Work Jewelry: How Much Jewelry Should You Wear to Work?


2018 Update: We still stand by this post on how much work jewelry to wear and links have been updated below; in a semi-related discussion you may want to check out our discussion on when to upgrade you engagement ring.

Ladies, how much work jewelry do you wear? Do you tend to lean towards “too much” or “not enough”? Where do you think the line is? How do you avoid getting into a rut with your jewelry? As I draft this post I realize this is something I’ve struggled with, so I’m curious to hear what readers say. (Pictured: I pity the fool who thinks this isn’t enough jewelry for work! Sorry, had to…)

(Psst: in the past we’ve written before about my jewelry collection for workhow to wear jewelry for work if your style isn’t particularly feminine, and how to mix metals with your work jewelry.)

For my $.02, I’ve always been a bit of a jewelry minimalist — three pieces of jewelry struck me as the right amount for daytime, for whatever reason. This changed a bit when I got engaged and started wearing my diamond ring on the regular. It meant I stopped wearing other rings, and it meant I tended to lean more toward my silver/white gold jewelry (my rings are platinum) versus my yellow gold jewelry or rose gold jewelry. Add a good watch in the mix, and you’re left with a problem — your work jewelry choices are either very boring (because only one piece changes), or you’re suddenly wearing a ton more jewelry.

Here are my general thoughts on work jewelry, just to throw some spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks:

  • If it jangles or makes a sound, it’s too much. An arm party looks great in a picture, but if you’re typing a ton or walking down a hallway with other people, you need to be wary of how much noise a bracelet or suite of bracelets can create. Similarly, some of my larger statement necklaces can definitely make sounds that, I think, would put them in “after work events only” territory — not work jewelry.
  • Earrings with a lot of movement can be distracting.  I’ve always felt this way, and wish I’d known how to take .gifs a few years ago because my best “proof of concept” here came when I was watching a documentary about the Enron scandal (probably The Smartest Guys in the Room).  The serious journalist being interviewed had long, shiny silvery earrings on, and every time she moved her head while speaking it made me focus on the earrings, not what she was saying.  I’m always a fan of huggies because I find posts to be uncomfortable to wear (particularly if you’re having a phone conversation without a headset) and they’re generally small, but of course there are drop earrings that don’t have too much movement also.
  • I’m getting better at rotating my jewelry by focusing on putting my necklaces and earrings away at night, which forces me to consider the full range when picking out what I’m wearing in the morning. I find that if I save the “putting away” for the morning, that it becomes “putting them on” instead, and I get stuck in a rut.
  • Discount your left hand entirely. Daily watch + engagement ring/wedding band = things that don’t count as jewelry if you’re counting (or if you’re against mixing metals). I think I’ve followed this rule more and more as I’ve gotten older, but I wish someone had suggested that when I was younger.
  • Pick one or two areas to focus on rather than “three pieces only.” Especially since layered looks are so popular right now with more delicate necklaces and rings, I think limiting yourself to the number of pieces is a silly rule.  BI
  • Think about where your jewelry will be seen, and if you want to emphasize that area.  For example, if you’re attending a networking party where you may be holding your drink, a cocktail ring can be a great choice because it’ll be seen when you shake hands with people and hold your drink.  On the flip side, as a busty woman I’ve always avoided the 24-30″ necklace because they usually hit right in the middle of my bust; I’ve also talked about how a great necklace can “raise the neckline” of an outfit — a 16″ or 18″ strand of pearls is great for this because they reflect light back into your face; they also read as very conservative and can “stodge up” a more modern look or pattern. Similarly, if you’re giving a presentation and plan to have your back turned to the audience often, a brooch at the back of your blazer or in your updo can be a nice touch.

Ladies, what are your thoughts on jewelry for work? What does a typical workday’s jewelry look like for you — how often does it change — and what rules and tips do you follow for keeping your jewelry “appropriate for work?


  1. Anonymous :

    I hate wearing bracelets at work (because of typing) so I tend to wear stud earrings and a necklace instead. I’m obsessed with my J Crew multistrand pearl necklace, it goes with everything. It’s hard to find statement necklaces that don’t look cheap or overly trendy/young though.

  2. Anonymous :

    Early Threadjack: I’m having my third baby tomorrow (assuming baby doesn’t arrive today), and I’d like to get a new bag for spring to celebrate. I’m looking for a new, medium-size cross-body bag in a lighter color to use when I’m not lugging the diaper bag around. Any suggestions would be VERY appreciated as I haven’t had much time to check out what’s in the stores (and I won’t have much time in the foreseeable future).

    • Senior Attorney :

      I have no suggestions but just want to say congratulations and best of luck!!

    • No specific recommendations, but I love my crossbody bags from Hobo and Fossil and they usually have a variety of colors.

    • Anonymous :

      Good luck and congratulations on the baby!

    • Shopping challenged. :
      Or their triple zip hipster cross body, which comes in patterns or black and includes an integrated phone charger.
      Congrats on the baby!

