1. It's a little childish and you're a grown-up.
Charm bracelets, animal pendants, and butterfly anything rarely look expensive. It doesn't matter if they cost $20 or $2,000 — they're childish and no one thinks of children as having expensive jewelry.
Stay away from cutesy shapes, especially in bright or pastel colors. That means no hearts and nothing that looks like a children's toy or fantasy creature.
2. It's really just some random beads on a piece of string.
Why spend good money on something that looks like you could have made it at home with some loose beads and a piece of string? Not to mention the fact that beaded necklaces are a very mature look, in general, and are really best avoided by twenty- and thirtysomethings.
Really, you should stay away from beads altogether, but if you absolutely must have them, less is definitely more. Stick to pieces that use beads only as accents, and prioritize small beads over large- or medium-size beads, which are more likely to age your look. Also, the use of pearls and semi-precious stones instead of glass and plastic will go a long way to making your beaded jewelry look more expensive.
Long Beaded Necklace, ANTHROPOLOGIE, $68
And stay away from those little dangle earrings that are so popular at craft fairs and mall kiosks. A simple drop earring with clean lines looks much richer than a cluster of roundish beads held together with twisted bits of craft wire.
Emerald-Cut Drop Earrings, DIANA WARNER (Available at Max and Chloe), $95
3. The enamel work is sloppy.
Good enamel should be smooth and even with crisp, clean edges where the enamel meets the metal.
Cream and Navy Bangle Bracelet, KATE SPADE NEW YORK (Available at Saks Fifth Avenue), $78
4. The metal is too bright and shiny.
A lot of cheap jewelry is made with inexpensive alloys, or even plastic that's just painted and coated to look like metal. Polished gold, silver, and bronze are shiny, but not that shiny.
Choose slightly darker metals over really light-colored, bright metals. A little richness and a slightly darker tone add weight to a piece, which makes it look more expensive.
That said, don't think that fake distressing is fooling anyone either. The weird black junk that cheap brands smear on their jewelry to make it look antique usually just ends up making it look cheap.
Gold Pave Bars Cuff, MICHAEL KORS (Available at Bloomingdale's), $145
5. It's flimsy.
Heavier metals (and gem stones, for that matter) look and feel more expensive. That's not to say that delicate, lightweight jewelry looks cheap, but if you've got a big pendant or statement necklace that's flopping around like it's made out of aluminum foil, then, yeah, that's going to look cheap.
Jewelry should have a weight that is appropriate to its size and the material it is made of (or imitating). The weight of a piece affects the way it hangs and how it moves on your body, so when that movement seems out of sync with the look, it's a dead giveaway that the jewelry is cheap. You also want your jewelry to at least look like it is made to last — that means clasps and closures are sturdy and secure, and the various parts are either soldered together or attached with hinges and screws, not just a bunch of flimsy metal jump rings and bits of string.
Gold Pearl Cuff, C.WONDER, $68
6. The gem stones are obviously fakes (and not even good ones).
Enough with the cheap imitations already! Red plastic doesn't look like rubies. It looks like red plastic.
It you want the glitz without the cost, your best bet is to stick to clear crystals (aka dirty diamonds). And stay far away from those opaque gemstones, which look especially cheap and plasticky.
Clear Crystal Earcuff, BAUBLEBAR, $32
And if you really like the look of large stones, go for semi-precious or non-precious stones over those cheap plastic crystals. The fact is, a beautiful piece of quartz or polished granite looks a lot more sophisticated than a big fake crystal.
Blue Stone Bangle, LELE SADOUGHI, $150
7. It's turning your skin green.
Copper often turns skin green. Nickel and silver can also react with and stain your skin. Gold, on the other hand, rarely ever stains, unless it has been mixed with one of these other metals, which is usually done to make the gold stronger and — wait for it — cheaper! How much of these other metals it takes to cause a reaction in your skin depends on your unique body chemistry.
There are tricks that can help you avoid those dreaded green markings. Polishing silver pieces periodically will help keep them from marking you or your clothes. You can also use clear nail polish on the parts of the jewelry that touch your skin to act as a barrier between you and the metal. And keep in mind that the longer you wear a cheap piece of jewelry, the more likely it is to mark you, so try to wear it only for short periods of time, like in the evening, instead of all day. Sticking to 18 karat gold or higher will help you avoid markings altogether, as will wearing jewelry made of platinum, titanium, and stainless steal, although these materials are also more expensive than the cheap alloys used to make most costume jewelry.
8. It's commemorative (and a little cheesy).
Wearing half a "best friends" charm pendant around your neck is cute when you are 13, but it feels a little bit silly when you are a working adult. Just let your jewelry be beautiful. That's enough.
If you want to do that whole "best friends" thing, find something beautiful and buy two — one for you and one for her. A necklace doesn't have to say "best friends" to be a best friends necklace.
Gold Circle Necklace, GORJANA (Available at Shopbop), $55
9. Those feathers are looking a little raggedy.
Feathers are having a real moment right now and things are only going to get more intense in 2015 as the '70s boho vibe that swept the runways in September starts finding it's way into stores. That said, feathers are delicate and the second they break or get dirty, they go from being gorgeous and ethereal to being straight-up garbage.
If you want a feather you can hold onto for a long time, choose a feather shape carved out of stone or bone or cast in metal. Not only will it last a lot longer, but you won't be injuring or killing a poor bird to get it.
Gold and Black Feather Earrings, COACH, $95
10. That statement necklace is saying all the wrong things.
A lot of people think that throwing a big statement necklace on an otherwise boring outfit will make it look stylish and sophisticated, but they're wrong. Those giant beaded and bedazzled bibs might be hugely popular, but most of them are too busy and colorful to ever look particularly chic. They're just so "Look at me! I'm a giant necklace!"
Ditch the statement necklace for a cool pendant or choker or lariat. Or do a whole layered thing with small, delicate necklaces. Or wear an ear cuff. Or a bangle. Anything! The age of the giant multi-colored jeweled statement necklace is over. It's time to move on.
Double Chain Pendant Necklace, MANIAMANIA, $240