Why $500? Because I saw this "Heirloom octagonal locket", $495 at J. Crew and thought I could do way better that this little overpriced 10k trinket.
I will wear costume, but generally look for vintage, because current costume disappointing, with a few exceptions.
In vintage, several costume pieces stood out.1950s Hattie Carnegie Tassel "Gold" Necklace
Add '50s flirt to a jacket or cashmere sweater with this gold mesh necklace intricately embellished with two turquoise and ruby tassels and one medallion. 16" long. 3 1/2" long tassel ends. Price, $200; from Ellen Wood Scarborough, on the 1stdibs site.
Large Key Pendant Necklace, 1960s
Art stone encrusted large key pendant necklace in silvertone. 24" long. Key is 4 1/2" long. Way more original that a Tiffany key pendant, and the price is $150; also from Ellen Wood Scarborough.
The real deal
When I begin to shop faux, I so often end up with a pleasing 'real' piece.
Chrysoprase Filigree Necklace, ca. 1940 An Art Deco dream. Silver chain necklace with black beads interspersed throughout. The center has a large pendent in silver filigree work and bars of black glass and chrysoprase. 17" long, pendent is 1 1/2".
Circa 1940. $550 from Carole Tanenbaum Vintage Jewelry. Fifty bucks over my budget but glamourous and special; worth the splurge.
Necklace of rectangular copper links embellished with orange and yellow enamel work, circa 1950.
Links are joined by copper findings. Size is 20” long, 1” wide. From Carol Tanenbaum.
Just a tad over again at $550, but what a piece: enough drama for a jacket but hip enough for a black tee with jeans.
For a casual yet striking necklace, I'd choose a big, well-designed Mexican piece like these '40s sterling and amethyst beads, about 16 7/8" long. Beads range from 5/16" to 5/8" in width. The necklace is strung on a fine silver chain. Price, $375 from Deja Voodoo. (Pseu, I am not making this up!)
Or two lavish strands of Victorian Whidby jet, beautifully-cut beads for $350, also from Deja Voodoo. The strands are 16" and 18 1/2 inches, and the beads are good-sized, the smallest is 13/16" and the largest, just under 1/2".
A superb and versatile Modernist piece: Jane Widberg mid-century sterling and carnelian necklace composed of an pendant (which could be worn on a longer chain) and neck-ring, $495 from Auerbach and Maffia.
You can even get a diamond-set locket on this budget. If I were craving a locket, I'd choose a ca. 1900 14k rose gold piece from Ruby Lane seller Eve Dove Gems.
Plan B: Fake it when the lights are low
Quality, schmality. Sometimes you have a better use for your 500 clams and want a vibrant new accessory for a party or two. There's a time for fake and fab, usually late at night under a restaurant chandelier.
Something hip for a night out: this Aldo fuschia Dark necklace delivers colour, pearls, and dripping Bollywood tiers, all for $25.
Navy is a nearly impossible colour to find in jewelry, so I was captivated by this navy Rhinestone Bib Necklace, the kind of accessory that revives a dress or top you're used to. $59 from Art Effect, and also available in black.
RJ Graziano is another costume-jewelry designer who creates outstanding lower-priced pieces. This smoky gray resin and chain necklace piece is as bold and well-balanced as pieces at quadruple the price. Also available in clear resin, but get the moody, richer-looking grey. $75 from Bloomingdale's and also sold on HSN.