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- Fine jewelry will nearly always cost a bit more than the costume variety, but that doesn't mean you have to spend a fortune in order to have the ring or necklace of your dreams.
- Brands and retailers like Catbird, Mejuri, AUrate New York, Stone and Strand, The Last Line, and Vrai are changing the game with beautiful, affordable, and high-quality pieces. These are truly not your grandmother's jewels.
With its inaccessible prices, technical terminology, and nebulous production practices, the world of fine jewelry is intimidating to step into and, for a generation that cares simultaneously about value, style, sustainability, and ethics, often a world that's avoided altogether.
Not too long ago, we wouldn't even have considered buying nice jewelry online. But with direct-to-consumer jewelry companies taking center stage, no middlemen or mark-ups mean that you can pay a palatable price that's closer to the true cost of making that beautiful gold necklace. Plus, high standards for sourcing and production quell any fears that your purchase sets other livelihoods or the environment back.
These online jewelry companies will help you make the decision without overcharging you in the process.
The best places to buy affordable fine jewelry:
- Best overall: Catbird
- Best for handcrafted pieces: Soko
- Best for pure gold: Auvere
- Best for playful charms: Ariel Gordon
- Best for maximalists: The Last Line
- Best for minimalists: Mejuri
- Best for affordable gold: Gorjana
- Best for on-trend pieces: Stone and Strand
- Best for sustainable gold: AUrate
- Best for at-home try-on: Verlas
- Best for sustainable diamonds: Vrai
- Best for customized wedding rings: Holden
- Best for engagement and wedding rings: Couple
- Best for stackable rings: Gemist
Updated 11/10/2020 by Maria Del Russo: Added Gemist as our pick for stackable rings. All prices and links are updated as of this date.
Known for its delicate rings and transparent sourcing, Catbird is the epitome of cool, affordable jewelry.
Cool, Brooklyn boutique vibes meet the ease of online shopping at Catbird, where you can find delicate $44 rings alongside sparkly $14,000 engagement rings. It's fully transparent about the source of its materials, and donates 1% of all sales to non-profits including the ACLU and Planned Parenthood. In addition to jewelry that's crafted in-house, Catbird is home to other designers and beauty and home goods.
What to buy:The best for handcrafted pieces
For handcrafted pieces that won't break the bank, Soko is a go-to.
At the helm of the movement towards "ethical fast fashion" is Soko, a jewelry startup with an innovative, efficient, and empowering model that uses technology to connect with independent artisans in Africa. Soko's jewelry is guaranteed to attract attention, not only for its unique sourcing and manufacturing origins but also for its structural, powerful style. These hand-made pieces are produced from less conventional, but more affordable materials like brass.
What to buy:The best for pure gold
The pieces at Auvere are investment pieces, but they'll appreciate in value over time.
For top-line luxury, specifically 22- and 24-karat gold, at surprisingly affordable prices, Auvere is the place to go. There's a range of feminine and more masculine designs, so there's something to fit everyone's style. There's no denying that the architectural pieces are investments, but you get what you pay for — pure gold, wrapped into beautiful designs without the mark-up — and they'll only appreciate in value over time.
What to buy:The best for playful charms
Ariel Gordon designs cute, delicate jewelry that is meant to be worn over and over again.
This Los Angeles-based brand is a celebrity favorite and it's easy to see why. Launched out of her apartment while Gordon worked as a Hollywood publicist, the collection is made up of pieces designed to be worn over and over again, transitioning from occasion to occasion without losing quality and durability. Its charm pieces, which include animals and flowers, are truly sweet designs that'll brighten your day.
What to buy:The best for maximalists
For those who love bold, beautiful jewelry, The Last Line is a must-shop.
Founded by a Parsons grad and industry veteran, The Last Line wants to be the one and only place you buy all your jewelry. That might not be as ambitious as it sounds considering the brand sells everything from show-stopping rainbow pieces to chunky rings to classic gold hoops. If you thought fine jewelry couldn't be fun or colorful, The Last Line is here to prove you wrong.
What to buy:The best for minimalists
Mejuri provides dainty, minimal jewelry at an affordable price point.
