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 the aforementioned 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.
Founded by Johnny Nelson in 2017, the jewelry line is best known for honoring important cultural figures through wearable sculpture, which takes the form of necklaces and rings. The first time I 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, I spotted his effigies as buttons at the Met Gala — Kerby Jean-Raymond (the founder 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 a statement piece, consider this four-finger piece called “Her Freedom,” which features Harriet Tubman, Shirley Chisholm, Sojourner Truth, and Ida B. Wells.
A tribute to her late mother, Yam was founded in Astoria, Queens, by jewelry designer Morgan Thomas. Using upcycled materials, the brand creates jewelry with a vintage feel, ranging from delicate pearl earrings to chunky gold and Lucite hoops. These sculptural, triangular hoops appeared in Lizzo’s “Good As Hell” music video late last year, and pair well with everything from a bright-colored dress to a dressed-down white tee.
This NYC–based brand is known for both its jewelry and elevated basic bodysuits. We’re particularly smitten with this 18K-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 pieces ranging from a clay-colored, cotton-lined baguette bag to these asymmetrical earrings, which are ultra-lightweight and handmade using Japanese seed beads and brass wire.
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.
Inspired by the sights and sounds of the Caribbean, founder 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 these earrings, which are made from gold-plated brass and combine shells and geometric shapes.
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.
For an industrial take on hoop earrings, we recommend these carabiner-inspired ones from jewelry brand Nikao, founded by self-taught British designer Lisa-Marie Carter, and available in 18-karat gold and rhodium-plated brass. These are currently available for preorder, and will ship in September.
Another brand putting out utilitarian-looking jewels (think thick silver curb chains with dog tags and spinal-cord-inspired hoops) is JeBlanc, founded by designer Jeniece Blanchet in 2018. Most of the brand’s signature pieces are multifunctional, meaning you can wrap them around a few times for a chunky, layered necklace look or even wear them as a belt. We like this hand-beaded, silver number from the brand, which features a mix of safety pins, dog tags, and hanging gems.
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 comet-inspired earrings, which look vaguely like the Matisse blobs we’ve been seeing all over Instagram and are made from hand-painted enamel.
On the fine jewelry front there’s Octave Jewelry, a Brooklyn-based brand that makes sterling-silver pieces inlaid with hand-cut stones. Inspired by the color palette of modern art, these earrings are long enough to make a statement, but light enough not to weigh down your earlobe, and feature three different colors of mother-of-pearl: white, golden, and iridescent.
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.
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