Bling on a Budget: Get Great Jewelry for Less with These Savvy Shopping Tips

Jewelry accessories can make or break an outfit, and provide pizzazz to your overall look. Here are several savvy shopping tips for scoring bling on a budget.

Get serious about sterling silver jewelry.

If solid gold isnít in your budget, but youíd still prefer a precious metal, investing in high-quality sterling silver jewelry is a savvy style option. Chunky chain bracelets, bangles and earrings that get seriously noticed are all available in sterling silver, and cost far less than their gold counterparts. Need something guaranteed to stun for that special romantic dinner? Something conservative for an upcoming job interview? Youíll be able to find a sterling silver jewelry option to fit the bill.

Marquisette makes a statement.

Not only can you mix and match marquisette jewelry with your sterling silver pieces, but there are many options available for obtaining marquisette inexpensively. This style of jewelry has been around for quite some time, and it makes frequent appearances at pawn shops, estate sales and family jewelry chests. There are also plenty of places where you can affordably purchase new marquisette, making it easy to assemble a collection of basic pieces that will last throughout your lifetime. Brooches, barrettes, rings and necklace charms are just some of the jewelry pieces that look great in marquisette, and itís a style of jewelry that works with both vintage and modern fashion choices.

Take a trip.

Gold and various precious and semiprecious gemstones are routinely available at greatly reduced prices outside of North America. Talk about sensational souvenirs! For example, when I lived and worked in the Middle East I was able to pick up quite a bit of 18 Ė karat gold for less than half of what I found 14 Ė karat pieces on super sale for when I traveled home for the summer. Pakistan is known for affordable semiprecious stones, as are other nations in the developing world. The point is, the savings can be significant enough to pay for your entire trip while still pocketing a little extra, providing you were planning on power shopping to begin with.

Be a sale spy.

Jewelry chains such as Melrose Jewelers, Kayís and others have seasonal sales reaching as low as 70 percent off on all items, including diamond engagement rings and special-occasion bling. †Iím also a fan of J.C. Penneyís sterling silver sales that occur a handful of times per year. For the good stuff, head to the locked cabinets staffed by salespersons. Those bits and bobs on the turning kiosks open to the public only display the cheap stuff. Higher quality items are under lock and key.

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Second hand jewelry savings are not to be sneezed at.

Estate sales and even nicer jewelry stores are often sources of gently-used jewelry pieces. For pieces youíll wear every day, this might be an option for you. Think silver rings, turquoise pendants and basic gold hoops and chains.

Semiprecious gemstones offer serious savings compared to their more precious counterparts.

Rubies might be all the rage, but I prefer the darker pigeonís blood variety. Theyíre harder to find and more expensive. Many rubies are lighter and pinker in color, which to me donít look nearly lush enough to dish out serious cash for. So my moneyís on garnets for comparable style on a budget. The colorís always deep enough to suit my taste, and the stones look amazing with gold. Onyx, hematite, lapis lazuli and pearls are additional options when searching for high-quality bling on a budget.

One item I saw years ago in the Kuwait gold souk (and have always regretted not buying) was a hammered gold cuff bracelet with a large, oval lapis lazuli set in as the only additional decoration. It was a piece that took tribal-style jewelry to the next level through the designerís choice of material, and brought a semiprecious stone most people relegate to worry beads or casual earrings center stage.

You canít go wrong with the classics.

Just like having a few basic pieces of classic career clothing can take you a long way, so too can a few basic pieces of jewelry. A diamond tennis bracelet with a pair of coordinating stud earrings, mid-sized hoops and a good strand of pearls are all items I would consider worthy of the term ďclassicĒ. Others include a set of 2-3 bangles, at least one slamming cuff bracelet and a multipurpose cocktail ring.

Charms donít have to be tacky.

Iíll be the first to admit that Iíve always found the dangly charm bracelets not to my liking. For those that groove with that look . . . Iíll say to each her own and leave it at that. That being said, there are a few companies out there that offer decent, chic charm bracelet options suitable for the modern glamour girl. What Iím more intrigued with however, is the concept of finding larger charms that make a dramatic statement and threading them on a dramatic mid-length chain for a polished look.

I prefer a hearty round omega-style chain with larger charms for the greatest style impact, but there are certainly other ways to go. A larger, vintage locket or sterling silver ornament with a semiprecious stone are affordable ways to pull off this look, but you can certainly get your gold groove on as well. The main point to remember is that you donít have to purchase an entire necklace every time. One or two nice chains crafted in your preferred precious metal will be all you need. From there, itís all about assembling a few nicer charms or ornaments to use with a variety of outfits.

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If you want to sparkle while you save, celebrate crystal in your jewelry collection.

While Swarovski ( ) may have set the gold standard, there are certainly other ways you can go if you find their product line to be a bit out of your budget. That being said, they do have several interesting products for less than $100, so itís worth digging around. Various jewelry accessory stores have bracelets, brooches and other bits of bling crafted with crystals in a variety of colors and cast in non precious metals that will still stand up for some time. For example, thereís a store in Miami on the exclusive Lincoln Road shopping circuit that has a wide selection of such baubles. Many of them are also available for less than $100.

