The New Diamond Basics: So Long, Solitaire! Hello, Cluster!



Demand for diamond jewelry is constant—but it’s time to update your shopping list. In fact, you might even consider tossing those tennis bracelets into the vault. Here are the staples you should be stocking up on instead.

Plenty of retailers rely on the timeless appeal of round studs, tennis bracelets, and other diamond jewelry basics. But while readily available, they’ve become too vanilla to entice today’s millennial and Gen Z customers.

“The younger generation prefers to spend their budget on a few pieces for layering and not blow it all on a single piece like a high-carat-weight tennis bracelet,” says Nan Lung Palmer, owner and managing director of Facets, a Denver-based jewelry sales and marketing consultancy.

Jewelry industry veteran and former JCK editor Peggy Jo Donahue has witnessed a version of this cultural shift before. “I distinctly remember the days when Julia Child–style French cooking reigned supreme,” she recalls. Then, she adds, classic French cuisine suddenly fell out of favor in the mid-1980s.

The publication of Sheila Lukins and Julee Rosso’s The Silver Palate Cookbook in 1982 exposed home chefs to the wonders of pesto, ­gazpacho, and Chicken Marbella, and “we were using clever shortcuts to lessen the complications,” Donahue says. “A similar shift is happening in jewelry: Formal basics are giving way to easy-to-wear diamond pieces that are worn with insouciance and in multiples.”

So what should your diamond “pantry” look like now? Here, we show you the new essentials.

 

Instead of Round Diamond Studs

Try Mix-and-Match Diamond Studs

Today’s trend-savvy ­consumer prefers to wear studs in diverse shapes and motifs in a mismatched “ear stack.” While the symmetry of traditional round diamond studs—one in each ear—is a classic look, shoppers tend to focus on acquiring the best and largest diamonds they can afford. With the mix-and-match approach, your customers can experience the romance and joy of curating a trio or quartet that reflects their individuality.

Seek out companies that offer diamond studs in different shapes and styles that can be sold as singles. Pro tip: Baguette cuts are regarded as a fresh new alternative to rounds. “For the younger generation, as they look to accrue a jewelry box with pieces that will stand the test of time but still feel relevant, baguette diamonds hit the mark,” says Alysa Teichman, vice president of business development at Texas-based jewelry retailer Ylang 23.

(Above) Bullet Essential stud and Tapered Coffin stud with diamonds in 18k gold; $1,495 each; Diana Mitchell; diana@dianamitchell.com; dianamitchell.com

Nouvel Heritage mystic star studsMystic Star studs with diamonds in 18k rose gold; $1,200; Nouvel Heritage; contact@nouvelheritage.com; nouvelheritage.com

Stuller diamond crescent moon studsDiamond Crescent Moon earrings in 14k white gold; $546; Stuller; sales@stuller.com; stuller.com

 

Instead of Diamond Solitaire Pendants

Try Cluster Necklaces

We’ve noticed a number of designers giving the classic diamond solitaire pendant a modern face-lift with subtle tweaks like replacing the clawlike prongs with a sleek bezel setting, or removing the prongs entirely and “pricking” the stone with the tiniest of bales (see Catbird’s best-selling Diamond Pinprick necklace). Stringing the pendant on a ball chain also goes a long way toward making the standard style feel less basic.

But here’s the thing: Younger shoppers generally prefer the look of multiple small stones versus a single big gem. As such, cluster pendants are quietly nudging their solitaire counterparts to the back of the case. In fact, clusters that feature a gathering of baguettes are approaching icon status, a look that originated with Suzanne Kalan’s award-winning, hugely influential Fireworks collection. “Whether they’re triplets lined up in a row or are grouped together more freely, there’s no denying the power of three or more diamonds versus one,” says Lauren Eggertsen, fashion editor at Who What Wear, known for its addictive fashion, shopping, and celebrity style content.

