It's the young diamond buyer's first piece and the perfect accessory to an important evening necklace. A common self-purchase and the mass gift for weddings, christenings, bat mitzvahs, sweet sixteens, and anniversaries. It's the no-fail gift and the most difficult e-commerce purchase.
The diamond stud earring is the item that "any jeweler worth his salt will know which sizes and qualities to stock," as John Sabet of the Washington, D.C. area's upscale jeweler Charleston Alexander puts it. It's also, along with the solitaire, the item most likely to be upgraded.
The stud earring is the destination of much of the world's J/I2 grainers. It's also a true "diamond as hero" piece—and often the diamond brander's highest-turning item. The diamond stud is "the ABC of the jewelry business," says Danny Messing of the New York stud manufacturer, Danny S. Messing, Inc. "It's a brutal business, with a constant weeding out of producers of commercial qualities, which takes more vision than you might expect."
The stud is the most basic piece of jewelry a woman will ever own. "The stud is our industry's little black dress," says Harvey Rovinsky of the Philadelphia area's Bernie Robbins Fine Jewelry. "It can be the beginning of a relationship, or an add-on to a significant purchase by a long-standing customer. It can be the first thing a woman puts on for the day, or for the evening, or it can be the final touch. In either case, the statement is of simple elegance, and because elegance is never simple, it would be a serious mistake to take the diamond stud for granted."
To not take this most basic of basics for granted, let's take an in-depth look at our ABCs.
STUDS AND MARGINS
"Elegance" and "stud" in the same sentence would have seemed strange a decade ago. And "brutal" to describe the business? The stud was the perfect keystone, even double-key item, with jeweler cost limited to findings, labor, and "a matched pair," or two diamonds sharing a 4C's ballpark. If you paired from inventory, it often meant two "faint yellows" (up to two grades apart), and that SI2 and I2 "matched," as did widely skewed weights, table widths, and approaches to cutting a round brilliant. It mattered little if they were headed into a bezel, crown-head, or six-prong setting. A stud may have been elegant, but it had to be secure; often, the metric for beauty was whether it flopped on the ear.
Then came Supplier of Choice, with sightholders—and top-shelf inventories—heading downstream, increasingly in finished pieces. As wholesalers like New York's Julius Klein and Michael Werdiger learned about retail—how to build programs, what markets would bear, how to position—studs were often the item that eased the curve.