As much as red carpet jewelry heaped with gumball-sized natural diamonds inspires awe (and the urge for million dollar shopping sprees), real life generally calls for smaller scale sparkle. Turns out, diamonds that actually get the most mileage don’t necessarily require an Oscar winner’s bank account. If you’re ready to start shopping at the $500 mark—or maybe even a little less—you can start building an affordable diamond jewelry collection that will last a lifetime. Investing in your diamond jewelry collection that can one day be passed down as an heirloom is also one of the most sustainable ways to shop, no matter your budget.
1. Start Small Before Expanding Your Natural Diamond Jewelry Collection
A good place to begin: the eternal signet ring. For centuries, the style was engraved with monograms or family crests, and signified a posh pedigree. Though as of late they’ve transformed into fashion statements, the swanky appeal is as alive as ever. Case in point: Stone & Strand’s diamond-encrusted signet ring, which strikes just the right balance between aristocratic and cool; I’d wear one as a pinky ring for a flicker of subtle shine.
With an under $500 budget, you can achieve a look that punches above its price by choosing an affordable diamond jewelry piece bejeweled with several small diamonds rather than a single large diamond solitaire. With seven sweet, petite diamond clusters formed into a shape that’s as pretty as a daisy, Mejuri’s floral necklace pendant fits exactly this description. Playful but not sugary sweet, this can easily become a layered necklace with other diamond strands that may someday expand your jewelry collection.
2. Begin with a Bang by Selecting Statement Jewelry
And why not bring a jolt of colorful natural diamonds into the mix? After all, it’s a great way to play up the presence of your diamonds. Alison Lou’s upbeat jewelry—often featuring emoji motifs like smiley faces and hearts—places enamel frames around diamond cuts, magnifying their impact. You can’t go wrong with the huggies designed with a simple round cut diamond and enamel drop; They’re sold individually so you have the option of wearing a mismatched pair.
To push the diamond earring envelope a degree further, try a style that combines natural diamonds with a slinky chain. Among its encyclopedic offerings, The Last Line is a label that boasts several affordable diamond jewelry options on that theme. Try out the Diamond Stud earring and Sphere Chain earring which has a series of five delicate diamonds along its length, emerging a cross between a traditional stud and supple hoop earring.
3. Who Says Affordable Diamond Jewelry Can’t Be Exciting?
No piercings? A pair of affordable diamond earrings is still within your reach. Like most throwback 1990s fashions (i.e., slip dresses, headbands, bike shorts and fanny packs), ear cuffs have made a comeback. Maria Black’s take on the style is punctuated by bright diamonds that highlight its curvy architectural lines. And if you do have a piercing or two, all the better. A series of diamond stud earrings, hoops or pendant earrings in graduated sizes adds more dimension to your look.
Read More: Diamond Studs Earrings For Every Day
4. Gradually Add Diamonds with Charm Bracelets
Of course assembling a collection of affordable diamond jewelry that wears like a second skin can’t be done all at once. Helen Ficalora’s clients come back to her again and again over time for handmade diamond charms. Consider starting your own collection with a talisman signifying luck or protection—a horseshoe or hamsa or four-leaf clover—then add on another to celebrate a milestone, remember someone special or just zhuzh things up from time to time. Slip them on a simple cord or gold chain or place them on a charm bracelet one by one. There’s no more precious or sentimental way to record your personal history than with an ever-evolving diamond collection that can one day become a family heirloom.