Toronto-based startup Mejuri, founded by a former art director and a former engineer and third-generation jeweler, drops new pieces every week of the year, and without fail, its largely female clientele return again and again to its 14-karat gold, gold vermeil, and sterling silver jewelry that's made for everyday wear. Mejuri's mission is to have women "embrace a daily dose of luxury." With plenty of under-$100 options, it makes fulfilling this mission very achievable.
What to buy:The best for affordable gold
For jewelry that is effortlessly cool, look no further than Gorjana.
If you love the "I-just-threw-this-on" jewelry look, you're going to want to check out Gorjana. If you haven't heard of it already, this Laguna Beach-based brand is well-loved for its range affordable, gold-plated pieces that range from simple and dainty to funky and trendy, that pretty much all cost under $100.
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Ethically sourced and conflict-free, Stone and Strand has its own capsule collection while also curating other like-minded brands on its site.
Stone and Strand produces its own high-end jewelry and curates other like-minded brands on its site, creating an online space where shoppers aren't intimidated to explore fine jewelry. Most pieces are made of 14-karat solid gold — though you can also find more affordable gold-plated options — and the diamonds and gemstones used are ethically sourced and conflict-free. Its first capsule, Good Girl Tools, sets the tone for the types of jewelry you can expect from the rest of the brand: bold, pretty, and wearable for every day.
What to buy:The best for sustainable gold
AUrate offers both minimal, everyday pieces as well as bold statement pieces, so you can create a well-rounded jewelry collection.
AUrate offers both the solid foundation pieces and the unique statement pieces that you'll need for a jewelry refresh. Everything is crafted in New York City, which also means that NYC dwellers can enjoy same-day delivery of 14- and 18-karat gold, AAA pearls, and ethically sourced diamonds (the rest of the country gets free shipping). For indecisive shoppers, Curate is AUrate's personalized jewelry box delivery service that gives you a week to try on five pieces and decide which one(s) you want to keep.
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If you tend to be indecisive about purchasing jewelry, you'll love Verlas' at-home try-on service.
Investing in a nice piece of jewelry without trying it on first can feel risky. If you can't make up your mind right away, Verlas makes it easy to make sure you'll love your new piece. The brand offers a try-at-home program where you can try any three pieces from the site for 15 days. The test pieces are made of replica materials (like cubic zirconia and brass), but when you're done, you can choose the ones you love best and then order the real deal made with diamonds and gold. If you want to pass on them all, that's okay too. Of course, if you know what you want right off the bat, you can go straight to purchasing it too.
What to buy:The best for sustainable diamonds
Skeptical about buying diamond rings online? Vrai helps to streamline the process.
This downtown LA-based company only uses solid gold and Diamond Foundry diamonds, which are physically and chemically indistinguishable from mined diamonds, and created using solar energy. Vrai's simple and timeless pieces will delight minimalists and anyone who hates to be plagued by pages and pages of choices. Couples should take advantage of its free home try-on program for wedding rings, which decreases the pressure of choosing the perfect ring.
What to buy:The best for customized wedding rings
Customized wedding rings are super affordable thanks to Holden.
When wedding ring shopping gets so stressful that it detracts from the real experience of starting your life with someone, that's a problem. Holden is making it easy to shop for and customize wedding rings that start at only $249. Simply request a free ring size kit, choose your ring profile, width, metal, karat, and finish, and add an optional engraving, and your rings will be made-to-order with 3D printing technology.
What to buy:The best for engagement and wedding rings
Couple gives couples the opportunity to purchase their engagement rings online.
The idea for Couple began when one of its co-founders had difficulty finding an engagement ring for his now-wife and saw an opportunity to also lessen the environmental and ethical challenges of mined diamonds. Couple works with lab-grown diamonds that look identical to mined ones (and are actually of higher quality) so that marriages can start off on the right foot — with trust, transparency, and thoughtfulness. Many of the rings can also be engraved for a truly personal touch.
What to buy:The best for stackable rings
If you love a ring stack, you'll love Gemist's wide array of rings that you can layer.
Love a finger full of stackable rings? You'll love Gemist's wide variety of affordable pieces. The brand offers a streamlined at-home try-on process, where you're given three costume rings to play with for two weeks. Enjoy the pieces? Just let Gemist know, and they'll send you the custom pieces after you send your testers back. Gemist also has a variety of earrings, wedding bands, and engagement rings, too.