Even those of us who aren't utterly clueless in the fashion and beauty department have one or two weak areas.

Some women who are otherwise well-dressed have closets full of black because they're uncomfortable wearing color. Others can't stand five minutes in heels taller than one inch. Still others have beautiful outfits and accessories, but what is happening with that hair?

My weak area is jewelry. There are three pieces that I wear about 80 percent of the time: a silver and gold Skagen watch that was a Christmas gift from my mom, a sapphire and diamond ring I received from my grandparents for my high school graduation, and large faux diamond studs that I lose periodically. I think my current pair is from Nordstrom Rack.

Today I happen to be wearing some Kate Spade bauble earrings and a gold bangle, but that's about as crazy as I get. The trouble - as with all weak areas in a wardrobe - is that my collection is so slim, it's hard to know what to buy from a huge rack of studs, chandelier earrings, pearls, chains, cocktail rings and everything in between.

This is where you enlist the help of a friend who's great at whatever is throwing you for a loop. It's one of the main perks of friendship. My best friend happens to be Elizabeth Taylor in training, so before I launched myself into a panic over the gobs of sale jewelry at Bloomingdale's, I asked her advice.

"Just start buying things," she said matter-of-factly. Then, while slipping on a cocktail ring the size of my face that looked like five others I've borrowed from her, she added, "but know when to stop."

Noted. Here's hoping you can take what I've learned so far in my quest and use it to augment your own collection. Below, some tips for purchasing jewelry, and a couple of styles that are big this season.

Being bedazzled

Spend enough money, but not too much. Let's get something straight, ladies: we're on a budget here, but even so, we've outgrown most of the merchandise in Claire's. People will notice if you're wearing the kind of jewelry that turns your skin green. On the other hand, when you open a magazine with a $55,000 necklace just hanging out, it's easy to feel like you can't afford a jewelry collection. You can get nice, but not outrageous, pieces for about $25-$75 original price. If they're more expensive than that and on sale, even better.

Don't skip the jewelry section. Speaking of sales, if you're in a department store or discount department store like Nordstrom Rack, it's easy to run right over to the shoes for 50 percent off, skipping over jewelry and other accessories. Don't. Think about the reasons that stores put merchandise on sale. It's less likely to matter if a necklace is from last season than a top, as jewelry takes longer to go out of style. And a cocktail ring that's oddly proportioned? Better that than a pair of jeans.

Mix metals. There's no longer a need to only buy silver jewelry if your wedding ring or everyday watch is silver. It's perfectly chic to mix. Furthermore, a colorful piece does not have to match something in your closet for it to be a practical purchase - in fact, it should be an unexpected pop of color instead.

Be wary of anything uncomfortable. If you're not a big jewelry wearer, something heavy or otherwise cumbersome is just going to hurt your initiative.

Styles to try

The success of a piece of jewelry depends almost entirely on what it's worn with, unless you're using it to spice up something like a black shift dress. Therefore, you don't necessarily have to worry about trends, if you're shopping at a store that generally keeps up with them.

In addition, you may be starting totally from scratch and in need of classic pieces. Here are some picks.


Trendy: The collar necklace is huge right now. It can have colorful stones, or be a solid metal. The example from Nordstrom clocks in at a reasonable $68.

Classic: Try a long gold chain with a medium-sized stone pendant in a neutral color.


Trendy: It's all about the cuff, whether it's metal or even leather or snakeskin.

Classic: One slim (but substantial) bangle in gold, rose gold, pewter or silver is a small piece that makes a noticeable difference.


Trendy: A drop earring with a colorful stone on the end can spice up an outfit, and gives a touch of the tribal look that's been popular lately.

Classic: My high school boyfriend's mother once encouraged him buy me small pearl earrings for Valentine's Day or my birthday or something, because she said every woman should have pearls. Despite the fact that I was only 17, she was right.

(E-mail Kristyn Schiavone at kschiavone@tribune.com, or write to her c/o Tribune Media Services, 2225 Kenmore Ave., Suite 114, Buffalo, NY 14207.)