“Even around 15 years ago when I first started out, I always felt I looked older in a full set of diamonds or matching diamond earrings,” she said. “I wanted to break the codes — to do something more cool and rock ’n’ roll.”
Messika’s latest high jewelry line, themed around 1920s Paris, includes the lobe-hugging Roaring Diamonds that combine a flamboyant ear cuff with a more pared-back twin, featuring inverted pear-shaped diamonds. The diamond cluster Mata Hari pair — again one large and the other small — evoked the flair and boldness of its namesake, the Dutch exotic dancer and courtesan who was executed in 1917 for espionage. The design nearly covers the entire ear, which is partly why Ms. Messika went with what she called one “wow piece” and a softer one. “Otherwise it’s too bling-bling.”
On the fine jewelry side, the tribal-themed Thea triangle studs come in clashing sizes or a strand version that misfits long with short. Fashion, as ever, is Ms. Messika’s cue. “Wearing a very precious and delicate diamond today is like pairing frayed, ripped jeans with a beautiful pair of designer shoes. It’s more unexpected. I like the mix of sensibilities.”
In the designer’s new collaboration with Gigi Hadid, a G-shaped earring is adorned with a single diamond to create a pared-back version of Messika’s best-selling three-diamond Move earrings — and priced at 840 euros ($980) in an effort to entice a younger (if fairly well-heeled) clientele.
At MatchesFashion.com, individual earrings offer a strong statement look, Ms. Kingman said, like Gucci’s chunky lapel-grazing bee earring in gray crystal and faux pearls or Saint Laurent’s punk-like 3D-carved wheat stalk in gold and silver.
“By purchasing two single earrings and wearing them together, you essentially buy into two trends in one go,” she said.
The retail arrangement also puts styling into the wearer’s hands. At the Australian brand Alinka, founded by the St. Petersburg-born Alina Barlow, now based in Sydney, customers can buy its funky, rebellious earrings as either singles or pairs. The diamond Katia studs, for example, are designed as either one cross or a trio that extends up the ear, creating the illusion of multiple piercings, and are available in white or black diamonds. The Kremlin star-inspired Stasia stack a large and a small bejeweled stars, and is equipped with a detachable post so the pieces can be worn two ways or combined with other earrings. Like the Katia, they come in either black or white diamonds.
“I wanted a woman to wear whatever mix she feels on the day,” Ms. Barlow said. “The idea is to build up your own collection.” An individual earring in the O Drop group — a long gold chain that attaches to any stud earring — could extend the repertoire.
Fans of asymmetrical styling tend be more “fashion-forward and experimental,” Ms. Barlow said but they are not all young. “I had a woman in her 60s try on the pieces and loved the mix.”
But some of the most traditional haute joaillerie houses have been seduced by asymmetry as well.
In July during the couture shows in Paris, the Chaumet Est Une Fête collection paid homage to four venues with music at their center, with the punchy Rhapsodie transatlantique, inspired by the Metropolitan Opera House, looking like a colorful burst of fireworks. A pair of white and yellow gold earrings were akin in size but the colors were chosen for contrast: a 9.5-carat yellow-green Ceylon sapphire was joined with an 8.88-carat violet Madagascar sapphire, and both were lit up by Umba garnets, brilliant-cut diamonds and champagne diamonds.
At Dior, where Versailles’ gardens were muse, the creative director Victoire de Castellane called her asymmetric earrings “couples.” Plaisir Champêtre Saphir, for example, was united by sapphires, but one was square, dangling from a stem of tsavorite garnets, while its sister looked like a bouquet bursting with pink sapphires, emeralds, turquoise, yellow diamonds, Paraiba tourmalines and lacquer blooms.
De Grisogono also played with color, as seen in a pair of chandelier earrings with inverted designs, each one featuring five rubies with emerald or white diamond droplets.
Offbeat shapes were the starting point for Boghossian: One set of earrings pitted a traditional hanging pear-shaped yellow diamond against a contemporary up-the-ear marquise-shaped light-brown diamond clip, both topped by marquise-cut stones. Another contrasted an emerald and a natural pearl, both swinging from slim columns of diamonds and emeralds.
“I always buy an unusual shape, even if I don’t know when I’m going to use it,” Albert Boghossian, the company’s chief executive, said. ”The less boring the stone, the more I’m dared to play with contrasts.”
Asymmetry does give designers a creative boost. Celestial designs have been trending for a few seasons now but the London jewelry house Vant suspended mismatched moon and sun rock crystals from planetary studs, and the jeweler Sabine Roemer paired a simple diamond star stud with three strands of stars in glittering sapphires and fluorites cascading from a monochrome moon. Ms. Roemer also created an agate cameo from two stones that were bought years apart. One is a portrait in green, the other a group of women rendered in blue, and detailing in green fluorites, topaz and amethysts to harmonize it all.
“Asymmetric earrings, of course, should be matching or seem to be but there’s an element of the unexpected that I like,” Ms. Roemer said. “The look gives me the space to create within one piece.”
Bibi van der Velden, the owner and curator of the online jewelry retailer Auverture, agreed. A designer herself and self-proclaimed champion of asymmetric styles, she stocks artist-jewelers who push the form, like Ileana Makri and her mystical eye studs and Gaelle Khouri, whose latest collection of single earrings looped structural, intertwined rings.
Ms. van der Velden’s own approach to the style is especially playful, like her pair of cheeky, bejeweled monkeys gripping oversized lemon-quartz bananas, or a man maneuvering through a pink sapphire ribboned shell, his legs on one earring, head emerging from the other.
“It’s more interesting to make use of the fact that you’ve two earlobes and the pieces can communicate with each other,” Ms. van der Velden said. “Real jewelry does not have to mean boring. We all know the rules but people are continuously breaking them.”