How to Start Your Diamond Jewelry Collection with $500

The first piece of fine jewelry I ever bought for myself was a heart-shaped gold locket with a tiny diamond in its center.

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Uni Creations x Girl Up

The first piece of fine jewelry I ever bought for myself was a heart-shaped gold locket with a tiny diamond in its center. I had saved up my allowance—and wheedled a few more dollars from my parents to make this purchase—and (to give you an idea of how long ago this was) I cut a picture of John Lennon from a fan magazine and stuck it inside.

I must have bought a thousand trinkets for myself since that purchase, but I still own—and love—that locket. In the way it holds its value, in the deep sentiment it evokes, jewelry is like no other acquisition. That locket was a very early member of what would become a life-long jewelry collection (OK, obsession), and luckily many of my favorite things thereafter didn’t cost a fortune.

Doyle and Doyle
Doyle & Doyle

“I must have bought a thousand trinkets for myself since that purchase, but I still own–and love–that locket.”
Lynn Yaeger

Even if your finances are limited—maybe you are young and on a budget, or all grown up but watching your pennies?—your imagination need not be. It is not only quite possible, but also a lot of fun to build a diamond jewelry collection and discover wonderfully designed, beautifully made natural diamond pieces for under $500. 

Of course, a lot of these things are by necessity on the petite side, but that just means they invite stacking: As your collection grows, so will the glitter on your finger or around your neck.

Michelle Fantaci
Michelle Fantaci

You might start with a chic ring  with a small round white diamond—Melissa Joy Manning has nice ones—and then, if you think it looks a bit lonely,  add one with a black diamond and maybe, at some point in the future,another white one! Or consider the multiple personalities  of  the  single diamond stud: Fantaci actually sells a discordant geometric pair;one earring is purely gold, the other is embellished with a diamond. Perhaps wear them in the classic way—one in each ear— or opt to show off both in one ear, should the mood strike. 

Sydney Evan

Sydney Evan

Or why not a row of tiny diamond studs, like miniature pin heads, embellishing one saucy earlobe? Or borrow the stud idea but sport this diminutive diamond in your nostril. Even let it glam up a belly chain, and peak it from beneath a crop top in this sweltering American summer.  If you are not bold enough for nose and belly decorations (and just so you know, I am not!), you can seek out a  thin chain bracelet illuminated by a pair of diamonds. A.M. Thorne makes a lovely one that lights up a wrist.

Even if karats are on the shy side, design creativity need not be timid. Who can resist Sydney Evan’s gold and diamond  flying saucer charm pendant? It’s only $465 and nervy enough to alight on our crazy planet! This spacecraft could be your first, but hardly your only diamond embellished necklace; Mischievous as it is, it probably wouldn’t mind being layered with other chains.

Melissa Joy Manning

Some pieces not only look frisky but have an uplifting back story: Uni Creations has launched  the “Girl Up Collection” in partnership with Girl Up, a leadership development initiative founded by the United Nations Foundation that works to advance gender equality worldwide. Set in silver,which keeps the price down(!), favorite necklaces include the silhouette of  a ponytailed  little girl with her hands on her hips; Another has the word FIERCE in diamonds, an updated version of  Ms. Bradshaw’s iconic  Carrie necklace.

My friend Elizabeth Doyle, one half of the jewelry firm Doyle & Doyle, was originally a vintage jewelry dealer but has lately issued the house’s own extremely reasonably priced line, called Heirloom by Doyle & Doyle, an homage to her love of antiques. Elizabeth describes the power of diamond jewelry this way:  “Jewelry is special because of what it represents and the stories behind the jewel. Whenever that piece is worn it can bring the wearer back to that special time and can hold the memories within it.”

I can’t help but notice that among Heirloom’s many offerings is a sterling locket embellished with an 18 karat gold star and a round brilliant cut diamond, just waiting for some young girl to cherish, ready for her to lovingly enclose a picture of Justin Bieber.

Uni Creations x Girl Up
A.M. Thorne