Sadly, there’s very little that I have in common with the late Zsa Zsa Gabor, apart from a tendency to overuse the word “darling”. (Though perhaps she, too, had a terrible memory for names.)
But there is one Gabor-ism that I’m keen to carry on – a proclivity for wearing diamonds every day. Complimented on her rocks while appearing on a chat show, she once replied: “Oh, dahlink, these are just my working diamonds.” You know, as opposed to her other diamonds, the whacking great ones she saved for best.
White diamond necklace, £420, Hall Collection; I+I rose gold diamond ring, £240, Net-a-Porter; Rose gold diamond hoops, £180, Otiumberg
In the real world (as opposed to Zsa Zsa’s), wearing diamonds during the day used to be both out of budget and in bad taste, with the exception of an engagement ring. And what diamonds you did own were likely inherited or received as gifts – because who buys themselves diamonds? Well, these days, we do, apparently. “Women are now self-purchasing more than ever,” says Billie Faricy-Hyett, Net-A-Porter’s Senior Buyer for Accessories and Bags, and “buying jewellery for themselves to wear every day – they want to invest in beautiful pieces from jewellery-specific designers.” These designers – think New York labels Maria Tash, Catbird, and Wwake – are changing the way we shop, by tapping into a new “demi-fine” price point, around the £300-500 mark. They’re still not cheap, admittedly, but they’re certainly more accessible than the fine jewellery end of the market – and demand for these brands is so high that Net-A-Porter are having to place orders a year in advance to manage production.
The trend first hit the UK when fashion editors began to visit Maria Tash’s piercing studio on East 4th street between shows at New York Fashion Week, emerging with multiple diamond ear piercings. “There are centuries of precedence in other cultures for beautiful jewellery being worn all around the ear,” says Tash, explaining why multiple piercings took off. “Now we have developed the tiny and durable jewellery to match our taste in beauty, and co-exist with our modern active lifestyles.” She’s not joking – I wear my tiny diamond hoops in bed, the shower, even to the gym. When Maria Tash launched a pop-up in Liberty last year, demand was high enough to lead to a permanent space on the department store’s ground floor – with appointments booked solid for months in advance. “Demand has been overwhelming – and wonderful. Women of all ages are embracing multiple ear piercings.”
Wwake gold, opal and diamond earring, £300, Net-a-Porter; Saskia Diez gold diamond earring, £320, Net-a-Porter; Sarah & Sebastain gold diamond earrings, £380, Net-a-Porter
In 2014, sisters Christie and Rosanna Wollenberg spotted that same gap in the market for mid-level jewellery. Having worked in fashion and communications respectively, they launched their own website, stocking jewellery brands at the £300 mark, before starting their own label last October. “It’s a self-justifying price point,” agree the sisters. “More and more women are buying jewellery for themselves, seeking wiser purchases in the form of luxury pieces for everyday wear. They know the value in investing in demi-fine design because of its craftsmanship and longevity.”
Could it be that demi-fine jewellery is 2017’s answer to the lipstick index? While the economy stutters, you might balk at spending thousands on an of-the-moment handbag, or even 30 quid on a fast-fashion top, but diamonds? Well, those are forever. So far, my only diamonds are working diamonds, and tiny ones at that – Zsa Zsa probably had more ice in the bottom of her handbag. But, darlings, we’ve all got to start somewhere …