Larger than Life: Unveiling the World of ‘XXL Earrings’
One of the biggest trends of 2023 is boldly proportioned and dynamic earrings that don’t just skim the shoulders but hug the curves of the ear in unusual and eye-catching ways. Katerina Perez reports on a hot trend more than five years in the making.
As I was working with the Natural Diamond Council on the 2023 Jewellery Trend Report, I was pleased to see ‘XXL Earrings’ given their moment in the spotlight. Of course, anyone who’s ever worn a statement earring, whether in a matching pair, an asymmetric pair, or as a singular adornment, will know the confidence they can conjure, especially when they are set with radiant natural diamonds or coloured gemstones. This type of jewel is far removed from the ‘everyday’ earrings that most of us will wear to go about our daily lives. They’re sometimes regal and other times ostentatious; pushing the boundaries of size, scale and silhouette to frame the face in refreshing and inventive ways. Sometimes they are simply large, beautiful, but notable only for their sheer heft.
However, in my view, the trend for ‘XXL Earrings’ has a broader definition, encompassing pieces with large, coloured stones and fancy-cut natural diamonds, long tassels of bountiful beads, precious pearls, and open frameworks in richly toned yellow gold that hint at tradition and goldsmithing prowess. And I am not just referring to chandelier earrings, but girandoles, hoops, ear-climbers and cuffs; earrings may sit no lower than the ear lobe but transform the upper shell of the ear and hairline into a masterpiece!
Making a Style Statement with XXL Earrings
Another factor to consider about ‘XXL Earrings’ is the way they make you feel. I realised the effect they can have when I first introduced a single statement butterfly earring to my collection years ago. This deep blue zircon and titanium design is a true conversation starter, and I have been stopped by people on the street and even taxi drives who’ve no end of questions about its construction, colour and, of course, it’s size. Often, I turn to this piece when my wardrobe choices are simpler, therefore adding a point of interest to an otherwise simple ensemble. The power of statement earrings is in their ability to uplift an outfit, but also showcase both the wearer’s and the designer’s personality in equal measure. A larger canvas means more opportunity for self-expression, whether than space is filled with sculptural swirls of diamonds or cascading lines of gemstones… it really depends on your personal tastes.
If we trace the origins of this earring-centric trend, we can see it beginning to take root around five or six years ago. The obsession began with fashion jewellery, where lighter and more inexpensive materials allowed designers to add a maximalist touch without drastically increasing price tags. On the runways, the AW18 shows were a turning point, with XXL adornments seen at Alberta Ferretti, Miu Miu, Balenciaga, Isabel Marant, Stella McCartney, Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, and many more.
There was no definitive shape either; the AW18 catwalks saw pendulum-like shoulder-skimming designs, curved sculptural asymmetric pairs, party-ready fringes and openwork alternatives to the traditional hoop. Over the years, I can see that I was writing about the merits of striking mismatched earrings by the likes of Australian designer Margot McKinney, Chinese art jeweller Wallace Chan, and Swiss maison Boghossian as early as 2016. Another wave arrived in 2020, when sculptural earrings by Messika and Fernando Jorge caught my eye, followed by a plethora of red-carpet moments in 2021, and a series of SS22 runways fuelled by bold matching earring pairs (including Saint Laurent, Moschino, Chanel, Blumarine and more). Suffice to say, the trend has never really gone away. Instead, it has transitioned away from fashion to fine and high jewellery, which is why we’re seeing such an uptick in precious oversized earrings right now.
However, I also think there’s something deeper going on. Celebrities need to stand-out, shoppers want to feel energised, and collectors want something that defies convention. Individualism requires something truly unique, and high jewellery brands are being challenged to deliver. However, for countries that have long embraced larger pieces as a part of their bejewelled cultural identity, such as India, brands can’t simply rely on size to make an impact. Instead, they must challenge the conventions of how pieces frame the ear, how they are weighted, what materials they are made from, and how they combine colours and textures. Fortunately, countless brands have risen to the occasion and are producing innovative and exciting designs.
High Jewellery Highlights
Jaipur Gems, which has stores in India and Dubai, creates striking suits of jewels that hug the neck and envelope the ears in light, while New Delhi-based Hazoorilal Legacy combines uncut diamonds and colourful pear-shaped gems to modernise styles that Indian women have worn for generations. Elsewhere, Mumbai-based jeweller SAVAAB combines natural diamonds of various cuts with pearls to propose dreamy shoulder-duster earrings to its discerning clientele. And these are just a few examples; there are plenty more the world over, including some of the most renowned names of the Place Vendôme.
In its Midnight Sun High Jewellery collection of 2023, Messika showcased its Fiery ear climbers with 2.65 carats of pear-shaped and round brilliant-cut natural diamonds for a party-ready look. Elsewhere, at Boucheron, the More is More High Jewellery collection included the Pull Me ear pendulums with citrines, onyx, cacholongs and diamonds, decorated with lacquer, while the latest from Graff radiates with natural yellow diamond and colourless diamonds in elaborate, shapely designs. Let’s also not forget the De Beers Metamorphosis High Jewellery collection, presented earlier this year, including the remarkable Prelude ear cuff, the Spring Chandelier earrings, and the Summer Climber earrings with close to 20 combined carats of natural diamonds.
On Model • Jewellery Shri Ram Hari Ram
On Model • Jewellery Jaipur Gems
Antonio Seijo Fine Jewellery
Unlocking the Beauty of ‘XXL Earrings’ in Everyday Style
Away from these lofty examples of XXL diamonds, it’s important to stress that this trend can look incredible in real life. This isn’t simply an aesthetic suited to the red carpet. The trick is to find a pair of earrings that, despite their size, are complimentary to the shape of your face. For example, shoulder-length lines of diamonds can elongate a round face, dramatic swirls and curls can soften an angular jaw line, high cheek bones can be accentuated with diamonds that climb up the ear, and circular clusters of diamonds can balance a rectangular face shape. Styling these dynamic diamond jewels can also depend upon your chosen haircut or hair style. Therefore, it is often beneficial to start your dressing process with statement earrings and build an entire look around them, rather than trying to ‘fit them in’ as a final, last-minute accessory. Styling XXL earrings, especially with light-reflecting natural diamonds, must be purposeful to ensure their maximum impact.
To some degree, the name ‘XXL Earrings’ doesn’t encompass, or should I say doesn’t go far enough, to encapsulate this trend. Designs are getting bigger, but they’re also becoming shapelier, bolder, more texturally and colourfully diverse, and lighter (thanks to materials like titanium, aluminium and new types of ceramics), thereby allowing designers to place design elements above and around the ear, not just hanging below it. Pieces are also pushing the walls of dimensionality to extend outwards and into the hairline. This opens a whole Pandora’s box of opportunities and suggests to me that we are only just getting started.