Hunting and Gathering

Accessory Aptitude

Everyone’s in on the accessory act these days… Clothing-only retailers and

J.Crew crystal rock necklace

designers have discovered the quick-buy appeal of the covet-able accessory. Adding accessories makes for one-stop shopping, and key — accessories are a lot less expensive than a whole new outfit — that old lipstick luxury rule again. (You know, when a woman buys a lipstick to make herself feel updated.) Can recession reactionary, depression diva be far behind? Actually, let’s really hope so…

Lines that never did accessories are putting their hats — and necklaces, earrings, bags and shoes — in the ring, and others who did small groups are really

Fenton-Fallon for J.Crew Carrington crystal bow necklace

expanding. And most are doing a very good job, albeit some with the help of fairly big names in the accessory field as ghost-designers.

So, there were some really nice surprises the other day when I browsed through well-priced stores and websites for great spring necklaces–and it won’t take your grocery money to own them.

Necklaces were still big on the runway this season, and now they’re shorter, chunkier, and can be worn piled up with longer-length necklaces two or three at a time. Here are some of the best:

J.Crew has done a great job on their accessories for years now — one of the first

J.Crew crystal corona necklace

catalogs to add them into their mix. The collection has grown, but maintains its sharp focus on the key, very desirable items of a season. Here, a couple of their terrific necklaces set the standard for spring. At $128.00, their pink crystal rock necklace would look awesome against gray for day — from a gray cashmere cardigan and jeans, to a gray sheath dress, and totally great with just a gray cotton athletic tee. They’ve also teamed up with jewelry designer Dana Lorenz for Fenton/Fallon to create a really feminine but chunky beauty that needs the simplest of clothes to make you look major. Jeans, a white tee and a Chanel-type spring jacket are just perfect with this $295.00 investment piece. Their crystal corona necklace at $118.00 would be great to layer under a chunky piece, but super all on its own with, say a smooth white dress. Summer made simple.

Lee Angel's statement necklace

One of my all-time favorite jewelry designers, Roxanne Assoulin for Lee Angel, actually does some of that ghost designing I alluded to, but always comes up with great, very want-able, bold statement necklaces for her own line too each season. And her faceted glass disk neck on charcoal gray cord is a perfect example, adding a totally chic, sophisticated slant to any outfit. It’s $185.00, but has the originality, weight and quality of pieces 3 times as expensive.

Banana Republic's metallic tribal necklace

Banana Republic went slightly warrior fierce in their mixed metal, fringe and stud effect neck. It definitely adds edge to any classic outfit, but doesn’t go overboard. At $69.50, it can be perfect with, say, a faded chambray shirt, military jacket and shorter tan canvas skirt, or, mixed up with a geometric print wrap shirt dress (We’d love the play of the geometric shapes against each other) for work, and it can definitely still dress up a plain black tee dress for going out.

Club Monaco's two gem necklaces

Club Monaco has two great statement pieces in their “Jenny” ($139.00) and “Jordana” ($119.00) silver chain and chunky crystal gem necks. Definitely be bold enough to wear them together. After all, if you’re counting on your accessories to update your look, why not use them for the full effect. It’s pleasantly attention-getting, and that’s sort of fun! These two will add some chic shimmer to a plain dress, or become a no-brainer addition to an eclectic mix of metallic, shine, embroidery and say, denim.

Noir's square stone necklac

Noir's cubic zirconium cluster

New-ish showroom nOir is the fashion stylists’ secret weapon. Whenever we need to add something extraordinary at a good price to a look, they’ll have an amazing piece you couldn’t have dreamed up, and it’s just perfect! Although their website doesn’t have nearly as much as the designers’ showroom, it’s got lots to spark up your style. Take this clear square stone neck for $220.00 that adds heft and shine to any outfit on its own and is a great base neck for piling on other sparklies. LOVE! Or, their cz cluster neck at $228.00– a winner for a white, black, gray or navy work or evening duds, or a navy blazer, white shirt and jeans on a Saturday with friends.

Simply Vera's lucite cluster feminine neck

Simply Vera pearl cluster neck

Simply Vera pearl and chain necklace

Simply Vera Vera Wang for Kohl’s gets slightly more romantic and less hard-edged for spring with some really pretty pearl, silver and crystal necks. You can add these together or wear alone and put charm in a simple look. I also love her clear lucite crystal and jet feminine shortie — just the thing for a spring evening. Who said you have to sacrifice design for price? Sweet.

Candi Stamm's pretty rocks

Also in a more romantic softer mood this spring is cool-find indie jewelry designer Candi Stamm. Her dreamy champagne color ribbon and stone necklace ($56.00) is really flattering to skin (especially winter-tired faces!) And if champagne’s not your thing (though who doesn’t want to get a glow on?), Candi’s got a whole line of terrific pieces from dark stones and gunmetal to gold, biker chic silvers, even great color. So, visit and request pix– You’ll love her, and her jewelry!

Chico's ribbon,glass,metal bead neck

Chico’s glass acrylic and metal bead neck

This season, Chicos really put a lot of work into their accessories, hitting all the top trends with some very stylish offerings. Their acrylic, metal and glass bead tribal necks ($47.25 for long Simona) in a sophisticated black/blue combination echoes the “world traveler” feeling in some of the spring collections. The Corinna coral, carnelian and bronze color longer neck at $59.50 is a well-done mix of freshwater pearl, coral, glass metal and acrylic beads– a polished ethnic touch one can see with a warm-toned Chanel-type jacket, white shirt and slim pants for work, jeans for casual.

Chicos also loves a bit of shine and has endless variations of the crystal-acrylic-silver metallic-black idea, and one of my favorites is their very bold silver bead cluster neck. It could turn any dress from blah to blazing for a night out, or a simple white shirt to wow. It’s $50.75 and a real look-maker.

Ann Taylor mixed stone, ribbon, and metal neck

Ann Taylor also has a flattering color thing going in some of their best pieces this spring. A peachy coral color neck frames the face with warmth and looks great with simple classics for work, a denim jacket and tee for weekend. And at $128.00 (and $68.00 for a less elaborate peach neck), you’re buying lots of style to add zing to spring.

American Eagle doesn’t do huge or chunky, but it has some very pretty skinnier necklaces that really speak chic when added together for an effortlessly stylish look — and they’re very affordable, which we love. The pink-ribboned one is $19.50 and the other two are $15.50. Now that’s what we call “recession reaction-ary”. And that’s just really , really smart.

AE pendant cluster neck

AE's charming pink ribbon neck

AE”s stone and cord neck