There are lots of places to buy jewels and gems. But not all of them are exceptionally made, and certainly not all of them are both (relatively) affordable and have been worn by the likes of Erykah Badu. Enter: the Black-owned jewelry list, a compilation of rings, necklaces, hoops, chains, and finger caps from brands like Johnny Nelson (maker of a four-finger jewelry ring) and OMA the Label, which makes the kind of perfectly vintage-looking pieces you’ll want to slip on with every outfit.
Bernard James is the eponymous brand of fine-jewelry designer Bernard James. Everything is handmade in New York and produced to order. His most recent collection, Flora, was inspired by the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. This piece from the drop showcases a bouquet of flowers and is made from solid yellow, white, rose, and green gold.
In Catherine Sarr’s London-born, now Chicago-based fine-jewelry line, everything is made from 18-karat gold. The sculptural designs have abstract lines and organic curves and are often adorned with diamonds or other precious gemstones — like this pendant necklace reminiscent of a hair pick with a diamond at the center.
Another fine-jewelry line out of London is Aurelia & Pierre. Many of the pieces are designed around colorful gemstones inspired by nature and founder Amokeye Adede’s Nigerian heritage. You’ll find a mix of elegant and dainty rings, necklaces, and earrings that still make a statement. We’re fond of this unique ring, but if nothing is speaking to you, you can create something original through the company’s bespoke services.
Matthew Harris, the self-taught designer behind Mateo, initially launched his company as a men’s jewelry brand. In 2014, Harris shifted to fine women’s jewelry — but the pieces are striking just the same. We’re particularly into this pearl anklet, which we think would be nice for the coming warmer months.
Jameel Mohammed launched Khiry while still in college — but that’s not the only impressive thing about this line. The modern jewelry pieces channel the beauty and history of the African diaspora. Mohammed makes elegant, sculptural designs, like two-finger rings, West African-mask–inspired pendants, and these jug-shaped earrings, which Pat Cleveland wore on the Cut’s August 2021 cover.
For more statement-making earrings there’s Home by Areeayl, whose handmade creations have been worn by the likes of Beyoncé, Tracee Ellis Ross, and Naomi Osaka (both Ellis and Osaka wore the brand’s iconic cowrie mobile earrings). Most recently, Areeayl collaborated with Macy’s on a now-sold-out collection for Macy’s, bringing some of her wearable art pieces to a mass audience. Currently, there’s a single earring style for sale on her site (things go quickly) — a transparent vase that can be filled with items of your choice.
New York–born brand When Smoke Clears was founded in 2016 by K$ace & Thermal Taveras after a studio fire all but destroyed their inaugural collection. Since then, they’ve steadily built a reputation as a streetwear brand to watch. Although primarily known for their patchwork-style pants (which have been spotted on rappers like Lil Baby and Fabolous), the brand also makes noteworthy jewelry. The chunky pieces are reminiscent of Chrome Hearts and Vivienne Westwood (the Cuban choker takes clear inspiration from Westwood’s distinct design), but there’s a decidedly different feel thanks to the Mexican-inspired heart motif that appears throughout. This choker, made from watch links, can be plated with gold or infused with rhodium and has two center-stone options: garnet and amethyst.
Johnny Nelson Jewelry, which was founded in 2017, is best known for honoring important cultural figures through wearable sculpture, which takes the form of necklaces and rings. The first time we saw Nelson’s jewelry up close was backstage at Pyer Moss’s NYFW spring-summer 2020 show, where the models wore the faces of Black music icons like Missy Elliott, Nina Simone, and Erykah Badu around their necks, in their hair, and on their hands. Before that, we spotted his effigies as buttons at the Met Gala — Kerby Jean-Raymond (the founder of and designer at Pyer Moss) wore his eight favorite rappers, and producer and actor Lena Waithe wore eight LGBTQ+ icons who have changed history. If you’re looking for an everyday piece consider this Harriet Tubman ring, which can be made in a variety of metals, including gold-plated brass, gold-plated silver, sterling silver, 14-karat white gold, and 14-karat yellow gold.
Founded in 2017 by Gina Love and her husband, Steven Feldman, Auvere (which we’ve dubbed the best for high-end gold jewelry) makes handcrafted, high-karat gold jewelry in classic, timeless designs. One such design is this stackable, 22-karat polygon ring with a satin finish that can be customized to fit your finger.
Twin designers Dynasty and Soull Ogun created L’Enchanteur as a way to redefine the heirloom, and they’re influenced by everything from fairy tales to numerology. Their designs have appeared in Beyoncé’s Ivy Park relaunch with Adidas (they made the custom rings) and Erykah Badu’s InStyle spread, where she wore metallic baby hairs crafted by the duo. If you’re on the hunt for something statement-making, we recommend the Midas Touch finger caps, which can be made from gold vermeil, sterling silver, or 14-karat gold.
Fine-jewelry designer Aziza-Abdullah Nicole specializes in sculptural pieces designed to be worn by anyone. This yard-long tassel necklace from her collection can be worn tied, wrapped, or like a rosary and is available in two metals: sterling silver and gold vermeil.