    • Rebecca Minkoff – check Nordstrom, so many fun colors and some of my fave bags

  3. It totally depends on the day, outfit, and how I’m feeling. Today I’m minimalist, just watch, wedding ring, and small gold hoops – but I’m wearing a busy shirt with a weird neckline and I’m tired so I didn’t feel like trying to coordinate. Other days I’ll go all out with a statement necklace and earrings, statement earrings, or layered necklaces. Agree with anonymous, hate bracelets if I’m typing, but I’d love to find one that stays tight enough on my wrist that I could wear it to work occasionally.

    I also highly recommend getting one multi-color metal piece of jewelry – my watch has gold, silver, and just a few diamonds, but I really feel it helps tie everything else together, no matter what I’m wearing.

  4. I’m pretty no-fuss for workday jewelry.

    Ears: I rotate between 6 pairs of studs (diamond, pearl, black pearl, silver, gold, rose gold). I think studs are the most flattering for my face shape — my earlobes are in the same line as my jawline, so a little pretty punctuation mark extends the line. Drops or huggies move the emphasis to my (on-the-shorter-side) neck.

    Neck: I’m not a statement necklace person, and don’t always wear one depending on my top. I love my classic pearls but on a regular old day, I’m more likely to be wearing a simple opera length necklace (pearls by the yard is my favorite) with a silk top.

    Hands: Always the same. Watch and e/wedding rings on the left, thin flexible (non-bangle) bracelet on the right. Too much typing for anything else.

  5. Anonymous :

    I’m not sure I understand the hint to pin a brooch on your back. Wouldn’t it hurt to sit down?

    • Anonymous :

      And why would you have your back turned to the audience if you were giving a presentation?

  6. JEWELRY! Wear all of the metals all of the time. And can we please make a distinction between bracelets and bangles? They’re two completely different things. You can definitely wear multiple bracelets without being jangly whereas bangles interfere with typing and more than one can be audible.

    I’m going to be buy more gold next month. It’s been a few years, my fingers are getting itchy.

  7. Same as Aurora: it totally depends on the outfit. Sometimes I’m wearing a pretty toned down look – all solids, no really interesting details, etc. that calls for some visual interest via accessories. Sometimes I’ve got a lot of print and color or layers going on or the jewelry won’t show due to hairstyle or sleeves so I just keep it simple. I don’t do jangly bracelets or shoulder duster earrings for the office, but don’t really subject myself to any other rules accessory-wise. I try not to have earrings compete with necklaces (go small with one if the other is big) but every once in a while I’m ok with breaking this guideline. I wear more jewelry than most women, it’s just who I am.

  8. I’m a jewelry minimalist. I feel weird wearing earrings and a necklace at the same time. My wedding band is a wide band with a very small diamond, and I rarely wear other rings. Never a watch or bracelets, but that’s just because I don’t like how things feel on my wrists. So all I really do is a necklace or earrings. I have 6 necklaces which rotate with different outfits, and 2 pairs of work earrings. All of them are fairly sculptural, and neutral in color, so they go with many outfits. Maybe I’m boring, but it feels like a uniform, not a rut.

  9. Senior Attorney :

    I wear earrings, watch, and engagement ring (!!) every day. Most days I wear a statement-ish ring on my right hand. I necklaces, maybe 30-40% of the time. I’m more likely to wear a scarf for neckline interest. And I’m kind of over my bracelets at the moment.

    • Senior Attorney – Did you end up getting the Princess Diana ring you always wanted? And CONGRATS!!!!

      • Senior Attorney :

        LOL, I bought myself a Princess Diana ring for Christmas but now I am totally over it because my lovely intended picked out the most beautiful diamond solitaire in a chunky setting that I would never have chosen on my own but totally adore! Anybody wanna buy a slightly used moissanite Princess Diana ring? ;)

    • Yup, I’m the same. Always a watch, wedding and engagement rings, and earrings. I’m also more likely to wear a scarf because I’m always cold. One of my friends gave me some blingy earrings that I’ll occasionally wear on Fridays if I don’t have any big meetings (I can also wear jeans on Fridays). I have a toddler, though, so I tend to wear more studs these days.

  10. TO Lawyer :

    I posted but it seems to have disappeared so apologies if this posts twice.

    I usually wear a watch and necklace every day. My necklace is more often than not a statement necklace. If I’m feeling with it, I’ll wear earrings, but usually just studs or huggies or something small.

    I have two watches – one silver and the other black and gold so I’ll just rotate depending on what necklace I end up wearing.

    I never wear bracelets because I find them uncomfortable when I’m typing. Occasionally a ring if I’m feeling fancy.

  11. Paging Senior Attorney :

    Senior Attorney – I could really use some of your wisdom but would rather do so privately. Could you e-mail me at [email protected]?

