Diamonds Through the Decades

We survey the 10 biggest diamond jewelry trends that have shaped the industry over the past 20 years

girl’s best friend, a stone that represents forever, the gem of kings, and the king of gems—the diamond will always be the most sought-after rock in the world. In recent decades, jewelry designers have found innumerable new and inventive ways to keep the diamond fresh. We walk you through the most important trends of the past 20 years, noting those that are here to stay and those that should be relegated to the back of the display case.

Ear Climbers

Since 2014, when ear climbers were the hottest trend at the Oscars, It girls such as Taylor Swift and Emma Watson have taken a twirl on the red carpet in styles encrusted with diamonds. Often worn on one ear (with some styles completely snaking around the ear) and offset by a simple stud on the other side, ear climbers have never been for the faint of heart. “They’re a tough sell because every woman’s ear is so different,” says Amanda Gizzi, director of public relations and special events for Jewelers of America, a nonprofit trade association based in New York City. Climbers on a small scale, however, have greater staying power than their larger counterparts, she adds.

Florette pave diamond wing earrings
Florette pavé diamond wing earrings in 18k white gold with 1.57 cts. t.w. diamonds; $11,250; Carelle; 800-225-7782;

Diamond ear cuffs
Ear cuffs with 2.31 cts. t.w. diamonds in 18k white gold; price on request; Butani;;

Hail Storm ear climbers
Hail Storm ear climbers in 18k yellow gold with diamonds; $2,100; Sorellina; 646-745-6831;

Luna ear cuffs
Luna ear cuffs in 18k yellow gold; $2,420; Forevermark by Jade Trau; 203-388-3550;

Right-Hand Rings

In 2003, on the heels of its popular three-stone ring campaign, De Beers’ Diamond Trading Co. introduced a new concept: the right-hand ring. Promoted as a stylish addition to any woman’s wardrobe and not as a gift of love, the right-hand ring was aimed at women buying jewelry for themselves. “It was so powerful,” Gizzi says. “Women can buy them on their own, and that’s what makes the right-hand ring such a game changer for the diamond industry.” Although the De Beers campaign eventually petered out around 2007, the right-hand ring had an important legacy—it woke the trade up to the self-purchase segment. Jewelry marketing hasn’t been the same since.

Labyrinth ring
Labyrinth ring in 18k white gold with 2.06 cts. t.w. diamonds; $11,994; Djula; 646-869-9585;

Diamond bypass ring
Diamond bypass ring in 14k gold; $310 (mounting only); Adwar Casting Co.;;

Gabriella Rose Tattoo ring
Gabriella Rose Tattoo ring in 18k yellow gold with colorless diamonds; $4,200; Karen Karch; 212-965-9699;

Inside-Out Hoops

Hoops in general dominated the runways in 2016, and in fine jewelry, diamond inside-out hoops have been a staple since the mid-2000s. They are not going away anytime soon. “They maximize diamond exposure,” Gizzi says. Liz Brehmer, director of jewelry manufacturing arts operations at GIA, adds that inside-out hoops—which are lined with diamonds visible from every direction—also fulfill another jewelry desire: “They’re not a lot of weight but have a look of substance.”

Open oval two-part hoops
Open oval two-part hoops in 18k white gold with white diamond pavé; $4,670; Paige Novick; 212-252-1441;

Wide inside-out pave diamond hoops
Wide inside-out pavé diamond hoops in 18k white gold; $9,020; Gem Platinum; 800-356-3192;

Jara yellow gold hoops
Jara hoops with 2 cts. t.w. white diamonds in 18k yellow gold; price on request; Misahara;;

Stackable Diamond Bands

Along with the fashion trend of layering necklaces and rings came the advent of stacking diamond rings. “It’s such a simple idea,” Gizzi says, “but it was huge for brides, especially wearing more than one—stacking as many rings on as possible.” Some of the most successful pieces featured an asymmetrical placement of diamonds and hammered metals with an artisanal feel. Stackable diamond bands rose to popularity in the early 2000s, says Kathy Rose, owner and designer of Roseark in Los Angeles; she’s stocked stackables since opening her store 12 years ago. “People come back for anniversaries; they buy more rings as the years go by,” she says. “We design rings with rubies, diamonds, or black diamonds—you can have fun with it.”

Rectangle Bullet band
Rectangle Bullet band in 18k yellow gold with diamonds; $2,940; Shay; 424-777-0210;

Kissing Claw and Mini Kent rings
Kissing Claw and Mini Kent rings in 18k blackened white gold with diamond pavé; $6,950–$7,250; Eva
Fehren; 646-861-3595;

Jane Taylor bands
14k white, yellow, and rose gold bands with white and black diamonds; $585–$1,200; Jane Taylor; 413-687-3153;

Diamonds in Silver

For the fine-jewelry purist, diamonds set in silver were initially controversial. But when the price of gold began to -skyrocket around 2005, the new style made fine jewelry attainable. “It completely blurred the line between fashion and jewelry,” Gizzi says. “It became great gift giving.” Silver became a staple in jewelry stores, with the diamond industry a willing accomplice. Look to brands like Tacori for everyday, wearable pieces and Irit Design for edgy blackened silver–set diamond styles.