Suzanne Kalan fireworks small sparkler necklaceFireworks Small Sparkler necklace with diamonds in 18k white gold; $1,400; Suzanne Kalan; customerservice@suzannekalan.com; suzannekalan.com

KC Designs mosaic collection necklaceMosaic collection necklace with round baguette diamonds in 14k white gold; $1,400; KC Designs; info@kcdesignsnyc.com; kcdesignsnyc.com

Ippolita starlet smile bar necklaceStarlet Smile Bar necklace with diamonds in 18k gold; $3,495; Ippolita; sales@ippolita.com; ippolita.com

 

Instead of Diamond Open-Heart Pendants

Try Initial Pendants

Sad but true: If you’ve ever had to sort through a departed family member’s jewelry box, quite often there’s an open-space diamond heart in there that feels straight out of a Who’s the Boss? or Golden Girls episode (read: unwearable). It’s not that hearts themselves are out; it’s the generic (geriatric?) quality of this particular look.

So stock up on another no-fail diamond giftable: the initial or monogram pendant. Available at all price points and captured in a variety of compelling design concepts, this heirloom-worthy option is a much more youthful take on sentimental jewelry and a smart buy because it casts a wider net: Initials are appropriate for customers of all ages and a variety of occasions, from bat mitzvahs and sweet sixteens to births, anniversaries, milestone birthdays, and beyond.

Jade Trau fob charm with diamondsFob Charm with diamonds in 18k yellow gold; $3,500; Jade Trau; 212-719-3333; jadetrau.com

Eden Presley third eye flip pendant3rd Eye flip pendant with 1.28 cts. t.w. diamonds in 14k yellow gold; $3,200; Eden Presley; sales@edenpresley.com; edenpresley.com

Gabriel lusso initial necklaceLusso fashion necklace with pavé diamonds in 14k white gold; $475; Gabriel & Co.; cs@gabrielny.com; gabrielny.com

 

Instead of Tennis Bracelets

Try Pavé Link Bracelets

Yes, diamond line or tennis ­bracelets are a time-honored signifier of status since they came into vogue in the late ’70s (thanks to women’s tennis champ Chris Evert). Problem is, the younger consumer thinks this piece has “grandma” written all over it. And the older consumer already has one (or a few) in her rotation.

Fortunately, there’s a new glamazon in town, and it’s just as luxe but more distinctive. The pavé link bracelet not only has a consciously vintage vibe—see Verdura’s curb-link bracelets for Greta Garbo—but also makes a graphic and wildly glittery statement. “Pavé anything right now is the modern update for moving ­diamonds into your collection,” affirms JB Jones, cofounder of NYC Jewelry Week.

Bakti cuban link braceletLarge Cuban Link bracelet with diamonds in 18k yellow gold; $15,600; Bakti; info@baktijewelry.com; baktijewelry.com

Ariel Gordon pave roman holiday braceletPavé Roman Holiday bracelet with diamonds in 14k yellow gold; $6,500; Ariel Gordon; wholesale@arielgordonjewelry.com; arielgordonjewelry.com

Shay baby pave link braceletBaby Pavé Link bracelet with diamonds in 18k white gold; $3,780; Shay; 424-777-0210; shayfinejewelry.com

 

Instead of Huggie Hoops

Try Charm Huggies & Ear Cuffs

Diamond hoops of all sizes are eternally appealing, but there’s something about the huggie hoop earring that’s starting to feel a tad old-fashioned. Accordingly, some consumers are swinging in the opposite direction, opting for the glamour of an ­oversize pavé hoop.

The best alternatives don’t stray too drastically from the archetype, with its petite, understated profile. “The new, cooler huggie is one that has a charm drop,” says Eggertsen. “You get the effect and feel of a diamond huggie, with the addition of some movement and a tiny bit more glamour.”

And then there’s the no-piercing-required diamond ear cuff, the evolution of the huggie in the extreme. While both earring styles share the same DNA, the cuff is like the cooler little sister who knows all the best bands and hot spots; it’s the Madewell to the traditional huggie’s J.Crew. “You can play with its location on the ear,” explains Jones. “Worn alone or as part of a diamond earscape, it’s also a way to hit on the asymmetrical trend.”

Eva Fehren nazca dangle hoopNazca Dangle hoops with diamond pavé and drops in blackened 18k white gold; $5,320 (sold as a pair); Eva Fehren; alec@evafehren.com; evafehren.com

Anita Ko diamond wave ear cuffDiamond Wave ear cuff in 18k rose gold; $1,700; Anita Ko; info@anitako.com; anitako.com

Jacquie Aiche diamond mini shaker hoopDiamond Mini Shaker hoop in 14k gold; $1,400 (sold singly); Jacquie Aiche; sales@jacquieaiche.com; jacquieaiche.com