This year’s fall and winter fashions are decidely subdued.

Tone Down
The necklaces worn at Anna Sui’s Fall 2006 show reflect the jewel tones of her fashions; photo © REUTERS/Seth Wenig.

Gone are the flamboyant layered chains and wild color mixes of previous years. Earrings are slimmed down, necklaces are streamlined, and on the runways, haute couture is elegant with a touch of the rebellious. Gemstone colors lean toward the deeper jewel tones of red rhodolite garnet and amethyst, with a classic hint of black in the form of onyx or black diamonds, adding flair to an ensemble that might otherwise fade into the background.

Michael David Sturlin’s geometric citrine repousse pendant in 18K yellow and white gold with an 18K yellow and white gold with an 18K gold hand-crocheted chain; photo by Camerawerks.

Vintage Meets Modern

Vintage-styled necklaces add elegance and much-needed color to the overwhelmingly somber tones of next fall’s fashion.

A model wears a striking pendant at Tracy Reese’s fall show; photo © REUTERS/Jeff Zelevansky.

Granted, silver gem-encrusted necklaces and layered pearls can look jarringly out of place when worn with a minimalist, post-modern outfit. But it’s all part of the “I am woman, and I’ll wear what I want, when I want it,” attitude of today’s fashion.

“No one is saving it anymore. Women are wearing their jewelry,” says fashion expert Helena Krodel, “And they don’t want a cookie-cutter look; they want it very personalized. It may be old paired with new.”

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Ninetto Terzano’s vibrant yet classic Bouquet collection features diamond pavé with gemstones on dyed mother of pearl.

This ironic use of vintage jewelry can be stunning, or it can be Cher at the Oscars. Either way works.

Reem Acra uses vintage necklaces to good effect when he “dresses up” a Gothic black dress with a black choker for a mid-19th century look — or hangs a breaded necklace with thick crystals on a casual black top and form-fitting black shirt.

Joanna Mastroianni feminizes a bold white pantsuit with plunging neckline by adding a white pearl choker reminiscent of Audrey Hepburn.

Denise Wood’s swinging, romantic earrings in 18K gold with blue topaz and apatite; photo by Jens Johnson.

At the other extreme, Monique Lhuillier emboldens a classic, off-the-shoulder blue cocktail dress with a Cleopatra-sized silver vintage necklace encrusted with black stones. Mastroianni uses a similar massive necklace to accent a slinky black gown with an eye-popping gold trim at the hips, for a combination worthy of Cher.

Earrings: Floaty and Flirty

Remember when femininity was defined by dainty gold or pearl stud earrings?

Earrings are more sexy and feminine than ever, but the tiny earring has apparently gone the way of the pillbox hat. On the runway for next fall, earrings are long and dangling, in triangular, hoop, and teardrop shapes. Missing in action are the Bohemian chandeliers and shoulder dusters of the past few seasons. The new earring silhouette is more flirty than sultry. It falls below the jawline, with metalwork that makes gems look like they are floating in air.

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On the runway, Abaete’s models look like Lolitas who have raided their mothers’ jewelry boxes. Girlish satin baby doll outfits are accessorized with ultra-sophiscated dangling earrings with large gemstones set in triangles, circles, and hoops. He even dresses up two black outfits with matched, or rather mismatched, round earrings and a geometric necklace, in a rare use of ensemble jewelry on the runway.

Suzy Landa creates a floaty ring of flowers in this aquamarine pendnat; photo by Brent Krause.

Stick Your Neck Out

The big look on the fall fashion runway is the ladylike dress with a cinched waist and low-cut neckline, which create a perfect frame for a chunky quartz necklace, a flashy pendant, or a neck-hugging choker.

“Designers are redefining ladylike elegance and moving the emphasis to the waist. Each designer has defined the waist by belts, sashes, cinches, and ribbons. This leaves the neckline open as a must-accessorize hot spot for jewelry,” says fashion expert Shaye Strager.

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Abaete’s deep V-necklines are a perfect palette for teardrop gold pendants with a centerpiece gem, while Peter Som’s sexy peasant necklines are beautifully matched with round, chunky necklaces.

But forget about the explosion of layered Bohemian chains we’ve seen in the past few seasons. Gone from the runway are the multiple twisted chains of bone tusks and crystal beads. The idea for next fall is one strategic chain or pendant that adds a splash of color and pizzazz to an overall modest look.

“This is not Mary Kate and Ashley putting on every one of their mother’s necklaces,” says Krodel.

Models on the Abaete runway were decorated with flirty, dangling pieces; photo by Fernanda Calfat/Getty Images for Abaete.

Take Marc Jacobs, who softens and feminizes his somber, post-apocalyptic outfits with a delicate gold chain or pendant, a ladylike black choker, or a thin chain of black or red beads.

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At the other end of the spectrum, Oscar de la Renta adds moxie to his ultra-chic metallic outfits with large, chunky chains in bold reds or yellow, while Tracy Reese gives her gray-green palette a safari-adventure feel with the use of round metallic pendants.

Pendant necklaces also reflect the bold, deep colors of much of next fall’s fashion. No one shows that better than Anna Sui. Her swinging, gem-encrusted gold and beaded pendants play with the jewel tones of her outfits, mixing blues and greens, reds and golds, to make a feminine, flirty statement.

Laura Gibson’s classic necklace with rubellite tourmaline, iolite, purple tourmaline, chalcedony, amethyst, and Peruvian opal in 22K gold.

It’s a Cinch

Every fashion season, jewelry seems to make a more personal statement on the runway. Women wear what they want, where they want. So we have brooches in hairdos on the Oscar red carpet, gold trim on boots and handbags, and one of this season’s favortites: gems at the waistline.

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Mark McNown’s neckline-enhancing pendant with a black Tahitian pearl and ruby with diamonds in platinum.

It’s not surprising. Jewelry goes where the eye goes, and all eyes next fall are on the new, cinched waistline.

Joanna Mastroianni’s black-and-white checkered coat with faux fur cuffs and collar is cinched by a wide black belt. But that isn’t enough; the black leather is studded with large silver and blue sand dollars. Anna Sui ties together a midnight blue Cossack-style dress with a wide, gem-studded leather belt. She creates a military look by adding a wide, gold chain belt, complete with gold buckle and tassel, to a short black skirt and coat.

Tracy Reese adorned the plunging necklines from her fall collection with bold pendants; photo © REUTERS/Jeff Zelevansky.

Like a single brooch on the shoulder or neckline, jewelry at the waist can add a touch of class. Reem Acra accents a lovely black cocktail dress with a diamond brooch to the left of the waist, where it resembles the tiny bow of a sash. Anna Sui dangles a small necklace of gold baubles from the waist of a blue baby-doll dress.

If one word could sum up fashion this season, “class” would be it — accented and amplified by a stunning piece of jewelry.

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A model’s clothing is dressed up with jewels at the Zang Toi Fall 2006 fashion show in New York; photo © REUTERS/Brendan McDermid.