Fine-jewelry designer Lorraine West has been in the business since the ’90s and has made fans of everyone from André 3000 to Beyoncé to Zendaya. These are made from from brass and offer a fresh take on the classic gold hoop.
On the more affordable end is Ten Wilde. Like Almasika, everything is gold, but Tenisha Wilde’s line has many gold-plated and gold-filled designs that are more affordable. The unique range of items includes waist chains and personalized pieces like this Anne Boleyn–esque pearl choker.
Omi Woods honors the African diaspora through jewelry. Many of the necklaces feature pendants celebrating Jamaican, Ethiopian, and Nigerian cultures, among others. Everything is handmade and can be created in a variety of mediums, from sterling silver to 24-karat gold, so there is something for every budget and style. This necklace features an authentic Jamaican coin with the country’s national dish — the ackee fruit — on one side and the coat of arms on the other.
Model and jewelry designer Tanaya Henry — of Beyoncé’s Black Is King fame — makes blingy, statement-making jewelry like this cubic-zirconia belly chain, which can be customized to fit up to a 52-inch waist.
Former fashion buyer Malyia McNaughton founded Made by Malyia in 2014 after friends and strangers alike began asking where she got the body chain she wore every day (she made it herself). In the years since, her designs have appeared everywhere from the show Insecure (Issa wears the brand’s Permanence necklace in season three, episode six) to the neck of singer Jazmine Sullivan, who has been seen wearing the collection. We’re partial to this 14-karat gold-filled necklace, which can be wrapped around as a chocker or worn long. It’s currently available for preorder, and is shipping in two to three weeks.
Launched by Kimberly Fomby Jefferson in 2011, Sucré offers plenty of classic pieces, like this 18-karat gold-plated herringbone chain, as well as some more daring ones, such as dangling daggerlike earrings and body jewelry in the form of a chain bra.
Founded by couple and co-designers Kristin and Kofi Essel, Third Crown draws its inspiration from geometric shapes and makes gender-neutral, everyday jewelry. Everything is gold- or brass-plated and features clean lines that pair with practically everything. This necklace-and-bracelet combo is part of their #powerofthepair collection, which combines popular pieces that can be worn by one person or shared between a couple.
Another classic yet inexpensive jewelry line is Jooel, which makes everything from chunky square gold hoops to this gold link bracelet, which is made from brass and e-coated with a type of enamel that helps with durability.
Yam was founded in Astoria by jewelry designer Morgan Thomas as a tribute to her late mother. Using upcycled materials, the brand creates jewelry with a vintage feel, ranging from delicate pearl earrings to chunky gold and Lucite hoops. This swirly silver pair are made from sterling silver and lightweight enough to be worn daily.
This NYC-based brand is known for both its jewelry and elevated bodysuits. We’re particularly smitten with this 18-karat-gold-plated, vintage-inspired choker, which looks like a watchband and stacks well with other, more delicate pieces.
When head designer and founder Sade Mims launched Edas, it was all about creating jewelry from unexpected home goods and refurbished pieces. In the years since, it’s become a full-on accessories brand, with items ranging from a clay-colored, cotton-lined baguette bag to these asymmetrical earrings, which are ultralightweight and handmade using Japanese seed beads and brass wire.
For more affordable everyday pieces, we recommend Leliamae, a woman-run brand that makes dainty, made-for-Instagram necklaces and vintage-style rings. We like this chunky ring, which has a resin emerald gem at its center.
Inspired by the sights and sounds of the Caribbean, Lisette Scott founded the brand as a way to honor her Puerto Rican and Jamaican roots. Her designs pull from classic Caribbean motifs like tropical plants and cowrie shells that show up in creations like necklace, which is engraved with images of Puerto Rico.
Founded by designer Jade Gedeon in 2002, We Dream in Colour handcrafts vintage- and antique-inspired pieces that range from intricate, elaborate chandelier-style earrings to statement-making hairpins. We’re particularly fond of these whimsical dangly ones, which appeared on Zendaya in Essence’s 50th-anniversary issue.
Elisa Johnson of SelectedByElisa.com is a fan of these necklaces from Stella and Haas, which she stumbled upon while doing research for her platform, which features Black-owned brands and creators. The Utah-based brand sells nameplate necklaces and chunky, braided hoops, all at affordable prices. Johnson is a fan of this Old English–style astrology nameplate necklace in particular, calling it a “favorite of mine, and the type of thing you could easily layer.”
One of the writers of this story — Tembe Denton-Hurst — has been wearing waist beads for the past five years, and while she typically buys hers from the same vendor at Afropunk who ties and burns them on-site, these from Memphis-based company the Bead Culture are a good option. The hand-beaded strands are available in a range of shades and are customized to fit your waist.
Founded by Veronika Payne, Ora Ana makes simple but statement-making jewelry plated with 18-karat gold. We like this choker from the brand in particular, made from cubic zirconia and available in rose gold or gold-plated brass.
Watches that are affordable and stylish are hard to find — so William Adoasi started Vitae London to fill the void. The line’s clean and classic watches begin at under $400, plus the company gives back, with proceeds supporting its initiative to provide school uniforms and solar lights for kids in need.
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