How to Buy Jewelry For The Women In Your Life

How to Buy Jewelry for Your Secretary | Corporette

2017 Update: We still stand by this advice on buying jewelry for your secretary, but you may also want to check out all of our posts on holiday business etiquette.

Ever wonder what to get your mother, secretary, or sister in law for the holidays?  Jewelry always seems like a safe choice, but you have to do a bit of analysis — fortunately guest poster / Corporette commenter Kanye East is here to advise us on how to buy jewelry for the women in your life.  In real life,the author is an attorney at law, New York City ex-pat, sarcastic Corporette commenter, and amateur metalsmith. On the rare occasions she leaves the office, Ms. East slays dragons and makes jewelry with their treasures. She’s previously demystified pearls and types of metals for us.  Welcome back, Kanye East! – Kat

I don’t know whether “TIAKYOS” is a Corporette commenter acronym yet, but it could be. No, it’s not a new kind of Greek yogurt. “This is a know-your-office-situation.” We say it all the time when it comes to wardrobe, etiquette, socializing—next to JSFAMO (“Just say FOOEY! and move on), it might be the most popular advice among our commentariat. And it’s just as important for giving gifts: it’s a know-your-recipient situation. If you want to give gifts of jewelry that will be appreciated and worn, be observant. That’s my best advice, so if you want to go ahead and stop reading now, no hurt feelings.

Now I won’t pretend to be unbiased, but jewelry is always a go-to gift for the women in my life. (Know what my legal assistant gets on every holiday? I’ll give you one guess.) I love giving it, and I love getting it. But how do you pick the right piece for the right person? Allow me to make a few suggestions in the style of a bastardized Myers-Briggs Personality Test. We’ll be grading our recipient’s traits in four categories, and then assigning her a Giftee Profile (and giftee suggestions) based on those traits. Finally, I’ll leave you with suggestions from some of my favorite Etsy shops.

1. Accepting vs. Fussy

Now, I’m not trying to be judgmental with the label “Fussy”—I count myself among the Fussy (FOGD here, for the record). What I mean is: does your giftee accept every gift with gratitude, or does she suffer a little disappointment when she doesn’t get the perfect gift? Does she appreciate it when someone picks something out for her—especially if it’s something she would never have found or picked for herself, or does she have precise tastes and keep mental lists of exactly what she wants? If she’s more of the former, let’s call her Accepting. If the latter, Fussy.

Accepting: accepting, eclectic tastes, it really is the thought that counts.

Don’t stress too much about what you pick; odds are, she’s going to love it, whatever it is.

Fussy: discriminating, precise tastes, let’s be real: the thought doesn’t count that much.

We got some work to do.

2. Unadorned vs. Ornamented

Does your giftee wear jewelry? Ever? Scarves? Any kind of accessories? A “no” answer to one or more of these questions puts her toward the Unadorned end of the spectrum. If she does wear jewelry and/or accessories, but it’s always the same pair of earrings or the same scarf, she also skews Unadorned. But if she regularly wears jewelry and has a lot of it in rotation, let’s call her Ornamented.

Unadorned: minimal accessories, wears the same pieces frequently.

If she’s a Fussy Unadorned, jewelry is probably not the best gift. If she’s an Accepting Unadorned, choose a piece that’s a variation on something she already has (if she wears small gold hoops, try gold studs) or get her a versatile, classic piece she can wear on dressy occasions (pearl studs, single strand of pearls, CZ tennis bracelet)—chances are, she may not have much.

Ornamented: goes hard in the accessories paint and has a deep bench.

If she’s an Accepting Ornamented, you can stop here. Jewelry will make a great gift, and she’ll probably like whatever you give her. If she’s a Fussy Ornamented, let’s figure out where she is on the D/B and S/G spectra before we decide.

3. Silver vs. Gold

This one’s pretty obvious, but here’s how my system breaks it down:

If she mixes metals on the regular, she’s Silver.

If she only wears white metals (platinum, silver, stainless steel), she’s Silver.

If she only wears gold jewelry (not including wristwatches), she is a woman after my own heart, and she is Gold.

If you don’t know, but want to give her jewelry anyway, it’s usually safest to categorize her as Silver.

4. Demure vs. Bold

Assuming your giftee wears jewelry at least sometimes, and is not a Fussy Unadorned, let’s consider another category. When she wears jewelry, is it always delicate and minimalist, or is it chunky, statement pieces? Does she keep things neutral, or does she like bold colors? Let’s call the former Demure, and the latter Bold.