Ivy Lane Crescent Trellis ring
Ivy Lane Crescent Trellis ring in silver with diamonds; $890; Tacori; 800-421-9844;

Halo Settings

Much to the chagrin of many retailers, halos came, they conquered, and now they just won’t go away. The halo setting—which features a sometimes modestly sized center stone surrounded by smaller diamonds or pavé—provides everyday Janes with a Kim Kardashian look without the celebrity price. Call it jewelry’s smoke and mirrors. “It’s going to slow down, but they’ll continue to sell for quite some time,” predicts Gizzi, who says the halo rushed to popularity four years ago as brides began to covet the style.

Harry Kotlar ring
Ring in platinum with 5.09 ct. cushion-cut diamond with dual-row pavé diamond halo; $106,800; Harry Kotlar; 213-626-0428; (also at top)

Carousel 18k pink gold double row ring
Carousel 18k pink gold double row ring; $5,000 (center stone not included); Gumuchian; 212-593-9888;

Karl Lagerfeld Bridal Jewelry pyramid ring
Pyramid ring with 0.24 ct. t.w. diamonds; $2,200 in 18k white, yellow, or rose gold, $2,800 in platinum (center stone not included); Karl Lagerfeld Bridal Jewelry;;

Colored Diamonds

Brown diamonds, better known by their more effervescent name, champagnes, were first offered to the trade in the early 1990s after a big discovery at the Argyle mine in Western Australia. Initially disdained by retailers because of their small size and internal flaws, they soon opened the door to the industry’s acceptance—and full-on embrace—of colored diamonds, including the far rarer and more expensive yellows, pinks, and blues. In recent years, colored diamonds have gained cachet thanks to the incredible sums they’ve commanded at auction. “Prices continue to soar because of this great rarity factor,” says Gary Schuler, director of Sotheby’s jewelry department, noting a recent sale in which a pink and a blue diamond in a pair of mismatched earrings fetched $57 million.

Vanilla Gold bolo bracelet
14k Vanilla Gold bolo bracelet with 4 cts. t.w. Chocolate Ombré Diamonds; $5,000; Le Vian; 877-253-8426;

Takat diamond ring
Ring with 1.66 ct. green diamond and fancy pink and white diamond halos in 18k white and pink gold; price on request; Takat; 646-728-0151;

Bar Pendants

Whether horizontal, vertical, or rounded, the very modern and ultra-simple diamond bar is a mini-trend that burst onto the scene a few years ago and shows no signs of fading away. Lori Friedman, designer of Loriann Jewelry in Westport, Conn., says she’ll be adding bar pendants to her new collection. “I think it’s an easy-to-wear, timeless piece,” she explains. “You can layer it with anything, wear it casually, or dress it up with a nice, simple black dress. It’s a flexible piece.”

Reese Brooklyn diamond necklace
Reese Brooklyn diamond necklace in 14k rose gold; $770; Dana Rebecca Designs; 312-701-1773;

Diamonds by the Yard

About 10 years ago, diamonds-by-the-yard necklaces were a hot ticket, ranging from chains set with back-to-back diamonds to those that featured fewer, more spread-out diamonds. The necklaces were popularized by Tiffany & Co., whose Elsa Peretti–designed styles were offered in silver. This trend has had its heyday, according to the experts. However, Brehmer says, “I have continued to see it in the market with multilayering.”

Diamonds by the Yard necklace
Diamonds by the Yard necklace in 18k yellow gold; $28,500–$30,000; Forevermark Golden Diamond by Dalumi; 203-388-3550;

Rough Diamonds

As fine jewelry increasingly dovetailed with fashion, jewelry designers took the equivalent of distressing to a whole new level. Suddenly, people found beauty in rough diamonds. “Mixing them together with brilliant cuts” is particularly compelling, Gizzi says. Rough diamonds—and their sliced diamond spawn—boast “handcrafted, artisanal aspects that are very attractive to consumers,” Brehmer says. Todd Reed, the Boulder, Colo.–based designer whose tagline is “Raw Elegance,” is credited with kicking off the craze about 15 years ago, though plenty of others have since followed suit. “It had been an art and a niche market,” Gizzi says. “The past 10 years have truly catapulted them into more mainstream appeal.”

Todd Reed ring
Ring in 18k yellow gold and sterling silver with 4.35 cts. t.w. raw diamonds; $13,925; Todd Reed; 303-442-6280;

Violetta ear cuff
Violetta ear cuff with 5.42 cts. t.w. diamond slices and round diamonds in 18k rose gold; price on request; L’Dezen;;

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