It was Dr Mariam Zamani who alerted me to a syndrome that I’ll call “earlobe fatigue”. Five or six years ago, I was interviewing her in her Knightsbridge clinic about the latest beauty tweakment when she mentioned she’d been injecting Botox and filler into lobes to make them perkier and less droopy.
Dr Zamani was on to something. Soft and stretchy, our lobes really can be susceptible to permanent sagging, especially if you often wear heavy earrings.
The solution is simple: walk away from the heavy bling. It can be done. I adored earrings from an early age. At 12 I got my ears pierced (behind my mother’s back) because I’d fallen for the dangly earrings that to me were the true stars in a BBC Trollope adaptation. For the next three decades, I prowled thrift shops and – when I could afford it – Grays Antique Market or Susan Foster and Pippa Small for more substantial pieces. I loved the way they took my favourite Helmut Lang or Jil Sander minimalist pieces from day to night, how little space they took up in my wardrobe or suitcase, and how they never really went out of style.
I wasn’t a snob. I’d snap up great designs by Freedom at Topshop, mixing them, à la Coco Chanel, with jewellery I’d save up for. I wasn’t the only one: Nicole Kidman, Natalie Portman, Amal Clooney and Emily Blunt in their Harry Winston or Bulgari emeralds and sapphires; the former Vogue fashion director Lucinda Chambers in eye-catching tribal jewellery she’d pick up on her travels; Miuccia Prada, ears dripping with antique diamonds from SJ Phillips.
But over the years, I noticed my own earrings were starting to feel… heavy. I would have to remove them in the taxi home, and my ears would feel sore and puffy the next day. The fun high-street buys began turning my piercings green and tender, and the holes were getting bigger. Something had to change.
At the same time, multiple piercings across the tragus, the conch, the snug, the daith, the rook and the helix went from niche to mainstream; lobe action was moving northwards, not south.
Jewellers have taken note and now they’re designing earrings that are the jewellery equivalent of a T-shirt. ‘I’ve always wanted my pieces to be part of my clients’ everyday lives – their second skin,’ says Eva Zuckerman, founder of Eva Fehren, which recently launched in Harrods.
Lucinda Chambers, now designer of her own label, Collagerie, prioritises metals and stones that won’t drag your lobes down. Marisa Hordern, founder of the flourishing UK fine jewellery brand Missoma, and Anna Jewsbury, founder and artistic director of cult label Completed Works, both told me that weight is increasingly a consideration. Jewsbury was wearing magnificent twisting pearl ear cuffs (for non-pierced lobes) at the time – a dramatic, lightweight flourish.
But if drops are your passion, the London-based Brazilian superstar Fernando Jorge offers supremely delicate diamond-studded sculptures. No wonder he’s loved by Anne Hathaway, Michelle Obama and Melissa Morris, founder of Métier London, who’s just collaborated with Jorge on an evening bag collection. ‘I never thought I’d wear big earrings,’ she says. ‘I didn’t think they were my style and they were so heavy. Fernando’s work has convinced me otherwise. Not only do they make just the right amount of statement but they’re so comfortable and light.’
You can still create impact even with lighter materials. ‘Using unusually cut stones with great spread, such as a portrait cut, allows for a wow moment without sacrificing lightness or value,’ says Zuckerman. ‘Earrings must be light these days, in the same way that chains must be substantial and have a reassuring weight to them,’ says Lucy Delius, whose bigger hoops are hollow for that reason.
‘Even the large ones have to be light enough so that you can wear them all day and not feel them at all.’ She recently made a diamond-smothered cuff with the post in the middle, and she is candid about her inspiration: ‘I designed it like that specifically for women with longer lobes – like my mother and me. They were primarily made for my mother, as it was grossing me out every time I saw her wearing earrings.’
Her mother is now very happy – and that’s how it should be with jewellery. ‘Even big statements shouldn’t be tiring,’ says Sadhbh Roux-Fouillet, creative director of Ancona. ‘Carved hard stones can be very lightweight, along with carefully sourced diamonds – designs you can wear day or night. We all want to wear gold and precious stones with jeans these days – it’s important to create everyday luxury, not too heavy or tight, that can make any moment glamorous without too much thought.’