Demure: dainty, delicate, elegant, plain and slender metalwork, traditional gemstone settings.

If she’s Fussy Ornamented Demure, I suggest sticking with uncomplicated designs and traditional materials (like precious metals). If you’re considering gemstones, stay neutral or pale (prasiolite a/k/a green amethyst, rock crystal, champagne quartz, citrine, gravely rough diamonds).

Bold: bright colors, oversized pieces, statement necklaces, rustic elements, embellishment.

If she’s Fussy Ornamented Bold, consider unusual materials like resin and fiber. If you’re torn between different gemstones, pick saturated colors (candy apple green peridot, London Blue topaz, royal purple amethyst, bright red garnets), unless you know she has a favorite color.

5. Suggestions by Type

Fussy Unadorned: Danger zone. Reconsider jewelry.

Accepting Unadorned: Stick with basics.

Accepting Unadorned

Accepting Ornamented Bold: Find something unique. Get creative.

Accepting Ornamented Bold

Accepting Ornamented Demure: Get creative, but quietly.

Accepting Ornamented Demure

Fussy Ornamented Demure: Keep it elegant with simple designs and minimal elements.

 Fussy Ornamented Demure

Fussy Ornamented Bold: Impress her with something unique and high-quality.

Fussy Ornamented Bold

So, readers, what type are you?  (I apparently am a Fussy Ornamented Silver Bold — who knew?)  Do you agree with Kanye East’s analysis?  In general, what kind of jewelry do you like best to give and receive? 


  1. FOSB, just like Kat.
    Great suggestions, the items on the bottom took by breath away.

  2. Equity's Darling :

    This is a great post! I will now spend the next several hours perusing Etsy.

    On that note, is it weird to order that one armed cowl neck scarf thing that Katniss was wearing in the most recent Hunger Games movie? I’ve found some on Etsy, and I think I’d actually love it and wear it frequently, but it might be weird?

    • I think it is a personal taste thing. If you think you love it and would wear it, totally go for it. But for myself, I just think it’s kind of weird and I don’t get why someone would wear a one-armed vest. But that’s just me….

      • Equity's Darling :

        I’m surprisingy unconcerned about the one-armed-ness of the item, and more worried about it coming off as hunger games crazy obsessed?

        I like it separate and apart from it’s hunger games-link, though I did happen to see it in the movie, if that makes sense? I’m pretty convinced it’s a no-go simply because it will seem very fan-girl-ey, and that’s not my style, even if the scarf/vest thing is.

        • Anonymous :

          You say “coming off as if hunger games crazy obsessed” like that’s a bad thing.

          • Equity's Darling :

            No it’s not a bad thing! I just like to keep my obsessions under wraps. Preferably with cowl neck one armed scarves.

      • Katniss wears it because then the lack of the other arm won’t impede her archery.

        I think.

        • Yes, that makes sense.

          So if I needed that flexibility for my daily archery, I would totally wear it.

          For warmth in the PNW rain? Meh, not so much.

    • I want you to do it and others as well so that it won’t be as weird when everybody starts doing it. No joke, I was thinking about knitting one.

    • Sydney Bristow :

      I haven’t seen the movie so I’m not sure what you’re talking about. Could you post a link? It sounds interesting.


        • Sydney Bristow :

          Well I wouldn’t recognize it from the movie (which might make me a minority) but I think it’s kind of cool and if it fits into your style and you’d wear it a lot them I say go for it!

          • It looks like the wearer’s right b**b gets cold, but not her left, and this was the solution.

          • Sydney Bristow :

            That makes sense to me. It’s like the reason I sleep with only my left foot under the covers. ;-)

      • I haven’t seen the movie yet, either, but i LOVE it!! So, I’ll buy it if you do, Equity, and then you know at least one other person is wearing it!!

    • I was seriously considering one too, but decided I really couldn’t pull it off. Live vicariously for me! :)

    • National_Anthem :

      Um, please let us know where you found this on Etsy. I want one.

      • Equity's Darling :

        Just search “Katniss cowl” on Etsy, you’ll find a dozen variations from different sellers. I’m not the only one looking for this scarf/shawl, based on how many sellers are offering them.

  3. FussyUnadornedBoldSilver :

    I LOVE THIS POST. Sorry for the screaming, but this is awesome and spot-on. Thank you, Kanye & Cat! I agree with the idea to stay away from jewelry gifts for me for the most part, but a part of me still wishes I could be surprised with the perfect jewelry item (I guess that’s the part that wishes I could be an accepting kind of person…but I can be a real b**ch about imperfect gifts).

