Jewelry is a form of self-expression, a way to personalize your look at any given moment (yes, even the often lusterless ones at home). But more striking than a trendy chain or scintillating ring to showcase your mood or channel a vibe? Maintaining authenticity in how you wear the pieces you’re drawn to, whether that’s most often delicate, bold, or timeless designs. In the latter case, stylist Zerina Akers understands how to style classic jewelry pieces in a fresh and modern way. Not only for A-listers on red carpets and during performances — Akers is the visionary behind many iconic Beyoncé looks and counts Normani, Chloe x Halle, and Yara Shahidi among her celebrity clients — but day to day with authenticity as her guiding principle.
After catching the eye of video director and photographer Davenport Meyers, she teamed up with the creative for three new campaigns for Zales — the first celebrating Mother’s Day — interpreting classic jewelry through a current lens. Together, the imaginative duo highlights an assortment of perennial jewelry pieces from chains to diamond rings and hoop earrings, mixed and stacked with rich textures and patterns for bold distinction.
“Fashion is not only about luxury; it’s about inspiring her clients to express their authentic selves,” the stylist’s website reads, which she expands on in a conversation with TZR. While describing her styling process, anchored by vivid colors and a signature risk-taking approach, it’s clear Akers has mastered the perfect balance between enduring and cool in the jewelry department. “It really is a collaborative effort and learning what the person likes, how they feel their best, and meeting somewhere in the middle,” she says over the phone from her L.A. home. “Whether you’re pushing them into new shapes, silhouettes, or out of their comfort zone a little bit, [I] want them to feel confident.”
When describing her approach to jewelry, the stylist and Black Owned Everything founder says, “I try to steer [my clients] in the classic world because it photographs better.” For a red carpet appearance, “maybe it’s going with two cuffs that are the same or similar because I like to play with graphic elements,” she explains. To personalize outfits with classic jewelry, “I like to work with my clients and get things custom made,” she continues, “whether it’s a nameplate or adding a cool charm that’s a little more in their realm. Or, taking things like gold Cuban link chains or a diamond cross but then putting that on a gown or performance look. It gives it a little bit of a personal touch and brings almost more of a street element into the [look].”
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How To Style Classic Jewelry: Layer Diamond Studs
Many jewelry trends of the moment center around classic pieces of jewelry — a favorite of Akers being diamond stud earrings. She says “mixing and matching and wearing [them] in multiple piercings” has a fresh feel as well as “mixing in color,” like with birthstone jewelry.
How To Style Classic Jewelry: Mix Metals
One of Akers’s favorite jewelry looks that reads both enduring and modern: Mixed metals. “I love [this look],” she tells TZR. “It’s always been a bit taboo to wear silver and gold, but pieces that combine [metals] is a good way for people that maybe are less experimental or want to stick to a classic vibe but still explore the trend,” she says. “Going with some super geometric rings that have silver and gold or even diamonds is cool.”
How To Style Classic Jewelry: Embrace Color
“Playing and experimenting with colors has played a key role in my career and my work as a stylist,” Akers tells TZR. For jewelry styling, she says, “I’ve been playing a lot with color for sure, whether it’s stacking tiny personal rings or having one big colored stone ring that I layer on with some of my daily rings to give an outfit a pop.”
The stylist also loves large stone cocktail rings for an even bolder look, but worn unexpectedly, of course. “Typically, people would wear them going out but [I like] wearing them more day-to-day stacked on one hand,” she says, suggesting additional stacks of rings on the opposite hand. “[Don’t] be afraid to wear two or three in different juicy colors,” she urges.
How To Style Classic Jewelry: Layer Tennis Bracelets & Necklaces
Diamond tennis necklaces and bracelets are two ageless pieces currently buzzing, and to Akers, watches go hand in hand. “I love having a classic watch with a diamond tennis bracelet or taking a tennis necklace and mixing it with funky gold chains or adding a pendant to it,” she tells TZR.
How To Style Classic Jewelry: Hoops With Everything
If you were to invest in one piece of unfailing jewelry, Akers says, “Gold hoops are definitely a go-to. They go with anything; they’re really cool and classic.”
How To Style Classic Jewelry: Stacked & Layered
Whether it’s a pair of simple studs, a tennis bracelet, or delicate diamond rings, it’s all about stacking and layering jewelry pieces for an added edge for Akers. “I’ve been wearing a lot of the smaller rings with colored stones, really tiny ones in different sizes, stacking them and mixing them in with a ring that my grandma gave me and some of my other favorites rings,” she shares.
How To Style Classic Jewelry: Dressed-Down Pearls
To instantly make an older piece of jewelry feel modern, dress it down with everyday attire from sweatsuits to jeans and tees. “That’s [what] it’s really about right now,” Akers says. “A T-shirt and a short pearl necklace or mixing pearls with metal,” she adds.
The unisex trend of wearing pearls with menswear á la Harry Styles, A$AP Rocky, and Colson Baker, aka Machine Gun Kelly, is another favorite of Akers. “Using short pearls right at the crewneck of a T-shirt or a long strand of pearls — I think it’s so cool to see a guy in pearls,” she says.
“I think people are going to get more into this pearl world and play a little bit more in that space,” she continues. “[When you] bring in more classic pieces into streetwear and everyday looks, it takes on a whole new life form.”