Relaxed Real: Piquant pendants under $50

I created the Relaxed Real category of jewelry to highlight pieces made from organic materials, with hand-crafted elements. This cuts out the mass-produced, shiny plastics, as well as corner-cutting techniques like glued-on stones.

When looking for a new piece of jewelry at this price point, the search narrows to modest materials: thread of various weights, wood, glass, resins; recycled materials like paper, rubber, shells or coins. In this world, an eye for colour and design are almost alchemic. In inexperienced hands, humble materials look like a 5th grade art project, but a skilled artisan can lift them to Picasso-like exhilaration.

Today's windows feature pendant necklaces, each of which cost less than $50—and each are wearable, current pieces that would look wonderful with jeans or pants and a tee shirt.

I love pendants because unlike earrings, you can see them on yourself, and you're not spending twice for the materials. Pendants also accommodate materials such as paper or clay, which are not sturdy enough for rings, and most are lightweight to wear.

A captivating and original necklace made from coloured pencils, by Etsy seller carbikova; price, $35 including the neckwire. (Other sizes and shapes available on the site.)

Antique 1890s copper token necklace, with willow tree on the font and lucky horseshoe on the back; available on copper chain or cord from Etsy seller FindsandFarthings; price, $27.

Semi-precious stones are within reach; I searched through hundreds of awkward wire-wraps to find good setting. Here is a luscious blue-green apatite that is not lumped up with wrapping, on a pretty chain (sold separately, various lengths and finishes).

The 20-30mm pendant is $26 from MoonTideJewellery. She has a number of simple gemstone pendants good for layering and specifies that, should you order a chain with your piece, the setting will match.

Resins make excellent choices because of the colour possibilities, and I especially like them when they showcase natural elements, like the serene, faceted dandelion-seed pendant by RaliJewellery; price, $16.55.

The world of fused or art glass deserves its own post, but in short, it's littered with vibrant but often unsophisticated pieces. Some glass artists stand out, such as LindsaysDesigns, a Texan who makes the funky, retro bullseye pendant. Price, $30 (chain sold separately).

Should you wish to revive a favourite outfit with a new pendant, a $30-$40 expense might be managed by cutting out a couple cups of specialty coffee drinks per week (or all right, glasses of wine) over a month—a pretty good trade-off.  

A good winter project is to set aside anything unworn for several years, and ask yourself why it no longer sings. My friend Christine uses a smart variation: she places pieces on a tray in her bedroom, because, "Out of sight, out of wear". That way, if you still don't reach for it over a few months, the decision is easy.

Another woman may love it—a friend, or via donation, someone unknown. In October, I saw the long, chunky black glass necklace I had donated swinging happily on young passer-by who seemed to have no trouble supporting its weight. So much better gleaming in the sunlight, than in a dusty tangle in my dresser drawer!


Janice Riggs said…
Seeing someone wearing, and loving, something that I had donated would make my heart sing! Happy Thanksgiving, and thank you for all that you do. Your good taste, and your way with words, are always a pleasure.
big hug,
materfamilias said…
Relaxed Real is a great designation for this category which is a favourite of mine. I immediately thought of a piece I bought in Lisbon 8 years ago. Cost me somewhere around 25 Euros and I wear it at least 10 times a year still (packed it with me for this city visit). A cinnabar medallion, lightweight metal discs covered with gorgeously patterned paper, a few coloured glass beads, all on a double strand of red thread. The perfect red, mind you, and the colours, proportions, patterns, etc elevate this so far above a J Crew Relaxed Real I bought last year that the CPWs for the two make me feel very foolish for buying the latter.
LauraH said…
I love the idea of the pencil crayons! So attractive and fun. Thank you for the time and energy spent on searching out this lovely jewellery. There are so many nice looking pieces on Etsy and other sites but I don't feel confident about judging the construction quality so it's great to have your jewellery chops to guide me. Relaxed Real is a great category name...maybe you should trademark it :-)
Francie Newcomb said…
This is a wonderful post! What an eye you have! Thank you.
LPC said…
Good term! And I've watched you highlight this kind of jewelry here over the years. For whatever reason, this kind of piece is just not my thing. But I appreciate the ability of others to enjoy it.
Duchesse said…
Janice: Somehow it is harder to part with jewelry than clothes!

materfamilias: You are so right about the interplay of elements- colour, proportion, patter. We do have to hunt, but such treasures are out there... I would love to see your Lisbon necklace.

LauraH: I can't really assess construction quality until I have something in my hands, but most Etsy vendors offer refunds (and I would only buy from those who do) and the postage isn't much for the kind of pieces I have shown.

Francis: Retired fun!

LPC: Though not your thing, such pieces may make a pleasing small gift? But feel free to give diamonds and pearls instead ;)

Madame Là-bas said…
Duchesse, you have inspired me to look over my fun jewelry. We have a thrift store in Vancouver that funds "at risk" young adults who are making a transition from ministry care to the "wide world". Certainly, it is better for the jewelry and accessories to be out in the community than to languish in my drawer.Thank you.
Kirsten Giving said…
My new passion with a special interest in the stringing materials themselves and how they enhance simple, inexpensive (or free) materials or those that are found in "treasure bags" from thrift shops/friends' stash/repurposing current pieces. As you say, design is paramount! Great post and interesting comments. Kirsten

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