    • SCREAMING IS HIGH PRAISE! I’ll take it. I’m glad you liked it!


        10/10 WOULD RECOMMEND!!!!!

        • I LOVE IT TOO! I have never thought about jewelry or my own preferences in that way before; I feel like I learned something. Also, I am glad to know that there are others who are Fussy about gifts. I thought it was just a character flaw in me.

  4. Sydney Bristow :

    Oh my goodness, if anyone feels the need to buy me a present I’m in love with that moire bracelet.

  5. This is so hilarious and Correct!
    I am totes a Fussy Unadorned Full Stop, just in case anyone was thinking of buying me something. ;o)

    But my sister is TOTALLY a Fussy Ornamented Demure Silver! And my mom is a Fussy Ornamented Bold Gold. I had kind of figured out what to get them by trial and error in the past, but thinking about like this is so freaking awesome. Thanks Kanye!!

    • Rats! My mom is Fussy Unadorned, which is why she is so.hard to shop for. She will wear jewelry that I buy her, though.

      • Aww!! I’m actually weird, because I went through a period where I wore necklaces a lot, and I am probably a Fussy Bold/Eclectic when I am wearing jewelry. But then i jsut stopped and I can’t even deal with jewelry lately for some reason. But I am a very Fussy gift-receiver at all, mostly because I just don’t have a lot of stuff. But I try to be an Accepting gift-receiver on the outside and just appreciate anything anyone gives me, especially from friends, etc. I’m more upfront with my family, but we do wish lists anyway.

    • I must be like your sister – Fussy Adorned Demure Silver!

  6. Now I know I am Fussy Ornamented Gold and somewhere in the middle between Demure and Bold. Someone buy me those gorgeous petal drop earrings, but in gold, please?

    • This is exactly what I am, too. I would say I’m generally Demure? But I wear a lot of chunky, bright colored, statement necklaces in the summer with dresses and solid colored tops.

      • Exactly my situation. Generally Demure, but I have some statement necklaces that totally veer into Bold. Plus I have a scarf and shawl fetish that a true Demure wouldn’t touch in a thousand years.

  7. I love this. I would totally send this to my mom who does not get at all that I’m a FODS, but there is no way she’d make it through the first paragraph and keep reading. This may not be in the cards, but could you re-write this post for a neutral audience (aka w/o inside jokes) and maybe link to a version that can be forwarded at the bottom of the post?

    • It’s called “copy and paste in an email”.

    • Yes, I know how to copy and paste. I think my mom would view an email as a bit critical but forwarding a link as fine. I had just mentioned this suggestion in case it was helpful and resonant to others. If my suggestion wasn’t helpful because my mom’s quirks are more specific than I’d realized, than no worries but also maybe no need to criticize me?

  8. OMG it all makes sense now :

    Thank you!

    This is how I can wear diamond stud earrings and still consider myself Not A Jewelry Person.

    — Fussy Unadorned

    • I do NOT like peeople to buy me any jewlery. That is b/c it is my taste that matters and way to many peeople think they know my taste. But they do NOT. I usueally get very NONDESCRIPT jewlery that peeople will NOT recognise when I wear it over again. I also have a ROLEX watch that my dad bought me when I gradueated from LAW School, b/c he said I always should be PROMPT when goieng into COURT. I still wear it today, even tho it is over 6 year’s old! YAY Dad!!!!!!

      When I was dateing Alan, he bought me a very CHEAP bangel, that I had appraised at $3. He told me it was 18K gold, but it was NOT even gold plated. I told Alan he should keep it or give it to his sister Syd, so he did. FOOEY on Alan and cheap jewlery! FOOEY!

    • LOL, seriously. I can sleep easy tonight…

  9. I am fussy unadorned – and yes, hard to buy jewelry for, judging by how much wear I get from past jewelry gifts…

  10. Those pomegranate earrings are perfect. I keep seeing them on Etsy (probably because I’ve favourited the shop.. so I’m really just doing it to myself) and forgetting how expensive they are. But so beautiful.

    • Anonymous :

      I know! And the less expensive silver pair doesn’t do it for me.

    • I am in a long term relationship with those gold pomegranate earrings and necklace. Seriously, I’ve been in love with them for almost a year now I think…aaaargh.

