Jewelry Etiquette 101

Jewelry Etiquette 101

For even the most well-seasoned etiquette expert, jewelry is a tricky subject to navigate. So we're here to help! Strap on your pearls, grab your gloves and let's go over some proper jewelry protocol so you can learn how to handle these pieces with grace.

What is Jewelry Etiquette?

There is no definitive answer to this question as it largely depends on personal preferences and cultural norms. However, you can follow some general tips when wearing jewelry, such as avoiding wearing too much at once, being mindful of how flashy or expensive-looking the jewelry is, and taking care of it so that it does not become damaged or tarnished. Additionally, it is rude to wear overly provocative or offensive jewelry, so it is important to be aware of social cues when selecting pieces to wear in public.

Why is Jewelry Etiquette Important?

Jewelry etiquette is important because it helps to ensure that people are respectful and considerate when wearing jewelry. By following etiquette guidelines, people can avoid offending others or making themselves look tacky or vulgar. Additionally, taking care of jewelry helps to keep it looking its best.

Jewelry Rules for Formal Events

There are a few key jewelry etiquette rules you should follow for formal events.

  • Don't wear fake jewelry to an event where real diamonds are more appropriate. For example, don't wear costume jewelry if you attend a black-tie fundraiser at the Met or a night at the opera. Likewise, don't wear rhinestones if you're attending a formal event that calls for pearls. Formal events mean formal jewels—and there's no way around it. Black-tie events call for real, genuine pieces.

  • Don't wear jewelry that might compete with your guest of honor or hostess. For example, If you're attending a cocktail party, don't wear an enormous ring that will constantly knock glasses off tables or a pair of earrings that will get tangled in the hostess's hair when you hug her hello. 

  • It is ok to compliment another party-goer on a lovely piece of jewelry, but never ask for its price. Even if the jewelry in question is something you would like to own, asking for the price is considered rude in most social circles.

  • Unless you're a jeweler, never touch another person's jewels. If the owner hasn't given you express permission to handle them, keep your hands to yourself and maintain social etiquette.

  • Likewise, it's also impolite to stare. Even if you're considering purchasing the very same item (and chances are if you like it that other people do too), refrain from visibly drooling over it. So mind your manners and give the jewelry its space.

  • Don't play with your jewelry when speaking to someone, as this is horrible social etiquette. Not only is it distracting, but it sends the signal that you are not listening. While you may think it's harmless, others might find it irritating or distracting. You wouldn't want someone to play with their hair while speaking to them, would you? Please keep your hands still and only move them when necessary.

  • Likewise, never wear a bracelet that makes so much noise when you move your wrist that it interrupts or distracts from the conversation. This etiquette rule is a no-brainer. The only sounds the wearer of jewelry should hear are compliments from those around them, not the clanking of their accessories as they walk or move.

  • When in doubt, take it off. This etiquette rule especially applies to rings on your right hand. In some cultures, the left ring finger symbolizes love, while the right represents war. So who wants to come across as a warrior at a cocktail party?

  • Diamonds are a girl's best friend. And they should be treated as such! If you're wearing a diamond necklace, wear it to one event and make sure it goes back in the jewelry box once the event ends. Not only is this just proper etiquette, but diamonds and other precious stones and metals will tarnish over time if not taken care of properly.

Jewelry Rules for Weddings

The same etiquette rules for wearing jewelry at formal events apply to weddings, with a few key exceptions.

  • Don't wear jewelry to a wedding that might outshine the bride. This jewelry rule includes anything from a flashy cocktail ring to a dramatic statement necklace. If you have a runway-worthy brooch or pendant, leave it at home! Wedding guest jewelry etiquette calls for something elegant and understated.

  • If you're wearing a necklace, make sure it isn't too long or too short. A good rule of thumb is to have the necklace end at or just below your décolletage. If it's much lower than that, you risk looking like you're trying too hard. And if it's much higher up, it might look like you're trying to upstage the bride.

  • Jewelry etiquette for weddings means standing by your date! For example, if your date is wearing a silver tie, you should wear jewelry that complements silver (like pearl earrings or a silver bangle). A major social faux pas is wearing jewelry that doesn't match your date's outfit.

  • A wedding is not the time to coordinate head-to-toe with your date—leave that to both of you for another event. Coordinating colors are always a safe bet, as are complementary metals (think gold and silver). But don't take it too far! If your date is wearing a loud pattern, you don't want to wear a busy necklace that will compete.

  • Be mindful of jewelry that has personal or sentimental value to you and other guests. You don't want to cause any bad feelings by wearing something that strongly reminds someone else of a lost loved one or a bitter breakup.

