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The Best Personalized Jewelry Under $250

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photos: Retailers

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Personalized jewelry is a thoughtful gift that, if chosen well, will be cherished for decades. But with so many jewelry brands offering the same bland birthstone pendants and initial necklaces, it can take some time to find something that feels truly special and in line with your personal style. I have spent dozens of hours searching online for just the right necklace or bracelet to commemorate the birth of my son, my wedding anniversary, and my dog’s mere existence. And even though I own a few stellar pieces that are among my most treasured belongings, I still spend my free time looking for more to add to my collection. The rise of TikTok jewelry influencers, whose mesmerizing unboxing and jewelry-of-the-day videos have introduced me to a host of talented designers and vintage pieces, has only inspired me to continue hunting.

For me, the biggest obstacles have been price (solid gold is my low-maintenance preference), the fact that I don’t really like my birthstone (aquamarine), and that so many nameplates and alphabet charms are made with such uninspiring fonts. So I reached out to a bunch of stylish people to ask about their favorite personalized jewelry, from engraveable signet rings to unusual birthstone charms. And because prices for personalized or custom jewelry can range wildly, from around $50 to $5,000 or more, I asked them to keep their recommendations “entry level,” with a budget of $250 or less.

Best alphabet jewelry

More than any other brand, Catbird was recommended for its affordable prices, free engraving services, and large variety of itty-bitty charms. I own several pieces of jewelry from Catbird and recently bought one of these tiny letter charms — a lowercase a for my son, Arlo — and have been wearing it nonstop. It’s 14-karat solid gold, so I don’t have to worry about it tarnishing when I wear it in the shower or sleep with it on. It is quite small, about half the size of a sunflower seed, but for the price, I have no complaints. And now I’m thinking about buying the other three letters in his name to add to the chain.

When I asked her about the brands that make alphabet jewelry in the best fonts, Kylie, a jewelry influencer who posts about her incredible collection on TikTok at Okay______Fine, told me about New York–based Automic Gold. “They do a fabulous job with simple, clean designs,” she says, adding that these gothic-style initial studs would make a great gift. They are available in recycled 14-karat white, yellow, or rose gold and can be purchased individually or as a pair. This price is for a single earring.

Four separate people mentioned Kinn Studio as one of the best places to find personalized jewelry. “I especially admire the Dear Kaia Nameplate Necklace, which they offer in five languages,” Kylie says. Alas, that necklace costs $480, but these cursive “Love Letter” charms are just $180 each, made of 14-karat solid gold, and designed in a classic and handsome font.

Best zodiac jewelry

Mejuri also came up often. I own a few pieces of Mejuri jewelry, including my wedding band that is engraved with initials and a date. But this 18-karat-gold vermeil zodiac pendant recommended by Jillian Karande, Vox Media’s senior manager of brand strategy, is a particular standout for the brand. She received an older version of the necklace as a gift from her mom in 2020 and says it has held up really well. Instead of the traditional figurative zodiac symbols (fish for Pisces, twins for Gemini, figure pouring water for Aquarius, and so on), the doughnut-shaped disc features a constellation made of white sapphire gemstones and the name of the sign on the back. Because it is gold vermeil (which is sterling silver coated with a thin layer of gold, usually using an electric current to bond the two metals), it will require more careful maintenance and should be gently cleaned with a cloth on a regular basis to remove any dirt and oils that can cause it to tarnish.

Kylie, who happens to be an Aries, recommends these gold-plated enamel zodiac pendants because of their uncommon color palettes. “I like how chill the ram looks against the cool blue enamel,” she says, and as a fellow Aries who hasn’t always loved the intense fiery red of my sun sign, I can relate. Just note that the gold-plated pendant will require a little more care than solid-gold or gold-vermeil pieces. (Gold-plated jewelry is typically more prone to tarnishing because its base layer is made of a more affordable metal like brass or copper, and the layer of gold coating is usually thinner than used with gold vermeil.)

Best engraveable jewelry

Adding a simple engraving to a locket that also holds photos is a cool way to double up on personalization. As with initial and nameplate jewelry, there are literally thousands to choose from. But fine-jewelry brand Monica Rich Kosann is particularly well known for its lockets. I have a beautiful pendant from the company that I wear on a regular basis, and the quality is luxury-level without feeling fragile, so I don’t feel like I have to save it for special occasions. You can choose from block or script fonts for the engraving, and use the company’s app to perfectly size your photos (before printing them at home) to fit each of the different locket shapes and sizes.

Kylie also pointed me toward Loren Stewart for a variety of engraveable blank slates and highlighted the brand’s ID tag and little padlock charms in particular. Both can be engraved in a block, script, or gothic font. I love the versatility of small charms like this that can be worn as a single pendant, as an addition to a charm bracelet, or hanging on a gold hoop earring.

According to Strategist writer Ambar Pardilla, Catbird’s engraveable Baby Cygnet ring — the brand is big on swan motifs, hence the wordplay on “signet” — is just right in a category that frustrated her for years. “It has a thin band with engraving throughout that reminds me of antique Victorian rings. And the lettering has nice lines, with rounded curves and swooshing loops,” she says. Catbird will engrave a single letter on the ring for no extra charge. Because it’s made of 14-karat gold, Pardilla has been able to wear it daily for years without worrying it will tarnish or get damaged — pinkie rings are more exposed to bumps and scratches. For those who want a non-pinkie ring, Catbird makes a larger version of the same ring called the “grand” that comes in more sizes for your other fingers.

