It has to be one of the all-time top jewellery classics: a pair of simple stud earrings, usually a single stone – a round diamond or a pearl – neat, tailored, unfussy, quietly expensive, with, perhaps, a blaze of light and luminosity to brighten the complexion and illuminate the eyes. It’s a jewellery- wardrobe staple, the perfect finishing touch – you know you can’t go wrong.
The stud is also, unwittingly, the perfect expression of minimalism. I remember, in the jewel-forsaken 1990s, young fashionistas swooning over the diamond stud earring, in raptures at their discovery of its bare and – dare I say it – boring and anonymous simplicity. Now, as a new kind of minimalism slowly takes over from the modern baroque of the past decade, and a more streamlined aesthetic sweeps through jewellery design, with stronger, linear silhouettes and bold blocks of colour, the classic stud – and its more sophisticated cousin, the button or cluster ear clip – is reawakening. Only this time, of course, it’s anything but boring or anonymous. Now both the stud and the ear clip (which sits on the earlobe with no drop) have a fresh, creative design element with a whiff of 1950s groomed elegance. Consider the Duchess of Windsor’s black-and-white pearl earrings. Or better still, think of the button-stud cluster earring of the 1980s as the new power jewel.
Erin Morris, brand ambassador for David Morris, sees this retro-chic look as a significant trend. “The diamond stud tends to be generic, about wearing cash on your ear, as the diamonds should be large and fine to make an impact, while the cluster ear clip now has a real design aesthetic,” she says. “It references 20th-century style with the on-the-ear creations of names such as Boivin, Belperron, Van Cleef & Arpels and, more recently, JAR.”
It’s true: the recent high-profile exhibition Jewels by JAR at the Metropolitan Museum of Art offered a masterclass in earring ingenuity from the great jewellery designer Joel Rosenthal. He has always played with conventions and traditions, as well as the interaction of shape, form, volume and colour with the face, neck or hair. His huge cluster or swirling ear clips, a style neglected for some years, is already having a strong influence on design.
At David Morris, Erin Morris and creative director Jeremy Morris have updated the classic flower cluster to give it a young, contemporary edge. The brand’s multi-petalled Lotus earrings in pale pink and white diamonds (price on request) bring a delicate, rosy blush to the complexion; other floral clusters stun with crisp, vibrant petal-cut rubies or emeralds (price on request). “We thought of ways to wear this very grown-up, sophisticated style as a young woman today – say, with a Prada dress, fur stole and brogues,” says Erin Morris. “The cluster earring is all over fashion. It’s a cool take on grandma’s look.”
Fulco, Duke of Verdura, the charismatic, aristocratic designer-jeweller to 1950s and 1960s high society, was the master of the witty, sophisticated ear clip, which he created for clients such as Babe Paley and Brooke Astor. Nico Landrigan of Verdura in New York says, “Most of Fulco’s earrings were intended to sit right up on the lobe. Whether he was going for a tailored yet casual look, or an elegantly dressy one, there’s always something uplifting about a bit of light and colour tucked up at the foremost part of the lobe.”
These classy designs with a dash of timeless verve are still being made by Verdura today. Best known are Caged, featuring a mabe pearl in a gold cage (£7,150), the Rope Cluster ear clips with three juicy cabochon stones tied together with nautical-style gold rope (£13,125), and the Pleiades gold and diamond starbursts (£16,875). Verdura knew how to make his ear clips flatter the face, yet Landrigan warns: “A lot of women tend to leave space between the ear clip and cheek, which is almost invariably ill-advised.”
Goldsmith Elizabeth Gage is never without a pair of her signature ear clips – ideal paired with her gold wide-band rings or with one of the 1950s-inspired brooches that are also back in fashion this season. One of the first female designers to cater to women buying precious jewellery for themselves, Gage has always had the busy female executive in mind, and finds the ear clip the most versatile model for day-into-eveningwear and for adapting to the shape of the face. It is also the perfect vehicle for her techniques and themes: hand-hammered, granulated swirled-gold designs (from £5,400); carved gemstones, including her quirky carved-gem parrots (£11,400); and the use of intaglios and heraldic symbols, with the gemstone cradled in a golden half-moon (£10,320). Her first and now iconic Kiss earring (from £7,500) is a cross-shaped composition of pearls and diamonds or coloured gems in spiralling gold mounts. “I was influenced by African tribal women, with their necks encircled in spirals of gold,” she says. From this evolved the African Queen ear clip (from £6,480), featuring an oval stone, or intaglio, to which she attaches three pearls or stones. Meanwhile, her gold Shiraz (from £2,520) and Isfahan designs (from £5,760) are inspired by Islamic doors and windows, softened into organic shapes.