  • If jewelry is part of your outfit—be it earrings or necklaces—feel free to remove them beforehand if you are worried about your jewelry snagging onto something or losing the pieces entirely. Better safe than sorry!

Jewelry Rules for the Workplace

  • The number one rule of workplace jewelry etiquette is not wearing anything that could be considered a safety hazard. That means no loose chains that could get caught on something, no dangling earrings that could get pulled, and no big rings that could get caught on clothing or hair.

  • Don't wear too much jewelry. If you're going for a job interview, it's best not to wear a chunky necklace and a bunch of bracelets. You don't want your interviewer to think you spend all your time getting ready.

  • Don't wear too little jewelry. Don't be afraid to show your age with a few accessories! When in doubt, choose dainty and delicate earrings that compliment your outfit.

  • Jewelry etiquette in the workplace means not wearing jewelry that contains exaggerated jewels. For example, don't wear jewelry with gigantic diamonds or rubies for business purposes. This jewelry might make you feel like Beyoncé walking into the room, but it's probably best to keep jewelry that eye-catching to a minimum. You want to seem professional, not flashy.

  • Don't wear jewelry that makes a lot of noise; this is not good business etiquette. If you're going out for a business meeting or even a job interview, don't wear jewelry that sounds like it needs its own seat at the table, such as earrings with bells on them.

  • Office jewelry rules vary depending on the office. If you are unsure, err on the side of more conservative bling. A conservative, elegant necklace is your best choice for jewelry in the office.

  • Proper jewelry etiquette in the office means not wearing too casual jewelry for the workplace. If you like wearing jewelry that has skulls or cartoon characters, try to keep these pieces reserved for your personal time (or change out of them before you enter the office). Otherwise, your coworkers might get confused about whether they should address you as "Miss" or "Ms."

  • Don't wear jewelry with extreme religious or political affiliations; this is awful business etiquette. You don't want to offend someone by showing your jewelry, especially while in a meeting.

  • Don't wear jewelry that doesn't match your outfit. Good jewelry etiquette in a workplace means your jewelry should flow with the rest of what you're wearing and not cause too many waves.

  • Proper jewelry etiquette in the office means keeping your jewelry in good condition. Make sure your earrings aren't missing stones, that necklaces are tangle-free and that bracelets don't have tarnish on them.

Good Etiquette for Gifts

The number one rule of gift-giving is never to give someone jewelry that you wouldn't want to receive yourself. That being said, there are a few things to keep in mind when giving jewelry as a gift.

  • Say thank you when receiving the gift of jewelry. This rule is especially important when gifted with a custom-made present from someone. If you're in a time crunch, a note or card will suffice, but it's nice to give the person a call as well!

  • When buying jewelry as a gift: first and foremost, check with the recipient first to see what they like. It would be a shame to buy something they won't ever wear! If the jewelry has sentimental value to the recipient, inquire whether it is ok for you to purchase more jewelry that contains the same gemstones/pearls/stones.

  • Give jewelry in sets. If you purchase jewelry as a gift, try to buy a necklace or earrings that match so they are worn together. This way, the recipient can enjoy wearing their jewelry beyond the day of gift-giving!

  • Be sure that the jewelry gift compliments their skin tone, hair color, and eye color. Avoid buying jewelry that clashes with these physical characteristics if possible.

  • If you're going to buy jewelry as a gift, try to ensure it's not something the recipient already has.

  • Never borrow jewelry from a friend or family member unless it's an emergency and the jewelry in question is appropriate for the occasion (and available). It's like borrowing clothes. If you end up not liking it, you probably won't wear it again, which makes your friend or family member feel bad about the jewelry they lent you.

Good Etiquette for Jewelry Care

Etiquette is key when it comes to wearing and caring for your jewelry. By following these simple tips, you can avoid any faux pas and make sure your bling stays shining bright!

  • Don't wear your jewelry to bed or when you are working out. You don't want to risk losing an earring, which is costly and time-consuming to find. Plus, it's just tacky! Save those unique pieces for special occasions so they stay shiny and new.

  • Cleanliness is next to godliness. Remember, your jewelry needs love too! Keep them clean (and sanitary) the same way you care for your clothes. Don't expose your jewelry to harsh chemicals like perfume or hairspray since they will find their way into the crevices of the metals and cause damage over time. Just wash your hands before you handle them, and they'll thank you later.

  • In addition, don't use products that contain harsh chemicals to clean your jewelry. For example, don't soak diamonds in Windex or soak pearls in bleach. There are special cleaners for these gemstones, so stick with those.

Wrapping Up

By following these simple tips, you can avoid any jewelry faux pas and make sure your bling stays shining bright!

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