Here is my unofficial list of must-have jewelry:
1. Simple pendant necklace
4. Dangly earrings
Yes, you really only need four pieces of jewelry. As mentioned in my guide to clothes for college, jewelry is a wardrobe essential, but at the end of the day, it’s better to have four pieces of high quality jewelry than forty pieces that you don’t love.
In this day and age of consumerism, it’s important to take a step back and think about what you really want to spend your money on. It’s also better for the Earth to minimize the amount of consumer products and goods you use!
Obviously, we love us some jewelry trends. And yet.
The four pieces of jewelry I reach for again and again are not trendy — they’re simple, eye-catching, and well-made. (See our guide to timeless jewelry for more info on why simple, well-made jewelry is the best place to spend your money.)
FYI, I didn’t include bracelets or rings since I personally find them distracting to wear on a regular basis. Plus, jewelry that centers around your neck or face is more prominent in an outfit, as people will make eye contact when they speak to you.
Here are my top four pieces of jewelry and where I bought them:
1. Silver Initial Necklace
This is my favorite piece of jewelry of all time. My name is definitely unique and while I used to hate having a “weird” name, I love it now — and this little necklace helps me show it off.
This is a gorgeous and simple sterling silver piece that works well with any outfit. Since I bought this while on vacation with my sister (she bought a matching one), it’s also a meaningful necklace that comforts me.
When choosing your own go-to necklace to round out your collection of jewelry for college, seek out something that’s meaningful to you, whether that be a spiritual motif, your birth stone, zodiac sign, or another symbol that’s significant in your life. That makes it all the more special and a true signature piece.
2. 5-Disc Choker
I love this necklace because it’s not like every other choker I’ve seen. It’s dainty and simple, and perfect for layering, without being boring.
Chokers are easy to wear with everything from a crewneck tee to a cute dress. Yes, they’re a little “trendy”, but a chic and simple choker like this is classic and minimal, so it won’t look dated after a few seasons. It’s something you’ll be able wear for years to come.
It also comes in plain gold or silver, so it’s easy to mix and match with my other pieces of jewelry. I have cool undertones, so silver definitely works better for me, but you can definitely choose whichever metal color you prefer when picking your perfect choker.
3. (Faux) Pearl Studs OR CZ Studs
There’s a reason pearl studs are a classic: they pair well with any outfit; even a sweatshirt and messy bun. If, like me, you’re from a preppy part of the East Coast this will come as no shock to you, but for people outside of the bubble, hear me out.
Faux pearls instantly make you look classier, more put-together, and like you put some serious thought into getting ready. They will elevate your outfit without any effort, and since they’re clear, they will match everything you own.
Have I sold you on pearls yet? They’re a total essential in the search for jewelry for college. Since I lose these little guys pretty frequently, I highly recommend this jumbo pack of faux pearls from Amazon for a low-cost commitment.
On a similar note, if you prefer a less preppy basic stud earring, I highly recommend these CZ studs from Nordstrom. (They have 500+ 5-star reviews, guys, so don’t just take my word for it!)
At $46, they’re definitely pricier than the Amazon pearls linked above, but they’re gorgeous and feel so luxe! Definitely worth the money if you aren’t prone to losing earrings.
4. Star Statement Earrings
I bought these earrings to attend a wedding last year; I needed something to jazz up a little black dress. And let me tell you, it was one of the best purchases I’ve ever made.
I am not really a statement earring girl, but these have made me a convert! At $36, they are a steal when you consider the quality (I’ve had them a year and they still look perfect) and unique, modern style.
These are “wow” earrings — people will stop you to compliment you on them left and right, so be prepared! That being said, they aren’t too big and in-your face. They’re just the right amount of statement-y, if that makes sense. They jazz up every outfit and I can’t live without them.
Also, although I am a silver jewelry girl, I feel like the jewels in these help them act like a neutral — so they look great with either gold or silver jewelry. These are my go-tos for any dressy occasion, from weddings to formals to holiday parties. They truly seem to work with everything!
There you have it: the only jewelry I really need.
If you’re a jewelry person like I am, you probably own more than four pieces. So, am I telling you to toss out everything else? No!
You should definitely feel free to experiment and try new trends, and if you’re a ring or bracelet girl, your list of four must-have pieces will probably look different than mine.
Just make sure your jewelry box has a solid foundation and your collection of jewelry for college isn’t so full that it’s hiding the pieces you love. Hold onto those sentimental pieces from your mother and grandma too; you never know you might need them!
So, what are your jewelry box favorites?
What did you think about our must-have jewelry? Did we include your favorites? Is this too short of a list? Let me know in the comments below!
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in 2018; it was completely updated and revamped in 2019 with new photos, products, and information.