The Best Beads to Update Your Summer Wardrobe

These colorful accessories are also great gifts.

By: Jill Newman

Whether you like to pile on layers of colorful beaded bracelets, or prefer one luxurious strand of diamond beads, there’s a beaded jewel for every style and mood.

Beaded jewelry reflects the Bohemian spirit that is everywhere in fashion right now, from caftan dresses and willowy skirts to printed tops and tie-dye separates. But bead jewels don’t have to be only hippie-chic.

Designers have created their own luxurious strands with ruby, emerald, and diamond beads that are elegant for day or evening. They remind me of the large bead necklaces—with big, juicy cabochon-cut gemstones and diamonds—that the Indian Maharajahs piled on a century ago. These new versions are more refined and stylish but equally as luxe.

Some of the stand-out luxury pieces include Fred Leighton’s necklace with rose-cut diamonds and richly colored rubies that appear like tumbled stones. It portrays a casual elegance that will elevate a simple white blouse or t-shirt, or work with an evening dress. Sylva & Cie’s Ethiopian opal bead necklace on a handmade gold chain is another versatile yet luxe layering piece, and another versatile style is Mariani’s diamond sautoir.

Designer Rosanne Karmes of Sydney Evan is a big fan of beads year-round and doesn’t leave the house without a curated stack on both wrists. “I love to stack and create a statement wrist of beaded bracelets to add an unexpected element to even the simplest outfits,” says the Los Angeles-based designer. “I like to mix it up every day depending on my mood.”

This summer, she says she is loving “the Rainbow Heishi stones mixed with solid turquoise or a solid gold stack that can take you from day to night.”   

For Mother’s Day, Karmes suggests a gift with rose quartz because “they activate the heart chakra, and they are tied to love, self-esteem and happiness.” What more could you ask for in a gift? 

For the superstitious people (myself included), there are several stones that are believed to be protective, healing, and deliver positive energy. “I always incorporate turquoise for protection and, not to mention, it’s my birthstone so it has special meaning,” Karmes points out. She also mixes in personal icons and charms, especially for gifts, such pave diamond hearts, and Love Script charms. “Some women love more of the playful charms such as diamond tennis racquets, robots or even a diamond pug. You name it, we have the charm for it!”  

Now that men appear to be easing into the jewelry trend (have you seen Harry Styles lately?), the easiest starter is a bead bracelet. It’s a subtle but cool accessory on men of any age, and John Varvatos designed bracelets that mix unique gems like jasper and tiger’s eye for a stylish yet understated look.

Start building a wardrobe of beaded necklaces, earrings, and bracelets so you can mix and match with your summer wardrobe and layer them on with gold and diamond pieces this fall. Like the Boho trend, beads are never going out of style.