Product Reviews

20 jewelry brands that look expensive, but are actually affordable

It’s impossible to deny the impact of great jewelry on an outfit — the right pieces will elevate your look for sure. However, for most of us, fine jewelry and casual jewelry are two completely different categories. The fine jewelry pieces you covet only make their way out of your jewelry box on special occasions, while the more casual pieces are suitable for everyday wear or to throw in a travel jewelry case.

To help make your shopping easier, we spent weeks researching and testing out various jewelry pieces from brands that offer beautiful pieces at budget-friendly prices in the hopes to find some new accessory staples. Whether you’re looking for trending necklaces, sleek earrings or a new watch, keep reading to check out our favorite affordable jewelry brands we’re obsessed with. Keep in mind too that “affordable” means different things for everyone, so we’ve kept this list to brands that have great picks for $250 or less.

If you ask fashion insiders (or even Meghan Markle!) where they shop for jewelry, they’ll probably mention Catbird — a Brooklyn-based jewelry brand that creates minimalist pieces that top our accessory wish lists. We can’t get over the Gumball Pearl Ring ($158 at Catbird) that’s voluminous yet simplistic. If you’re in New York City, the brand also offers a welding service to get one of its dainty Forever bracelets zapped to your wrist so that you can literally wear it forever.

At this point, Mejuri surely needs no introduction since it’s practically synonymous with cool-girl jewelry that won’t break the bank. The brand specializes in fine jewelry for everyday, as shown through its amazing collection of accessory staples and wedding pieces for both men and women. If you’re on a budget, look for some of the brand’s vermeil pieces that are made with a thick layer of 18-karat solid gold on sterling silver, like this Dôme Cuff Bracelet ($128 at Mejuri).

As the name suggests, Fortune & Frame creates accessories to hold your fortunes, love notes and messages you want to hold close. But don’t think of classic lockets of your youth because the brand has seriously reimagined how unique a locket can be by giving it a modern twist. One of our most loved pieces is the Flowered Vines Fortune Locket ($78 at Fortune & Frame) that gives you a peak of your message through a glass window against the glistening vines.

Aurate was founded to deliver jewelry that lives up to everyone’s high standards, which means not only beautiful pieces but ones that take durability, transparency and sustainability into consideration. We’ve long been fans of the brand, but lately we’ve had our eyes on the Modern Cigar Band ($80 at Aurate) that’s available in yellow, white or rose gold to add the perfect classic ring to your collection.

Looking for modern and timeless jewelry from a woman- and Asian-owned business? You need to head toward Amyo jewelry quickly, then — a brand that believes accessories make your outfit. The brand has an assortment of timeless, staple accessories that will pair well with anything, like the Baguette Huggie Earrings ($42 at Amyo Jewelry). These huggies feature baguette and pave crystals for a unique earring that delivers just the right amount of sparkle.

Please Repeat wants to celebrate freedom of expression through its 14-karat gold vermeil and sterling silver jewelry. The brand offers beautifully designed pieces that start at only $20. If we were stranded on a desert island and could only have one piece, it would be the Burst Cigar Band Ring ($89 at Please Repeat) that’s inspired by rays of light. The thick cigar band will make this stand out on any finger or stacked with other rings you want to pair it with.

We seriously did not know how gorgeous watches could be until we discovered Vanna, a Los Angeles-based woman-owned brand that creates the most luxe pieces meant to represent the modern female. The brand consists of six collections, but Umbra is one of our favorites, including the Umbra Emerald ($195 at Vann) that features a square case and emerald green sunray dial against a striking gold-plated or stainless steel bracelet.

Missoma, a brand that champions self-experssion through its collection of demi-fine jewelry pieces, has become one of our go-to brands for jewelry we’d happily plan full outfits around. In fact, we haven’t stopped wearing the Coterie Chain Necklace ($245 at Missoma) since we received it — a stunning gold-plated chain necklace that’s unique due to the combination of plain and twisted links.

Ashley Sims founded Humans Before Handles to create a jewelry marketplace for that person who won’t “leave the house without the perfect statement earring” and to celebrate each person’s authenticity. We love shopping this woman-, Black-owned business when we’re on the hunt for jewelry pieces that will make us smile and turn heads. Like how cool are the River Starburst Earrings ($45 at Humans Before Handles) that’ll remind us to dream big on each wear.

