (or putting on makeup, but that's another story), which meant I was out of the habit of wearing jewelry entirely.
I don't like to shower or sleep in jewelry, so at some point in March, when my earrings, necklaces, bracelets, and rings came off, I just never put them back on. Getting back into wearing different jewelry every day was a bit trickier to solve since it involved creating a new habit to fit our new normal during the quarantine. Although I trust Pariseault completely when she says it's fine to wear certain pieces 24/7, for me, it was just a comfort factor—I simply cannot sleep in earrings.
With that in mind, Pariseault recommends that I start with a few necklaces with simple chains and pendants ranging from 15 to 20 inches in length. "The key to wearing multiple necklaces is having chains that are different thicknesses and styles. This will keep them from tangling too much," she explains. She also suggested having a few simple bracelets sodered on, so I wouldn't have to worry about switching it up. "I like to have bracelets soldered on my wrist because they fit very snug and stay in place nicely," she explains. "I can’t stand bracelets that move around a lot."
As for the earrings, I decided to try something called habit bundling. Despite the challenges of WFH, much of my morning routine was intact—just not the part where I got dressed for and commuted to the office. So, I set out to trick my mind by adding "put in earrings" to my routine in between putting in my contact lenses and styling my hair. Since I only have one piercing in each ear, I tend to alternate between sculptural diamond studs, oversize pearls, and on-trend huggies.
There are two primary schools of thought when it comes to organizing and storing your jewelry. In the Instagram era, we often like to see our favorite pieces nicely curated on a vanity, in various holders, or a traditional jewelry box. For more valuable pieces that need to be kept secure, Pariseault recommends something a bit sturdier. "If you are beginning to collect fine jewelry, invest in a home safe," she says, noting that it is worth the peace of mind.
For less precious items that are worn regularly, the key is to keep them organized and tangle-free. This can be easily achieved using affordable storage compartments or display cases.
Now that I had assessed, cleaned, organized, and started to re-wear items from my existing jewelry collection, I was ready for the best part: buying new pieces.
With my expert on speed dial, I reached out once again to Pariseault for her professional recommendations and help to guide my future purchase. Of course, as a jeweler by trade, her first suggestion was to spend some time collaborating on something original. "I think there is a misconception that custom jewelry is more expensive than out of the case jewelry from luxury retailers. It can often be cheaper for the same quality metal and stone, with the added benefit of having worked to create something meaningful to you," she explained.
Although I was not ready for something custom, it was good to know that many independent jewelers are not only eager to work one on one with clients, but also can offer solutions that are both budget-friendly and sentimental.
With my focus firmly on something "out of the box," Pariseault instructed me to invest in a few staple pieces including a quality pair of diamond studs, a great everyday ring that can be mixed and matched with others, and a simple chain necklace that wasn't too precious to be worn in the shower and slept in.
Since I already had the diamond studs covered (thanks, mom and dad), I concentrated on browsing necklaces and rings that would look nice both separately and together. Given my budget, personal style, and expert jeweler advice, I landed on a few pieces by designer Suzanne Kalan, who I discovered on Net-a-Porter. Truth be told, I have bookmarked one of these pieces for a gift to commemorate an upcoming milestone, so while I don't yet have it in hand, I am very much looking forward to adding it to my collection soon.