Human beings have been piercing their ears for over 5,000 years. From archaeological evidence we know that having pierced ears, and beautiful items of jewellery to adorn them, was a sign of the wealth and importance of an individual. Arguably the most famous example is the ancient Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun whose famous golden death mask had stylised earrings built into it.
The earliest record of diamonds being traded was around the 4th century BC, and although earrings had previously been made with an assortment of other precious or particularly beautiful stones, the diamond truly excelled when fashioned into earrings.
The scintillation of cut diamond, where light is bent and refracted through the stone to create a sparkling effect, is most starkly demonstrated when the diamond is in motion relative to the observer. Earrings, particularly dangle or drop earrings, change position with even the most subtle movement of the wearer.
With the popularity of diamond earrings spanning thousands of years many thousands of different designs and styles have been attempted. It can be a little daunting when choosing the right earrings for you. You may find that specific styles or arrangements of diamonds speak to you more than others, but may find it difficult to narrow down exactly what you like.
At Laurelle Antique Jewellery we have spent decades learning everything we can about antique jewellery, and in the process have inspected, handled, evaluated and sold literally thousands of diamond earrings. We’ve put together the short guide below to share some of our experience and to help you as a buyer of antique jewellery make an informed decision.
Diamond studs are perhaps the least varied type of diamond earring, either focused around a pair of exceptional stones or a cluster of smaller stones.
Single diamond earrings rely almost exclusively on the quality and fire of the pair of diamonds which have been selected. The gallery which holds them to their fitting is often minimal and unobtrusive, providing the least impediment to light passing through the stone itself. Unlike drop and dangle earrings the stone often lies flush to the surface of the ear, so any metalwork claws have to avoid obscuring the sides of the diamond as much as possible.
When selecting a pair of single-stone studs it’s important that the stones are as close as possible to identical to one another, with a good colour and scintillation that should be immediately evident. The cut should have been selected to give the greatest number of facets. For these purposes the brilliant cut works best.Remember that no matter how well put together the metalwork is everything about these pieces depends on the visibility and quality of the diamonds.
Cluster diamond earrings are arranged in different configurations, but the most common is floral. Usually these pieces have a single larger stone at the heart of the piece and many diamond “petals” forming a halo around it. In these designs the individual diamonds are less important than the effect produced by the ensemble. Minute differences in the cuts of the stones selected or the angle at which they have been set will radically effect the appearance of the piece.
It is always worth ensuring that the diamonds you are buying are good quality, but when presented en-masse in a cluster the overall shape, the brightness as a whole, and your aesthetic reaction to the piece are paramount.
Clustered diamond earrings are often built around a brilliant cut diamond, but the diamonds which surround them can be a variety of different shapes, depending on what the jeweller was attempting to achieve. The halo of diamonds is often also used to augment and support a completely different stone at the heart of the piece. Rubies, emerald, sapphires and amethysts look particularly striking, although almost any precious stone benefits from this kind of design.
Drop earrings hang down from the ear, forming two miniature pendants connected to the stud and descending below the lobe. The pendant portion of the earring may be static, or attached to the stud above by an articulated link. They give the jeweller the opportunity to make a greater range of decisions with the shapes they choose to sculpt their metalwork, and can be a great deal more varied than simpler stud designs.
The drop earring also allows for the use of a myriad of different shapes and sizes of diamonds to be employed in more complex arrangements. Smaller stones can be paired with larger ones to create graduated designs that create flares of scintillation that pass from stone to stone and make each piece much more unique.
Drop earrings are an excellent way to exhibit more of your own personal style, but also retain a degree of practicality. The limited range of movement means that they can be worn if the wearer expects to be wearing them whilst dancing, for example, although particularly energetic dancers may want to stick to studs to prevent the risk of damage.
Hoop earrings tend to bring to mind large single rings of precious metal which pass through the earlobe and hang below, however when diamonds are involved the most common hoop configuration is the half-hoop, where an arc of metalwork laced with diamonds comes out from the lobe and descends a little below.
Ranks of diamonds, akin to those found in eternity rings create a subtler shimmering effect, and are often paired with much more elaborate metalwork designed to accentuate the regimented lines of diamonds.
Hoops provide some of the size and style choices that a drop earring can, whilst maintaining more stability than larger dangle earrings. Half hoops are often secured in much the same way as a stud, with a push-post and butterfly back, which makes them suitable for more active wear. The greater amount of metalwork, coupled with restriction of movement means that they are less fragile than single stones studs.
Some diamond earrings, however, are designed with purely aesthetic concerns.
Dangle earrings are the most elaborate and extravagant of earring designs. In place of the single drop there are often multiple, layered drops, all with points of articulation between them that cause the metalwork and embedded diamonds to flex and move, magnifying the movements of the wearer.
In contrast to hoop and stud earrings, which often have very few, solidly connected parts, and drop earring, which have at most a single link which may flex, dangle earrings are incredibly complex pieces of jewellery. This makes them more mobile, but also more fragile, and unsuited for all but the most sedate of social engagements.
Although more delicate the dangle design allows a jeweller to let their artistic impulses take over and craft pieces with extremely beautiful and intricate galleries, jewelled links and intriguing shapes.
Because most dangle earrings have a large number of articulated links or multiple strands that move a great deal more even the slightest movement of the head will be enough to set off a cascade of scintillation from the diamonds within them. The pendants are often in motion even when the wearer is totally static, which can be advantageous when wanting to project an aura of effortless style, as the dangle earrings do all of the work!
At Laurelle Antique Jewellery we are passionate about every piece we sell, and we are particularly proud to be able to offer the extensive collection of Georgian, Victorian, Edwardian and Art Deco diamond earrings that we have for sale on our website.