Another often-overlooked area for integrating quality crystal and costume pieces is hair ornaments. For those looking to take affordable hair care to the next level, consider glamming up your do for special occasions or nights on the town by incorporating a bit of frosting. Crystal-studded hair pins and costume marquisette hair clips are both items I have in my collection, along with an onyx and crystal studded barrette I use to pull back bangs. Since itís sometimes difficult to keep in on a windy day, I secure it from behind with bobby pins that match my hair color. They donít show at all, and the small barrette is a nice addition to a simple outfit of a black turtleneck sweater, dressy jeans and black dress boots. Some days you donít want to be overloaded with finery, but do want to be reasonably adorned if youíre going out for a casual lunch with friends or a romantic walk in the park.

For jewelry designs on a dime, check out discount stores.

While you may not want to go shopping for your diamond engagement ring at such establishments, the truth is there are some great finds to be had at places like T.J. Maxx, Samís Club, Costco and more. You know those great shoe deals they have at Marshalls? Well, they have the same thing going on with jewelry at the companyís sister chain, T.J. Maxx. Sterling silver with semiprecious stones, marquisette and more are frequently available for hundreds less than you would pay otherwise. And while the warehouse stores donít exactly have the most extensive jewelry collection in their retail display cases, there are a few deals to be had on some stylish pieces from time to time. Sites like Bejool also offer discount jewelry on a fairly regular basis.†(†Bejool Discount Code: Take $10 Off Any Order with Coupon Code TAKE10)

I guess what Iím saying is donít be too quick to pass on an offering just because it doesnít come from Melrose Jewelers or Rodeo Drive. Precious metals are precious metals, and as long as the company is a reasonably trustworthy one you can be confident youíre getting a quality product. So why not score a savings opportunity?

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Donít dismiss the DIY option.

If you know what youíre doing and have a reasonable amount of design talent, serious savings can be had by purchasing your supplies wholesale and whipping up some jewelry for yourself and others. The sister of a close friend of mine actually does jewelry design on the side. While it might not pay her mortgage exactly, sheís able to craft slamming pieces for herself and is available for custom work when others want to order something special for a significant someone. Wedding bands, Victorian hair combs and casual rings with semiprecious stones have all made her list of wares, along with other projects such as earrings, high-end prayer beads and a variety of fine jewelry offerings. All for much less than typical retail costs.

Go on a dig and find your own gemstones.

Whether youíre a hardcore miner digging in the desert from your RV, or going on a nature getaway with your significant other to a resort town where gemstone digging is allowed for a small fee, finding your own gemstones can be fun. Hey, if you are fortunate enough to find some valuable stones, you might end up with enough material to craft a nice piece of jewelry while still cashing in to cover the cost of your trip!

Diamond chips can sparkle brightly for a fraction of the cost.

Iím not suggesting you settle for tacky and wear a ring with a chip you have to dig out a magnifying glass to see. What I am saying is that for cocktail rings, necklace charms and wider hoop earrings, Iíve seen diamond chips work well when used to completely cover the surface of the piece in question. Itís a way to get boatloads of light-catching glimmer on a budget you can afford. The trick is not to cheap it out. If you canít afford to dish out for major sparkle with this strategy, itís better to go with another option altogether, such as crystal. That being said, itís still WAY less expensive to go this route than it is to budget for a piece of jewelry with numerous diamonds, each having a high carat weight.

Skip the gemstones altogether for stylish jewelry thatís easy to liquidate when prices fluctuate.

While most people donít assemble jewelry collections with an eye towards having to get rid of it all later, the truth is the price of precious metals like gold and silver fluctuates. And if you got great deals on your base pieces, then liquidating when the price soars can be quite lucrative. Iím not saying you have to release all of your treasured baubles, but if you have some items youíve grown tired of, why not cash in? When gemstones are included with a piece of jewelry however, the liquidation process can get a bit more complicated, since youíll have to have the stones removed and appraised separately, or find a place that will fairly appraise your pieces. If you have someone you trust to do that, great. But for quick liquidation, itís much easier to research the current prices for the precious metal in question and know how much your stash weighs before taking it to a buyer. Theyíll test it to make sure itís real, throw it on the scale and offer you a price. You can either take it or not. If youíre lucky, youíll be able to make a bit of cash on the items you no longer liked anyway and channel those monies toward new bling or current household necessities.

Go tribal for style that supports the artisans who actually crafted your jewelry.

If diamonds, platinum or even higher-end crystal arenít in your jewelry budget and you still want to look chic, my advice is to skip the cheap imitations and go with ethnic, tribal jewelry for an earthy look. Handmade ceramic beads, cloisonnť, cut glass and other materials can be combined in various ways to create affordable style. There are plenty of places selling fair trade jewelry and other products from around the world, and countless arts and craft fairs where you can meet and interact with local artists whose work you can support for a fraction of what other jewelry would cost you. Chunky necklaces look fantastic with sweater dresses and knee boots, and a coordinating cloisonnť set of a barrette, necklace charm and cuff bracelet makes a statement over an ankle-length black jersey ballerina dress for a night at the community theater.

Clearly, itís possible to shine without steering your budget into the ditch. Follow these savvy shopping strategies to assemble an affordable collection of bling on a budget.

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