  11. TO Lawyer :

    This is really cool. I love the suggestions in the last section.

    I’m also pretty choosy I think but I love jewelry gifts. I usually wear bold statement necklaces but also love more delicate necklaces (all of which were gifts) so I think as long as you’re observant of someone’s style, you can probably choose something appropriate.

  12. What about the men? :

    Love this!

    Can I just TJ this for a quick q. re: men’s jewelry, sort of? DH wants a watch for the holidays, but it is not in my budget to get him something in the four figure range. I have been stalking a nice Raymond Weil on sale which seems lovely and perfect but even that — *if I get a good deal* — will be a few hundred more than I probably want to spend at this point. I know you can buy perfectly nice watches for under $500, but I don’t want to just get him a Seiko and he isn’t the minimalist type to go for a Skagen. Does anyone have any thoughts on Nixon watches? I am looking at a few and they seem kind of stylish & modern and like a nice alternative to something fancier and more traditional. Any experience with them vis a vis quality? Other brands/ideas I should consider? I know it’s silly, but I also know some folks put a lot stock in watch brands and what they say about you. My DH would love whatever I got him because it’s from me, but I’d hate to get something that unwittingly sent the wrong message at work or something. Help?

    • What about the men? :

      This is the Nixon watch I’ve been eyeing:

      • What about the men? :

        Also this one:

      • Joanna Toews :

        That blue dial. Hnnnnnngggggg.

    • Have you looked at Hamilton Watches? I am not sure, but I think they might be in your price range. They look beautiful, have great “street cred” with watch aficionados, and they’re American.

      • Okay, so I just googled and they’re now owned by Swatch, but they have the American heritage! They also seem to run around the $500 range and Amazon seems to sell a good selection.

      • This is a great recommendation. Their watches are nice.

    • amelia earhart :

      Have you looked into Citizen?

      • kjoirishlastname :

        I thought I was hot stuff getting my Citizen from my husband. Now, knowing that it’s not a high-end brand (I mean, I knew it wasn’t a Cartier or a Rolex…), I still love it. It is nice and weighty, understated, and classic.

        I’ll never be a Cartier girl, but at least I can stop buying batteries for my Timex.

        (And, I’ve started wearing my Citizen again, after reading up on this site–and checking out other people who wear watches. I’ve become Judgy O’Judgerson!)

    • I bought my husband a Swiss Army Watch and it’s been great. I got one with a white face and brown leather band. I think it’s the infantry model – might be a little too classic for you, but again, I love it and my girlfriend coincidentally got the same one for her husband, too.

    • Have you checked Costco? They have some real deals on high end watches. No manufacturer warranty, but the costco return policy is even better, usually.

  13. this is excellent, says my Accepting Ornamented Silver Bold self! :D

    …. also, darn, next time i have spare money i know where to spend it…. :P

  14. amelia earhart :


    How long have you been making jewelery and how did you get involved with it? I love your designs and will be making more than a few holiday purchases through your shop!

    • Thanks, amelia!

      I’ve been selling jewelry for nearly three years, but I’ve been making things since I was a wee one. Most of the techniques I use in wire-wrapping, metalwork, and sculpting are things I learned decades ago (SHOUT OUT TO PUBLIC SCHOOL ART TEACHERS!).

  15. Kanye, your jewelry suggestions are NOT FAIR.


    • I love this Kat + Kanye (Katye?) jewelry post so much.

      I’m not surprised that I’m Fussy Ornamented Bold. (My parents stopped trying to give me jewelry after they realized, I will generally like a $49 ring from Etsy or the Anthropologie sales that’s unique and bold more than a $XXX traditionally styled ring with precious stones and metal from Macy’s jewelry dept.)

    • Also, I am Accepting Ornamented Gold Bold, or AOGB. KANYE, I WANT A COOL ACRONYM.

  16. I just bought those skull studs as a gift. Thanks, Kanye! (Am willing myself not to look at anything else… because it’s all downhill after I finish the gifting portion…)

  17. I am firmly a Fussy Ornamented Silver Demure (FOSD)…not sure how many others out there. I try to love jewelry that others gift me, but feel like it just doesn’t suit me in some small respect. I really do have simple tastes most of the time, with the occasional wilder piece or something quirky. I love bug earrings (e.g., ladybugs, bees, etc.) and big rings. But my necklaces are always simple. I wear this ( almost every day. This post does explain a lot for me in terms of gifting and receiving! Very good.