Elsewhere, dramatic ear clips in Cartier’s latest Paris Nouvelle Vague collection encapsulate essential Parisian chic: one model features wobbling pink-gold “bubbles” embedded with pink sapphires and diamonds (£16,400), another has 1940s-inspired twisted swirls of ribbed rose gold and diamonds (£6,650), while a pair of odeonesque clips are striped in shadow-soft shades of grey with hematite, amethyst, smoky quartz, pink opals and diamonds (£18,000). And at Chaumet, new creative director Claire Dévé-Rakoff acknowledges the shift towards earrings that cling to the lobe with the ear clips in her new Hortensia high-jewellery collection (price on request). The key, she says, is to emphasise detail and craftsmanship, and she elaborates on simple shapes with floral bouquets comprising open-work diamonds, blossoms of sapphires and carved lapis lazuli.
For the most authentic vintage look, head to Lucie Campbell, the Bond Street boutique that started as an antique jeweller and now bridges antique and modern designs with contemporary interpretations of Campbell’s favourite period jewels. Lucie’s son Richard Campbell, the director of the family business, says, “There’s definitely a demand for an earring on the lobe among our clients who want to invest in a design that will be timeless and multifunctional. Oversized studs are particularly popular, as they have more impact.” The brand has reworked Edwardian and art-deco styles and craftsmanship into diamond and calibré-cut coloured-stone swirls (from a selection from £5,850); sapphire and diamond clusters (from £4,150); effusive diamond floral sprays (from £3,200); and an elegant mix of pearls and diamonds (from £3,195). Try teaming them with a short necklace or choker for the full-on 1950s look.
Or for a contemporary and conceptual update of the classic ear clip, look at the powerful creations from Atelier Zobel in Germany, under the directorship of designer-goldsmith Michael Schmidt, who sets a pair of ocean-blue sugar-loaf cabochon spectrolites against a backdrop of oxidised silver with undulating gold seaweed and floating diamond bubbles (£6,075).
The stud earring is also kicking with colour and creativity at Kiki McDonough, whose Kiki Classic double studs have two oval stones set horizontally, one above the other, in vibrant colour combinations such as peridot and lemon quartz (£1,400), while her round Grace studs (£695) and Eden flowerheads (from £1,600) create points of intense gem colour with amethysts, peridots or blue topaz finely rimmed with diamonds.
And just as the grown-up cluster ear clip has become younger in spirit, so the stud, with its punk, street-style associations, has been glossed into elegant sophistication. For German master goldsmith Wellendorff, the born-again stud earring is the perfect expression of its classic, tailored look and the ideal vehicle for its renowned hand-woven gold ropes. In its Silk Knot, the usual single-stone diamond stud sits inside the company’s signature “W” logo and nestles inside an intricate knot of bouncy, silken “rope”, in white gold (£3,070) or yellow gold (£2,860). “We have definitely noticed a trend towards stud earrings,” says Claudia Wellendorff. “Our Silk Knot design is a Wellendorff classic and in the earring category, they are our top seller. We feel that this is because their look is understated and elegant – they are easy to combine with other jewellery, as well as being suitable to wear every day.”
Tiffany & Co has added to its classic four-prong diamond-stud collection with variations such as the Soleste, which has a central yellow diamond framed with white diamonds (from £4,550); Grace, a white princess-cut diamond surrounded by round diamonds (from £4,475); and Enchant, a flower with petals radiating from the central single-diamond stud (from £3,500). Everywhere the stud is blossoming into design: De Beers’s Enchanted Lotus studs with micro-pavé open-work (£1,550); Boucheron’s Ava Deco earrings, dedicated to Ava Gardner’s classic beauty (£14,850); and Bulgari’s La Dolce Vita design, which dresses a central coloured gem rondelle in crisp diamonds (price on request), or its small but architectural Bulgari studs (£1,120). Then there are Noa Fine Jewellery’s version, composed of a mosaic of different-shaped diamonds (£4,890), or Annoushka’s organic Shard model with deep wine-coloured garnets (£950) and its triple Stellar earrings – three conjoined gold-star-studded buttons that can be worn up or down the earlobe (£995). Designer-jeweller Jessica McCormack, who likes to build jewel wardrobes for her clients, always starts with a pair of her Georgian Cut Down diamond studs, set antique-style in deep white-gold mounts, pinched around the stone and backed in yellow gold (from £3,000). These can be transformed with various drops. Or as an alternative to the classic stud, there are her diamond Mini Wings (from £8,000), or her Mini Tattoo (£18,000), a diamond swirl inspired by the traditional Maori tattoos she knows so well from her upbringing in New Zealand.
For Annoushka Ducas of Annoushka, however, this is just the beginning, as women of all ages are going back to these classic earrings as a way of moving forward. “I am taking the new direction of the born-again stud and ear clip very seriously this year, specifically reassessing how to wear ear jewellery,” she says. So friends, readers and collectors, lend them your ears – and remember, you heard it here first.