During the lockdowns of recent years there has been a lot more time to navel gaze, and plenty of opportunity to consider the finer details of our faces. Jewelry styling didn’t go unnoticed – whether out of sheer boredom, or just in an attempt to feel re-energized and shiny again, post-lockdown piercings became a rite of passage for emerging into the new normal.
“We saw a pent-up demand during the pandemic and, as a result, we hosted virtual sessions for new and existing clients to meet their appetite,” says jewelry designer Maria Tash, the go-to guru of fine-jewelry piercings loved by A-list celebrities and jewelry connoisseurs alike. “It was essential to nurture the thoughts and creative ideas of our customers around the world while they were forced to isolate. We found that people really needed the creative outlet, and shared their dreams and plans for future piercings.” When the lifting of the UK’s third lockdown was announced, Tash’s department-store concessions were immediately fully booked with almost 200 appointments and additional bookings spanning three weeks out.
“We’ve all experienced such drastic emotional change over the past year, so it makes sense that people want to mark a new beginning with something meaningful and lasting, like a piercing,” agrees designer Melissa Joy Manning, who has nine lobe piercings and showcases unique stud designs within her collections. “It’s a re-emergence, and people are celebrating by marking themselves in truly unique and personal ways,” she adds.
If, like me, you’re starting from a somewhat passé place of one single lobe piercing on each ear and the thought of sporting double-figure piercings seems somewhat overwhelming, the key is to take your time building your piercing identity. It can be helpful to treat your ears like a gallery space or a room that you are decorating – it’s important to consider symmetry, color, balance and scale. “I would first understand how important symmetry and balance is to the client to understand if we are matching left and right ear piercings,” says Tash. “An artful layering of jewelry also involves understanding how non-traditional someone is willing to go,” she explains.
“Sometimes, a piece of jewelry that a client falls in love with comes before the vision of the piercing location,” says Tash, who can advise on piercing spacing by the mm and has devised an entire map of the ear that resembles a scintillating constellation. “Many of our clients say the jewelry was so beautiful they needed to find a place to put it.” Having created piercing jewels suitable for 16 different locations on the body, Tash has even trademarked her own new and innovative piercing placements, such as the ‘Tash Helix’ and the ‘Tash Hidden Rook’ – cartilage spots that allow the jewels to nestle seamlessly into the curve of the ear.
Those now fully stacking their ears with studs reads like a who’s who of Hollywood – Rihanna, Blake Lively, Scarlett Johansson, Miley Cyrus, Beyoncé, Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow have all added subtle sparkle with multiple piercings, each with their own individual curation of jewelry. Influencers and models are similarly turning their attention to ear curation – the likes of Adwoa Aboah and Ashley Graham both flaunt fully stacked ears glittering with a mix of studs, huggies and hoops.
The trick is to balance three forces: skin tone, personal aesthetic, and the weight and style of the jewelry that live next to one another”
“Most people don’t have an identically layered left and right ear curation,” explains Tash. “The trick is to balance three forces: skin tone, personal aesthetic, and the weight and style of the jewelry that live next to one another. Layering jewelry in the ear is an art, and I’ve registered the trademark Curated Ear® after decades of work in the field,” says Tash. “Each piece of jewelry should look balanced within the anatomy in which it lives and be in balance with the pieces they live next to.”
While Tash predominantly designs diamond styles set in varying tones of gold, there are plenty of designers offering kaleidoscopic jewels that will add color to your curation. Melissa Joy Manning wears a unique earring in each of her nine lobe piercings, but each side is curated by color – one ear has a pearl and white-diamond theme; the other ear boasts rubies and black diamonds. Many of Joy Manning’s stud designs feature gemstones embraced by modern gold claws and are perfect for a hero piece within your ear stack. “Because we hand-make all our jewelry in our own studio, there is a unique feeling to the pieces; they have unique textures and finishes that can’t be duplicated in mass production or casting. I personally choose the stones and a real person makes each setting with craftsmanship and care.”
The vibrant enamel trend that has taken over our jewelry boxes for the past two years has also spread to stud territory. Former model turned jewelry designer Emily P. Wheeler’s ‘Twinkle’ stud earrings are the perfect starting point for an eye-catching ear stack, featuring kite-cut colored gemstones. “I like to design earrings that stand out on their own but could also be stacked if that’s what the wearer prefers – the ‘Twinkle’ studs are a significant size and look great solo or as a mix,” she explains. “I love kite-shaped stones because they’re unexpected and whimsical; the soft pop of enamel is there for contrast and to add to the palette of each colorway,” she adds. “I think it’s important to pick colors that complement each other, and I also think it’s great to play with scale and have the earrings get smaller as they go up the ear,” she advises.
For some, the freedom afforded by individual stud styling makes the ears the most versatile place for expressing their personality. New York-based designer Alison Chemla, founder of Alison Lou, creates fun and quirky pieces that bestow whimsical stories upon the ears. “I think all jewelry should be fun and never taken too seriously, but that mentality especially applies to my studs,” she explains. “To me, studs are a ‘no commitment’ piece of jewelry that you can mix, match and change with ease, so I love to keep them playful, using enamel while mixing in colored stones and diamonds.” It is becoming much more common for fine jewelry designers to swerve selling studs in pairs entirely, preferring to offer a pick-and-mix selection of single designs. “I never believed studs should come as a pair, as it’s so much more original to create your own story,” explains Chelma. “Our customers are loving an ear filled with colorful huggies with hanging charms, from a happy face or a letter to our new cocktail drop charms – no ear is the same, and I love that. There is always color in my ear – it adds to every outfit.”
JOIN THE PIERCING PARTY
The models featured in this story are not associated with NET-A-PORTER and do not endorse it or the products shown