If you head to the mall and buy whatever a salesperson recommends, you're likely to end up with something either tacky or overpriced. Or both.
When you take it upon yourself to pick something out, though, things can get complicated. Since it's such a personal thing, you've got to make sure you choose a piece that's just right amid a sea of options and price points.
To nail the details, just pay attention to three key points:
There's no quicker way to tell someone's personal taste than simply looking at what they're wearing. Pay attention to how your girl dresses and you'll get a good idea of what kind of accessories she'll be partial to.
If she sticks with classic styles that are never too out-there, look for jewelry that's understated -- simple designs that'll look nice, but won't shout for attention.
If she's into fashion, tends to dress with the trends, and doesn't mind making a statement with her personal style, go for something bolder. Geometric shapes, elongated or thicker designs, or anything else that doesn't look too traditional could work.
If she's somewhere in between, try to split the difference with jewelry that's versatile enough to be worn every day, but still has a little bit of edge. Think classic designs like simple round rings or bar necklaces, but with subtle tweaks.
Your choice of metal will likely correspond with how much you're willing to drop.
The wallet-friendly option -- If you're on a tight budget, or the occasion isn't major, sterling silver is a good bet. It's not as luxe and warm as a piece of gold jewelry, but it won't break the bank.
The mid-range standby -- If you want to give something fun and beautiful that's towards the higher end, but won't wreck your budget, go for 18K gold-plated sterling silver. The silver base makes it more affordable than a solid gold option, but it's still fine jewelry -- 18K is on the higher end for gold, and a sterling silver base is much higher quality than the lesser, cheaper options of brass and copper.
For a special occasion -- If you're celebrating a major anniversary or something similar, nudge your budget a little higher and spring for either 14K or 18K gold. The higher the karat, the more pure the gold -- 24K is pure gold, anything lower is a blend of other metals.
With yellow gold, a higher number makes for a more beautiful color and carries less risk of allergy (if that's something that you need to worry about). 14K is standard, and looks plenty beautiful. 18K will have a slightly richer color to it, but at that point and higher, the metal is a little softer -- which means it might not be ideal for daily wear, depending on her day-to-day.
You're going to have to do some detective work here and find out what color all of her other jewelry is. You've got two options:
She only wears one color -- white, rose, or yellow. In that case, definitely stick to that trend and choose something of the same color. That way, she'll be able to rotate it in with her other favorites.
She mixes and matches with different types of gold. This one's easy -- get whatever you think looks best based on the other criteria, and don't worry so much about the color. If she's already used to wearing different colors, it won't matter.