  18. I am Accepting Ornamented Silver Bold, and true to description I can’t think of a jewelry gift anyone has given to me that I haven’t been happy to receive–some get more wear than others but I’ll try almost anything and see what ends up as a surprise favorite. (Notable exceptions: skulls and brand logos. Which I will still be appreciative of but will probably try to exchange.) This is a really useful guide, and I did not need to know about those pomegranate earrings…

    • I am an Accepting Ornamented Silver Demure (“AOSD”), and I feel exactly the same way. Especially when my husband is the giver. I love everything he gives me. Great post, Kat!

  19. Related thread jack: what to get new beau with High Potential for his birthday this week? Northwest guy, loves outdoors, domestic life, busy guy. Been together only a month but headed towards serious. He knows a ton about plants/gardening so don’t want to venture into a misstep there. Other ideas??

    On the jewelry, I think this is fraught with room for error. Moms don’t like pieces kids will tug/pull. I personally like ‘real’ quality pieces only- nothing junky- so not common for gifts. Bracelets don’t fit my little wrists. I don’t have pierced ears. I am unusual, but everyone probably has their own little stuff. Every time my Mom buys me jewelry I say thank you, appreciate the thought, and put it in a box. I gave a few necklaces out to the women who hosted my baby shower and while I loved them, I got the sense they didn’t- and they were not cheap and I spent a long time picking them. So agree simple is best- silver whatever as you can really go wrong unintentionally.

    • Equity's Darling :

      You could get him a really nice pot for plants? I don’t see how that could be a misstep.

      • That is, if by gardening she means gardening and not ‘gardening’…….

        • Equity's Darling :

          You’re right, I could be wrong on that? In that case, my suggestion is absolutely terrible. I truly enjoy gardens in the non-euphemistic way, so I do tend to get confused.

          • Oh, no, i am completely teasing you, Equity ;o) I also think she meant actual, literal gardening. I just couldn’t help it.

    • Coach Laura :

      Ruby – no idea on gifts but I’m SO happy for you.

      • Thanks, Coach Laura! Yes it is quite exciting as it has been a ROUGH few years with the other stuff that has happened. Hoping for the best. He’s pretty wonderful so far. It is tricky as we are both super busy single parents but so far we’re figuring that out.

        Gardening… haha, literal gardening but not bad in other kinds either:)

        REI… yah so he’s one of those guys who has climbed every volcano here, dove every reef, run every trail etc… gear-people are quite specific on what they have… but yes there is always something at REI for these types and I live right by the flagship.

        I rather love the watch idea but is that ‘too much’ for this early stage?? I don’t want to mess this up! Neither of us are stuff or spendy people so don’t want to overdo but also want to signal something thoughtful…

        Nice pot- also a good idea as he was talking about growing a seedling of something on his upper deck.
        Cupcakes- maybe this is my own limiting belief but I don’t think I have time… but that would be fun and cute.

    • bananagram :

      How about making cupcakes? (Not a gardening gift, but since he’s into plants he may have his own taste/ requirements for gardening paraphenalia.)

    • PinkKeyboard :

      If he loves the outdoors you could go to REI and take a look? My default stocking stuffers for my husband have been various outdoor activity (hiking in his case) accesories that are pricey to buy yourself but great to have. (Very nice headlamp, camping pillow, silicone bowls, nice pocket knife, hiking GPS)

  20. This post is hilarious and awesome. I am a jewelry enthusiast and yet had never thought about it in these analytical of terms.

    I am a fussy ornamented gold all the way (watch included). I almost never wear jewelry that people give me (except my hubs, who gets my taste perfectly). But the real issue is bold vs. demure. I would say I am a bold, because I am a bold/loud person, but the truth is that I am really demure when it comes to jewelry taste. I always think I am a bold, but basically never wear the stuff that isn’t demure.

  21. Word of Caution re Earrings :

    Unless you know the person is not alergic to metals, stay away from earrings. I love earrings and wear them very often, but I am alergic to most metals, including 14k gold, hypoallergenic, etc. So I have to buy only earrings that I can alter to have the part that touches my ears be ok for me. I’ve received gorgeous earrings that I would love to wear, but cannot be adapted, so they sit in a box waiting to be regifted. Some people are also sensitive to rings, necklaces, etc, but I think it is less frequent.

  22. BigLaw Refugee :

    Very helpful post! I was just trying to think of gifts for a couple of my girlfriends and these Etsy links look great!

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