Ask the Edit: Jewelry Worthy of a 40th Birthday

After the fun readers had helping last week’s bride find wild shoes for her wedding dress, I thought this might be a fun post.  A reader is looking for a great piece of jewelry for her 40th birthday, and she’s got a healthy budget.  So let’s all go shopping.

Hi Abra,

I adore your blog and am a long-time reader.  I will be turning 40 this summer during our annual family vacation (with the 3 kiddos) and decided that instead of a separate 40th trip with friends, I would buy myself a nice piece of jewelry that I could wear regularly (not just on formal occasions).  I’d love your advice on a great piece.  I’m leaning toward earrings or a necklace because I don’t usually wear many rings (though I’m open to a ring).  My budget is $3,500. 


There are a lot of decisions to make when you’re choosing a piece of jewelry that you want to use as an heirloom.  Here are some of the things I would consider:

  • Do I want diamonds?
  • Is there another gemstone that has meaning to me?
  • Do I want white gold, yellow gold, platinum, palladium?
  • What will hold up better with regular wear (earrings and necklace usually do better on wear and tear than bracelets and rings)?

Because I don’t know the answers to these questions, I’m going to pull a few pieces that I like and consider worthy of such an auspicious occasion as a 40th birthday.

These three-stone bezel set .50 ct diamond earrings from Bloomingdale’s are simple but impactful.  These also make a .60ct white gold set sans bezel.  If you want a similar look but in a more modern setting, these Suzanne Kalan clustered baguette earrings are quite popular now.

If you’re into the David Yurman look, these small drop earrings are wonderful.  Every time my friend wears hers they look like the perfect elevated basic.  Their petite huggie hoops have also been on my wishlist for a few years.  I’m really glad they’re making their pieces in smaller sizes.  I’m just not bold enough for the giant door-knocker earrings.

This black David Yurman necklace is also one that I have on my longterm wishlist.  I adore the mix of tanzanite and black spinels.  For something similar for less, try this freshwater pearl and black spinel necklace for $288.

If you’re looking for a jewelry brand that I really like, that’s pieces run from $250 to $2500, have a look at Bony Levy.  This three band ring is lovely 1t $1450.  For something under-$500, their coil wrap ring is one of my favorites.

As for my own “investment” gifts over the years, I have never regretted buying my Yurman crossover ring or my Yurman quatrefoil stacking band.

So what do you ladies have?  Which pieces do you love or lust over?  And where would you put your money for a 40th birthday present?

{image is West Elm Grand Lacquer Jewelry Box; this post contains affiliate links}



  1. CeeCee says:

    My first question is whether she has a nice timepiece. My parents gifted me a rolex for my law school graduation and I wear it every day. I’m not sure on pricing for brand new, but there is a huge second hand rolex market out there, that would be in the $3500 budget. A new Cartier tank would be about $2500. That or diamond studs would be a no brainer to me.

    June 26, 2018/Reply
    • Belle says:

      Oh, I never think of watches, because I never wear one. Good call.

      June 26, 2018/Reply
  2. elz says:

    I second the watch suggestion. I bought a Cartier watch for my 40th (which coincided with a nice bonus). I wear it every day.

    June 26, 2018/Reply
  3. Cammy says:

    I got myself a good watch for my 40th birthday, and am still wearing it, over a decade later. Best, most practical luxury purchase I have made. And it makes me happy when I see it on my wrist.

    June 26, 2018/Reply
  4. Alison says:

    I would like larger diamond stud earrings. I have little princess cut ones that I believe were a high school graduation gift but I would like larger round cut ones.

    June 26, 2018/Reply
  5. M says:

    For my 30th, I went with diamond studs. I wear them almost every day and love them. Mine were about that price point, which on my ear lobes are big enough to be seen but not too big IMO. I ordered mine from Blue Nile and was very happy with the experience.

    June 26, 2018/Reply
  6. M says:

    My only hesitation with watches is in my ten years of watch wearing, I’ve cycled through 3 very different styles. Would be interested in readers’ suggestions for timeless timepieces. Personally, I wear a inexpensive (relative to this price point) Cluse watch that I LOVE

    June 26, 2018/Reply
  7. M says:

    I haven’t bought this yet, but I’ve been eyeing the Noemie diamond graduate ring. I think two together look amazing:

    June 26, 2018/Reply
  8. Meghan says:

    I wear a beveled solitaire diamond necklace on a snake chain almost every day. I also like the look of regular linked necklaces with a solitaire (see e.g. Tiffany diamonds by the yard solitaire necklaces). You can wear it basically every day, with either casual clothes or suits.

    June 26, 2018/Reply
  9. Lexi says:

    I love pearls. I bought a really nice, very large pair of South Sea pearl earrings. Love them. Now I want a Tahitian pair!