Let Studs be your one-stop shop for earrings — from huggies to hoops and dangles to literal studs. The brand sells an assortment of simple and fun earrings that you’ll never want to take out. And because Studs only carries ear accessories, you’re sure to find the perfect piece for you. If you’re feeling jovial, grab the Daisy Huggie ($24 for a single, $48 for a pair at Studs) that’ll help bring out your inner child and show that jewelry doesn’t have to be too serious.

Jewelry by Jennifer Zeuner’s eponymous label is “simple with a spiritual twist” — a reflection of her personal style. And because the pieces are made with simplicity in mind, each item can easily be layered with other pieces already in your jewelry box. The Marta Necklace ($220 at Shopbop) is one of our favorites because it’s a timeless accessory that will suit any outfit, any occasion and any person.

We’ve known about 8 Other Reasons for years, but for some reason we’re only recently trying it out. Embracing the essence of your true self, unapologetically, is at the heart of the brand, which is shown through the dazzling statement jewelry pieces like the Honey Necklace ($69 at 8 Other Reasons).

You might remember Rocksbox as the brand that revolutionized the jewelry rental subscription industry through its assortment of high-quality, trending pieces that can be shipped right to your door. To this day, the service is one of our favorite ways to shop for jewelry — especially if we aren’t sure which styles will suit our tastes or mesh well with other pieces in our collection. Right now we’re loving the Slate Huxley Huggies ($38 for members, originally $45 at Rocksbox), Rudiment Baker Ring ($55 for members, originally $65 at Rocksbox) and Aster Posy Toggle Necklace ($51 for members, originally $60 at Rocksbox), but we can’t wait to check out three new items next month. Use our exclusive code CNN1 for a free one-month trial to try the service for yourself.

Rellery is all about jewelry “made with meaning” — essentially that the jewelry you wear is a reflection of you and should speak to you. Keep that in mind when you’re shopping the brand’s collection of ethically made pieces without the markup. Our top pick is the Pearl Choker Necklace ($125 at Rellery) which is trendy with a classic touch.

Karen Van Der Hout started her jewelry brand to deliver solid gold, genuine gemstone designs that will help reflect your mood — under the belief that jewelry should be personal. Out of all the pieces, we think you should ditch your basic studs for the Diamond Evil Eye Stud Earring ($230 for a single earring, $460 for a pair of earrings at Van Der Hout) to ward off any bad vibes. We’ve been wearing them nonstop and don’t see that changing anytime soon.

Miranda Frye started her eponymous jewelry brand to help every person feel confident and stylish when sporting the affordable collections. We’d particularly recommend the Brooklyn Necklace ($106 at Revolve) that’s inspired by the classic Cuban link. A chunky chain necklace like this one is great if you’re looking to wear one necklace rather than stack.

Your jewelry box isn’t complete without a couple picks from Made by Mary, a brand that hopes to use jewelry to remind you of your most treasured memories and milestones. Of the brand’s handcrafted pieces, we are most obsessed with the Laurel Ring ($44 at Made By Mary) and the Hera Chain Necklace ($68 at Made By Mary) — two striking pieces of jewelry that are each under $100.

Although Brilliant Earth is known for its expansive assortment of fine jewelry, particularly if you’re in the market for an engagement ring, the brand also features a great selection of pieces under $250. Treat yourself to a bit of luxury with a piece from the collection, like the Premium Akoya Cultured Pearl Pendant ($95 at Brilliant Earth) that’s generated a near 5-star rating and will never go out of style.

BaubleBar is an OG in the world of affordable jewelry brands. For years, we’ve been drawn to the brand for its assortment of fun, vibrant and colorful pieces, like the Bennett Necklace ($68 at Baublebar) with the multicolored glass stones that’s chic yet playful. The brand considers itself “the ultimate playground” for trending jewelry and accessories, so you’re sure to spot a couple other items to add to cart.


Read More Girls’ Jewelry Product Reviews

Donovan Larsen

Donovan is a columnist and associate editor at the Dark News. He has written on everything from the politics to diversity issues in the workplace.

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