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Diamond Earrings: the Epitome of Quiet Style
Your personal style is part of your public persona, and the jewelry you wear is an important component of what people see. You can make it loud and proud, boisterous and blingy -- or you can take it easy and let your jewelry make a quiet impression. Take diamond earrings, for example. In most circumstances (less the self-absorbed football and rap stars), diamond earrings make a statement without overwhelming the viewer. This depends, of course, on the types of earrings you've chosen: diamond studs make their statement more quietly than their dangly gem-encrusted cousins.
Earrings as we know them originated about 5,000 years ago in western Asia. Although diamonds have been mined and used as jewelry for more than a thousand years, diamond earrings are a phenomenon that dates primarily from Renaissance Europe. Prior to the 17th century, cut diamonds were rare. When diamonds appeared at all, they were used in their natural octahedral state, complete with their drab outer coating -- which made them, in most people's eyes, little more than odd-shaped pebbles. Their value, however, was known; England's Henry VIII used them as buttons for one of his most expensive outfits. As the lapidary arts advanced, cutting and faceting began in earnest, exposing the clear sparkle of diamonds to the eyes of the world. It wasn't long before jewelers and their clients were experimenting with diamond earrings.
In many circumstances, earrings are a person's most visible jewelry, completing and complimenting the look of one's face. Diamond earrings, with their clear stones that scatter the ambient light, are particularly fetching. Until recently, diamond earrings were exclusively a female domain; however, as earrings for men have come back into style, studs (usually worn only in one ear) are often seen on gentlemen in all walks of life. Diamonds offer a tasteful option that makes clear, at a glance, one's personal style and discernment.
Like all earrings, diamond earrings come in clip-on and pierced varieties; the latter is most common, since (after the initial discomfort of the piercing) hooked earrings and studs are more comfortable than clip-ons. Clip-ons themselves evolved in the early 20th century as an option to piercing, which was considered by some to be barbaric. They allowed more glorious pendant earrings to evolve, allowing for more elaborate (and expensive) diamond earrings that drew the viewer's attention directly to the wearer's face (or at least her ears). Piercings, however, began to make a comeback in the 1970s, and with them came the understated ball and stud styles, which placed single diamonds, sometimes of a carat or more, on display in the wearer's ears. Think talk-show maven Oprah Winfrey, or football player Terrell Owens.
Back in vogue
The popularity of diamond earrings can be gauged by their visibility among trendsetters, and if the 2006 Academy Awards are any indication, they're very popular. Diamond studs, drop earrings, and pendants, both modern and antique, were very much in evidence on celebrity ears. Oscar laureate Hilary Swank looked swank indeed in her diamond studs by Cartier, and Reese Witherspoon took home her Oscar (for Walk the Line) wearing 19th century diamond clusters by Fred Leighton.