    June 26, 2018/Reply
  10. Pam says:

    Diamond set hoops!

    June 26, 2018/Reply
  11. fan from Boston says:

    My father is one of the world’s greatest jewelry pickers, and he regularly shops at Gogo Jewelry ( for occasion gifts for my mother.

    For some interesting background on the designer:

    I’ve got a 40th birthday coming up this summer too, and I’ve got my eye on the “Sea Oats” necklace.

    June 26, 2018/Reply
  12. Shelly says:

    I love opals and highly suggest them!

    June 26, 2018/Reply
  13. Lauren says:

    You have a healthy budget – you could probably work with a local jeweler to custom design a piece at that price point!

    June 27, 2018/Reply
  14. gigi says:

    if she doesn’t already own a watch, I’d say a watch – Rolex. I know the point of this is to treat herself, but bonus point of a watch is she can pass down as a heirloom. watches tend to hold better long term value than jewelry.

    Having said that, a nice pair of diamond solitaire earrings, or a nice diamond tennis bracelet.

    Happy 40th Birthday!

    June 27, 2018/Reply
  15. Denise says:

    For my 40th birthday I bought this crossover pendant necklace from David Yurman:

    There are 2 different sizes and the necklace is very versatile because the length is fully adjustable by a slide clasp. I wear it probably 3x a week – looks great as a long neckace over a sheath or shift dress, and shortened it can be worn with a crisp button down.

    I also do like the suggestion of a time piece. My spouse bought me something very similar to this, and initially I thought it was too much bling but actually I wear it daily now and its wonderful and timeless.

    HAPPY 40TH!!! Welcome to the club – the best decade of your life! 🙂

    June 27, 2018/Reply
  16. raq says:

    oooo this is a fun one!

    also this might be a little out there but I LOVE it-

    OR suzanne Kalan is my favorite-

    June 27, 2018/Reply
  17. Alex says:

    I would recommend looking at Brilliant Earth for ethically sourced conflict free jewelry if you are looking for some lovely classic designs. My fiance and I got my engagement and our wedding rings through them, and are incredibly pleased. There are showrooms in some cities (including DC) but you can also buy through their website. They have excellent customer service and a good return policy if you want to see pieces in person too.

    June 27, 2018/Reply
  18. melanie says:

    Go for something you will wear everyday (or almost everyday).

    For my 40th birthday I bought petite hoops with nice sized, good quality diamonds. I bought them as estate from a local jeweler and it was fun to see what was in my price range with a bit of history.I wear them almost everyday as they work in so many situations. I splurged on bigger nicer diamonds since my goal is pass them along to my grandchildren for their engagement/wedding rings (just like my grandmother did).

    My other piece of everyday jewelry is a Cartier tank watch that my spouse got me for our 10th anniversary. It is a classic and not so chunky to look out of place at a reception, work or the playground.

    June 27, 2018/Reply
  19. A says:

    Hi! Happy birthday!!
    I bought myself this necklace last year after I got promoted:

    It’s $1270 (and I think I remember them having a $50 off code for new customers) which would leave you enough for a pair of diamond studs or a new bag or something! One thing is I’d highly recommend either going for a direct to consumer brand OR working with a local private jeweler. Both will give you way more bang for your buck than a brand name jewelry store like Tiffanys, unless you have a very specific piece in mind.

    Only exception to that would of course be a watch. Hope this helps!!

    June 27, 2018/Reply
  20. Cj says:

    Id save a tad more then run straight to Cartier and buy their LOVE bracelet. It’s meant to never be taken off. It’s an heirloom, iconic statement and everyday piece all in one. (I also like the Rolex idea, although, does anyone wear a watch these days)

    June 27, 2018/Reply
  21. AK says:

    You might consider therealreal for jewelry purchases, esp if you’d like your budget to go even further. I’ve purchased Ippolita and David Yurman pieces from the site, with good discounts, and love what I’ve received.

    June 28, 2018/Reply
  22. J says:

    If you’re into brands and already have a watch, I’d get something from Van Cleef and Arpels. I like their Alhambra and their Frivole lines. $3500 is a nice budget to get an everyday piece from there. I think this is the plan for my 10 year anniversary. Or I’m doing what a previous poster suggested and save for the Cartier Love bracelet.

    If you like color, I really love Cecile Raley Designs on Etsy. Full disclosure, I’m working on a mother’s type pendant from her, and she’s been great to work with. You can customize nearly everything in her shop, so it’ll have meaning for you.

    For pearls, I’d buy a Tahitian strand in the color/overtone that looked best with my skin. Pearl Paradise has a great selection; if you don’t see what you want, ask them and they’ll usually have something in their inventory.

    Congrats on your 40th!

    June 28, 2018/Reply