Add Some Zing to Your Earrings: Make Mismatched Earring Designs

Several years ago at the AGTA gem show in Tucson, I was shadowing a gem buyer, my friend and mentor, while he was buying high-end gemstones. After he purchased several coordinating but not matched pairs, he said that designers who create mismatched earrings would really enjoy them. I remember looking at him like I kind of thought he was crazy, never having heard of his world-gone-awry idea of mismatched earrings. I mean, if earrings aren't supposed to match, what is the world coming to?

 
My bird and nest mismatched earrings feature sky-blue pieces of ancient Roman glass and bronze charms from Green Girl Studios.

Little did I know! Ever since then, I've noticed many mismatched earrings . . . I've even started making them myself. Naturally I still love my very-well-matched pearl studs, but there's just something so fun and playful about mismatched (or "asymmetrical") earrings, even if they're in a serious design. They're just more interesting to my eye now, too, kind of like a lived-in home or a not-perfectly-matching outfit.

 
The Copper and Blue Jade Earrings by Sydney Austin Designs simply change up the placement of the blue jade for eye-catching earrings.

There are hundreds of mismatched and asymmetrical earrings on Etsy (over 600 when I searched), and sometimes I spot a pair from higher-end designers in fashion magazines. And no wonder–it's so fun and easy to do! (In fact, sometimes it's easier to make mismatched earrings than matching ones.)

You can easily modify the color(s), metal(s), shape(s), or even the number of elements in one earring design to create a unique option for the second earring. Here are some ways that I've created or seen mismatched earrings made by modifying a regular earring design to create coordinating pairs.

 
Susan Dyer Jewelry's black and white polymer clay and silver bezel earrings are a perfect example of the striking earrings you can create simply by flipping your color scheme.

Spin the color wheel. If the earring design calls for red beads around the outer edge of a design and black on the inside, make the second earring with black outside and red inside. Or, make dangles using two red beads and one black in one ear and one red with two black in the other. Try a design with black and white pearls, but invert the order that you use the colors for a striking and stylish design.

Don't forget the metals: For example, instead of matching gold designs hanging on unique handmade silver ear wires, make one a silver design hung from a gold ear wire for an inverted but coordinating pair. In addition to color, you can modify shape, too. If one earring is a circle in a square, make the other one a square in a circle. If the earrings feature a unique shape, either flip it over or make two (or three) smaller versions for the second earring.

 
Kathy Frey's Mismatched Pyramid Stack Earrings alternate bright and contrasting dark oxidized sterling silver wire.

Shift shapes. In addition to color, you can modify shape, too. If one earring is a circle in a square, make the other one a square in a circle. If the earrings feature a unique shape, either flip it over or make two (or three) smaller versions for the second earring.

Think thematically. Creating mismatched earrings around a theme is a fun, creativity-stretching approach to earring design. To help you get some ideas, try this exercise: Think about common, well-known duos–peanut butter and jelly, salt and pepper, a lock and key, a moon and stars, a heart and an arrow, etc. Soon your mind will start to offer up some unique, more inventive pairs, such as a bird with a nest (or cage, or birdhouse, or worm!), a burger and fries, a spoon and a fork, cards and dice, trees and leaves, a cloud and an umbrella (rain falling onto one, out of the other, of course), lips and a lipstick, a squirrel and an acorn, shoes and a purse. . . . I could go on and on!

After you've set your mind to thinking in coordinating pairs rather than identical pairs, you'll have all kinds of fun ideas for mismatched earrings.

 
I laughed out loud when I saw these fun PMC "In One Ear" and "Out the Other" Earrings by Silver Wishes.

Play with words. Stamp coordinating words or playful word pairs into metal shapes for sassy earring style. Try fun pairs like naughty/nice, dream/believe, peace/love, hug/kiss, eat/drink, and the sweet X and O. Then consider an ice cream in one ear, a stamped "eat" in the other, or an earth in one ear, a stamped "peace" in the other. . . .

 
Nearly all of Mia Montgomery's gorgeous earrings are mismatched asymmetrical designs that work beautifully because each pair is unified by a variety of coordinating components.

Play cupid. Creating mismatched earrings is also a fun way to use up leftover or orphaned supplies. Dig through your stash and pick out some favorite "singles" to pair up. While they might not have a twin, they're sure to have a coordinating friend, and they'll live happily ever after in a unique pair of mismatched earrings.

Since I first began making mismatched earrings, I've started trying to spot two earring designs in a jewelry design book or magazine that coordinate enough to be made into a pair of mismatched earrings. It's like a large-scale version of a child's matching card game! For dozens of earring designs to play with and an endless amount of inspiration, why not subscribe to Step-by-Step Wire Jewelry? The five-minute jewelry designs at the back of each issue are perfect for modifying into mismatched earrings.

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