Twenty years ago, a charm bracelet was the go-to jewel to express your personality and tell your life story in precious, miniature form. Indeed, charm bracelets have a rich and deep history, dating back as far as 400 BC. More recently, in the 19th century, they were widely popularized by Queen Victoria, during the mourning of her husband Prince Albert. And in the 20th century, they became a stalwart of every baby boomer’s jewelry box during the ’50s and ’60s.
My own jewelry box is populated by pieces passed down by my two grandmothers. I can still talk through their every trinket, listing its provenance and significance for two of the most important women in my life – from a tiny silver refrigerator to a miniature squirrel. Today, however, there is a new, more modern canvas for self-expression: a curation of single earrings, each judiciously selected to bear its own meaning.
The premise is very much the same – start with one single, symbolic earring and build your story from there. Your first step could be as simple as selecting an amulet-inspired stud infused with talismanic symbolism. Case in point: the Latin translation of Foundrae’s ‘Per Aspera Ad Astra’ earring means ‘through challenges to the stars’, and the design features three glittering gold stars to represent energy and divine guidance. Ole Lynggaard Copenhagen, meanwhile, has drawn upon a gleaming snake – also a signature motif of the maison – to create a striking single earring that creeps up the ear lobe. Snakes are widely considered a symbol of protection, healing, and rebirth, offering the perfect choice to represent a new life chapter, reward resilience or celebrate a conquered challenge.
“I was one of the first brands to sell single earrings,” says New York-based designer Maria Tash. “In the early 1990s this was unusual, but it spoke to the freedom of not having to adhere to old jewelry traditions of matching sets and displays,” she explains. “Now, there are no more societal rules for symmetry and matching both ears; each piercing is its own autonomous vehicle for adornment.” Tash certainly gives her devotees plenty of choice; with single-earring options that sit upon nine different locations of the ear, customers can select single studs, huggies or hoops that blend harmoniously with the rest of your ear stack.
“If it speaks to you, it works,” says Sophie Bille Brahe, who has similarly gained a cult following for her effortlessly chic single earrings. The first single earring that Bille Brahe launched was her ‘Croissant de Lune’ – a row of graduating diamonds that ascend the lobe – but the Danish designer now offers a full range of diamond and pearl single-earring styles to select from. Her ‘Splash’ designs are perfect for symbolizing oceans crossed, for example, or provide a reminder to go with the flow while they seamlessly blend into your everyday jewelry arsenal.
“Single earrings are really popular with the stacking trend that we have been seeing for the past few seasons, as customers like to have the option to mix and match and buy just one earring if they have more piercings on one ear,” agrees Edwina Hilton, fine jewelry and watches buyer at NET-A-PORTER. Those seeking meaningful styles to stack up should look to Jacquie Aiche’s abalone shell and feather design, with feathers remaining a popular choice for remembering lost loved ones or acknowledging the presence of angels. Elsewhere, Yvonne Léon’s vibrant palm trees are the perfect reminder of exotic adventures, while Alison Lou’s wide selection of single earrings – which include alphabet studs and ‘Mama’ huggies as well as quirkier pretzel-, emoji- or baguette-inspired designs – offer wide artistic license. Everyone has their own interpretation of eccentric motifs, and no two ear stacks will tell the same story.
However, if selecting a smattering of small studs feels labor intensive, single-earring stories can be just as impactful with one principal protagonist. Cue Diane Kordas’s diamond Star collection, which is the ideal self-purchase to symbolize success, particularly the largest and unapologetically glamorous design – now one of her bestsellers. “Single earrings are a really fun way to be creative and let loose,” explains Kordas. “I like to mix all shapes and length – long, short, medium – as long as the scale of the earrings complement each other [it works],” says the New-York born, London-based designer. “It absolutely allows you to show your individuality,” she explains. The best bit about writing your life story in diamonds and gems? “These days, there are no rules,” she quips.