Kylie has had her eye on Catbird’s “Smallest Love Letter” envelope charm for a while. “You can add your own special address, but it’s the kind of thing I’d prefer to be given by a loved one,” she says. Both Kylie and fellow jewelry influencer Erin Paparozzi also shouted out the brand’s “Tiniest Key” charm, which actress Kat Dennings previously included on her list of things she can’t live without. Paparozzi had her key engraved with the date of her wedding. And I have a Catbird 14-karat-gold heart charm that was a gift from my husband and is engraved with our initials.

Best birthstone jewelry

Caroline Wigglesworth, associate director of e-commerce business development and partnerships for Vox Media, received this Kirstin Ash November Citrine Birthstone necklace as a Christmas gift from her family in memory of her mother, who passed away in June. “I’ve worn it every day since I got it. I was slightly nervous about it because it’s vermeil, but it has held up beautifully, and I’ve worn it in the shower multiple times and it hasn’t tarnished,” she says.

From $230

Writer, art teacher, and mom-of-two Margaret Rogers received this double-sided birthstone charm from Mociun as a gift from her husband. Each side of the 14-karat solid-gold setting holds a different customizable birthstone cabochon, and Rogers’s charm has both of her children’s birthstones. “I cry just thinking about it,” she says. Mociun is known for its unique use of gemstones and fully customizable fine-jewelry pieces. All of the brand’s solid-gold pieces are designed in Brooklyn and made in NYC. Note that some birthstones are more expensive than others, so the price will change depending on the stones you choose.

Paparozzi is a big fan of the independent brand Keary & James, and she singled out this clever custom birthstone calendar charm that you can get in silver, gold plate, or 14-karat gold. While the stones are synthetic rather than genuine, the innovative design and customization of both the stone and the day of the month it appears on make this charm a fun gift. And since it’s one of the more affordable pieces of jewelry on this list, it would be a good choice for younger folks who are newer to wearing nice jewelry.

From $148

In addition to my Mejuri wedding band, I have a single opal earring that I bought to match a ring my mother received on her 16th birthday and later handed down to me. I wore both the ring and the earring on my wedding day as my something old and something new, respectively. Mejuri offers these mini-studs in all birthstones in addition to opal; this price is for a single earring, but they are also available as a pair, and the price will change depending on the stone you choose.

Best secret-message jewelry

When I asked Strategist senior editor Jen Trolio about her favorite personalized jewelry, she introduced me to the concept of acrostic jewelry: a tradition that goes back as far as Marie Antoinette and uses combinations of gemstones to spell out secret messages. The first letter of each stone spells a word, a name, or a phrase. Paparozzi also has a soft spot for acrostic jewelry and pointed me toward the brand Local Eclectic for high-quality rings made affordable by the lower-karat-gold (9 karats as opposed to 14) settings. This one spells out P-I-Z-Z-A with the following stones: ​​peridot, Iolite, zircon, zircon, amethyst. And the bezel setting is nice and secure, according to Paparozzi. Local Eclectic also sells acrostic necklaces and earrings that spell joy, amour, grow, and magic, among other things. Or you can contact the brand for custom orders.

Morse-code jewelry, like this dainty beaded necklace from Caitlyn Minimalist, is a cool way to include a secret bit of personalization in a gift. I first noticed this brand when it was name-dropped by high-school students who put it on their holiday wish lists, which led me to this unique yet unobtrusive style. The necklace is available in sterling silver or sterling silver with a yellow- or rose-gold finish. Using different combinations of round beads for dots and tube-shaped beads for dashes, the necklace can be customized with a name, date, or short phrase with a maximum of 25 dots and dashes. (You can use the brand’s Morse-code alphabet chart to make sure you stay within the limit.)

Best vintage personalized jewelry

Almost everyone I spoke to mentioned vintage jewelry, explaining that as long as there’s a personal connection to the wearer, a vintage piece can be just as special as a new one — and sometimes buying vintage can save you money, too. When I asked Paparozzi to recommend some trustworthy vintage sellers online, Parlay Jewelry, a seller with both an Etsy store and its own website, was her first choice. This 14-karat-gold double-heart anklet is the perfect gift for someone named Lynn. Parlay also has a deep archive of vintage charms, including this one that is perfect for me.

In general, Etsy was a go-to recommendation for buying fine vintage jewelry. But Kylie shared a few tips to help make the experience as seamless as possible, and stressed the importance of reading and rereading as much as you can on a seller’s page, including reviews, descriptions, and return policies. Make sure you understand the material, weight, condition, and age of a piece before buying, and always ask the seller for more information if it’s not there. The best sellers will have a large number of positive reviews that should put your mind at ease.

After a long search for a monogrammed gold signet ring, New York Times Style writer Madison Malone Kircher found her white whale on Etsy. This ring is similar to the one Kircher has, though hers is technically a men’s ring — when she saw it was her size, she snapped it right up. You can determine your ring size by matching a ring you already own to a printable paper chart, measuring your finger with a piece of string, buying a ring sizer, or going to a jewelry store to be sized. You can tailor your search to match the styles of signet ring you’re interested in by using keywords like oval, round, cushion (square with rounded corners), or even heart shaped. Looking for 10-karat solid gold, like this ring, can help keep the cost down. The color of the gold will be slightly more rosy because of the higher ratio of copper to gold in the alloy, but it will also be harder than 14-karat or 18-karat gold and less likely to scratch.

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The Best Personalized Jewelry Under $250