How to Accessorize for Summer Weddings with Vintage Jewelry

Photo courtesy Anita Peppers via

Wedding season is here. That means it’s time to brave the heat and discomfort of heels on grass lawns and help your loved ones say “I do” in style. But as you do the calculus that can be involved in choosing the perfect wedding attire — what exactly does “black tie optional” mean anyway? — we’re here to offer some tips on integrating a little “something old” of your own into your wedding style.

Vintage and costume jewelry (also sometimes referred to as “estate jewelry”) is a great and unique option for partygoers looking to stand out just enough. The great thing about vintage jewelry is that it has a story to tell, so aside from being fashionable, it’s also sure to be a great conversation starter at your table or in the buffet line and save you from awkward silences (you’re welcome).

Auction provides a fun way to hunt for the just the right piece, but if time doesn’t seem to be on your side, galleries and dealers offer the perfect solution for last-minute wedding fashion needs. To get you started, our editors compiled some of our tips for choosing the right pieces based on the type of wedding you’ll be attending. With prime wedding season upon us, chances are good that you may be attending more than one summer soirée in the next few months.

Make these tips your go-to summer wedding style guide, and make your life a whole lot easier – one nuptial at a time.


Black Tie Wedding

Left: Lot 584, Gold and Diamond Pendant-Necklace; Right: Lot 348, Gold and Carved Lapis Necklace, Doyle New York (June 21, 2017). Images courtesy Doyle New York.

Wondering what to wear to a black tie wedding? This is the height of glitz and glam and calls for something oversized and understated. As it’s not good etiquette to upstage the bride, no matter what style the wedding, it’s the perfect opportunity to pair that sophisticated and understated dress with some big statement jewelry. In recent years fashion houses like Kate Spade and J. Crew have taken big cues from vintage cocktail jewelry style in creating contemporary pieces. For a truly authentic look, we say to go to the source and wear vintage pieces.

Our Go-To Jewelry Picks: Statement necklaces, big bold clip on earrings and large cocktail rings are all great options to complement a dress with a simple, understated silhouette. Think large crystal details and bright jewel-tone colors. You can go as big as you’d like with vintage costume jewelry that is meant to imitate more expensive stones and settings.


Black Tie Optional Wedding

What exactly does “black tie optional” mean? Ugh; the most dreaded of all wedding invite lingo. This ambiguous style directive can leave even the most accomplished wedding guest guessing. Our tips for deciphering the code? Look at the venue and the style of the invite itself, and when all else fails, call on other guests to see if you can get any intel. Vintage jewelry and accessories can be your best friend in a black tie optional wedding situation.

Our Go-To Jewelry Picks: A bejeweled clutch and a pair of elbow-length vintage gloves are a great way to add some drama to an otherwise understated ensemble.


Brunch Wedding

Lot 2039: Pearl and diamond necklace, Koller Auctions (June 29, 2017)

We love a brunch wedding. It takes the best part of lazy Sunday afternoon dining and pairs it with good friends and a bit more bubbly. What more could you ask for than a waffle bar and a mimosa? But choosing the right attire for this nuptial can present its own challenges as well. We like to think of brunch as a dreamy, soft and warm occasion, with a touch more sophistication than your average Sunday breakfast – and your outfit should match.

Our Go-To Jewelry Picks: Think pearls, pearls, pearls! Whether you go with a long vintage strand of pearls double wrapped in a nod to the Roaring Twenties, or opt for a shorter and neater 1950s-style single strand style pearl necklace, all options seem exceptionally appropriate for this style of wedding. Want to go the extra mile? Pair them with a sophisticated pair of wrist-length vintage gloves!


Rustic Outdoor Wedding

Left: 19th Century Turquoise & Diamond Star Earrings, Pat Saling, Right: Lot 471, Antique Gold, Turquoise and Split Pearl Necklace and Pair of Earrings, Doyle New York (June 21, 2017).

Outdoor weddings come in lots of varieties, from open fields and rustic barns, to deep woods and tents, to the occasional yurt. You never quite know what kind of terrain and natural elements you might be dealing with, so come prepared. Shoe choices are important when attending outdoor ceremonies and receptions and should the weather warrant it, don’t be shy about pairing your best riding boots with your dress. It might seem that casual surrounds would limit your jewelry options, but we think the opposite – with less formal confines the sky is literally the limit on your creativity.

Our Go-To Jewelry Picks: This is an opportunity to pull out your semi-precious and rough-cut stones and bold metal vintage pieces. Think large turquoise stones with silver handcrafted construction. Topaz, onyx and agate are also great options. Think American West and anything from the 1970s when there was a real appreciation for large, ornate handcrafted jewelry. Something with African influence is also a lovely option and can be really impactful with the use of bold colors and metal pattern work.


Beach Destination Wedding

Left: Lot 424, A beige toquilla straw hat, Duran Sala de Arte SL (June 22, 2017). Right: Portugese en Tramblant Diamond and Silver Top Gold Brooch, Macklowe Antique & Estate Jewelry.

It’s hard to figure out what one should wear to the beach, when usually it’s a place where we wear very little at all. Unless it’s the most pared-down of events (and the word
sarong is mentioned on the invite) you owe it to the happy couple to show up in your best. But what do you pair with your sandals to elevate your beach look?

Our Go-To Jewelry Picks: We love floppy hats and gauzy wraps for beach weddings, and adding a blingy brooch to either can really step up your hat game. Think about securing the brooch to your brim, or using a vintage brooch to secure your wrap around your shoulders as the sun goes down. You could even add a brooch to a sandal strap to “step up” your toe-bearing game.


Every wedding is a celebration of a unique union between two people. Each and every wedding you attend deserves to be celebrated in it’s own unique style. But don’t worry, if you find the perfect vintage piece that solves more than one wedding need, we won’t tell if you make it your go-to piece for an entire summer of nuptials. Happy vintage jewelry hunting!