  12. I tend to wear a fair amount of jewelry but none of it is large or statement jewelry. I always wear a pink pearl ring on my right hand (gift from my SO) and a small silver and diamond ring on the middle finger of my left hand. Sometimes I had a larger ring on my left index finger. Today, I’m wearing a garnet ring that matches my other jewelry on my left ring finger because that’s where it fit best. I always wear earrings, either silver hoops or a smaller huggie-like hoop or very small drops. I hate studs and I don’t like the way drops look with my hair and glasses. I almost always wear a somewhat delicate gemstone necklace – color varies with the outfit. I like to wear bracelets, but not bangles. Bangles are impossible with my work. One I wear a lot is this, which is called a bangle, but isn’t:

  13. Generally not much but sometimes you just need to channel Bobby George :)

  14. SuziStockbroker :

    I am pretty boring.

    Watch and wedding/engagement rings on my left hand.

    Earrings everyday, the same white gold huggies 9 days out of ten. Occasionally I will wear small diamond huggies. I have some lovely post earring buts they don’t work for me because of the telephone.

    I wear an necklace most days. Again, it’s usually the same one, a white gold chain and pendant. Sometimes I wear a twisted multi strand pearl necklace, and occasionally a silver disk statement necklace.

    • At least you are MARRIED! FOOEY b/c I do NOT even have a man interested in me! DOUBEL FOOEY!

  15. Anonymous :

    I always have on the same right-hand ring (garnet in white gold, birthday gift from my SO years ago) and a watch (silver, simple/no sparkles) – I feel undressed without them. I don’t wear bracelets very often, but I almost always have on a necklace and earrings, usually more delicate than statement. Today it’s a matched amethyst/white gold set to go with the purple blouse I’m wearing, very small and delicate.
    Also, almost all my jewelry is silver or white gold – it makes it much easier to match metals when I’m half asleep in the morning. :P

  16. Shopping challenged. :

    I like the tops that were popular a couple of years ago that have a lot of detailing around the collar–beads or stitching –because I get the effect of a focal point for people to look at without having to remember to put on jewelry, which I generally think of after I lock the door.

  17. I followed the style of our very successful glamorous corporate banker 20 years ago and I’m glad I did. Quality (only real metals), nothing tiny on the fingers or around the neck. So statement ring on the right hand, not “cocktail” but definitely not appropriate for your Sweet Sixteen self. I do wear a single wide bangle every day – plain but 1 inch wide, in brushed gold or, if wearing white gold, the similar bracelet. I equate gold and sizable jewelry to success, and that’s what I want to reflect. Pearls or a rigid yellow or white gold necklace on which I change out enhancers. I do love and own fashion jewelry but save it for non-work. No watch anymore since cell and computer provide the time.
    Mr. T, you were the man!

    • I would love to know the brands you and your “jewelry mentor” wear! Jewelry is my fave and I love hearing what people settle on for their mostly every day.

      One of my ibanking mentors wore Chopard earrings and watch and I loooooved them (2006). Another VCA. I have the most champagne jewelry taste, it’s $$$$.

  18. Anon For This :

    Does anyone else not have pierced ears? I do not, and I am not interested at all in getting them. I’ve had some awfully weird comments about it too when it’s come up.

    • I don’t, and I don’t plan on it. Metal allergies run in my family and rings and necklaces are enough for me to scratch the jewery itch.

    • Cornellian :

      I also don’t have them pierced. I scar easily and am allergic to everything, and, honestly, think it’s sort of strange that we expect women to put holes in their bodies without questioning it at all.

      I’m all about women getting piercings or tattoos or whatever they want, but I hate when things are just assumed. I’ve definitely gotten some weird comments.

    • No holes in me that I wasn’t born with.

    • Me (not that one, the other one) :

      My ears are pierced, but I never wear earrings due to allergies. I can wear other jewelry fine, and I’ve never bothered to figure out why my ears won’t tolerate metal. I used to get comments; these days I don’t care what others think.

  19. One of my favorite topics.

    1) emphasize necklace or earrings, not both. If you’re wearing a significant necklace, wear small post style earrings. If your earrings are large or dangly, no necklace

    2) a matching necklace and earrings looks mumsy. Choose things that coordinate, not match. Don’t buy jewelry “sets.”

    3) mix metals with abandon.

  20. Anonymous :

    Okay, clearly I’m not a big jewelry girl, but WTH are huggies?!
    I’m totally a minimalist, numbers-wise… Generally earrings OR bracelet, never necklaces (despise things around my neck) or rings (just don’t). If I’m wearing both, I feel very “dressed” and generally the earrings will retreat into tiny gold studs territory. Alone, I tend toward slightly larger / dangly metal earrings or bracelets with some kind of color.

  21. Danielle1313 :

    Hi all,
    To my more experienced professional ladies, I’d LOVE your wisdom on a somewhat more fringe jewelry question – double ear lobe piercings. How does this land in a semi-conservative setting? i.e. not super intense, but where a sheath dress + blazer and flats combo is typical and appropriate. I’ve seen several of my female law professors with this, always with a tasteful selection of two small, delicate studs in each ear, and it looks lovely with their suits/heels etc — but I’d really love a wider opinion!

  22. I’m not wear jewelry but lowe good watch.I have a tank watch from Emporio Armani. It has silver hardware and a black leather band. I love it. I got it at Nordstrom some years ago.

    I, too, can’t understand spending thousands of dollars on a watch, but I am lost without one.