Kate Middleton Duchess of Cambridge Kiki McDonough earrings Portrait gala 2017

The Duchess of Cambridge wears Kiki McDonough earrings to the 2017 Portrait Gala on 28 March 2017. (Picture by Neil Hall/WPA-Pool)

When Kate Middleton first entered public life, she wore discreet earrings: Nothing flashy, nothing too large, often small drops hanging from diamond hoops, mostly created by Kiki McDonough, a London jewellery designer whose shop is tucked behind Kate’s favourite department store—Peter Jones of Sloane Square. Though each set costs well in excess of US$1,600 or 1,000 pounds, they do nothing to draw attention. Flash forward six years, and the Duchess of Cambridge’s new jewellery style is emerging.

Kate Middleton Duchess of Cambridge Queen Elizabeth II diamond pendant earrings Trooping the colour 2017

The Duchess of Cambridge, wearing the Queen’s diamond pendant earrings, at Trooping the Colour in London on June 17, 2017 (Picture by James Whatling)

She still favours delicate necklaces in daytime (rarely wearing anything at the neckline in the evening), and dons a brooch when it’s necessary—such as borrowing Queen Elizabeth II’s maple leaf diamond pin for her Canadian tour with husband Prince William in 2016.

But her earrings are bigger, the colour combinations are bolder and there’s a noticeable increase in bling wattage.

Like the rest of her now-extensive collection, many bear the hallmarks of Kiki McDonough trademark style: semi-precious stones cut in classic shapes, used in streamlined earring styles, often with diamond accents. In March, she wore one of her largest pairs to date to the National Portrait Gallery Gala: a two-stone confection with a round pink tourmaline on top and a pear-shaped green amethyst below, with each stone delicately outlined with diamonds. In total, each earring is 40 mm long. The cost? US$11,300 or 8,900 pounds. (The earring style, in a different coloration, are featured on the Kiki McDonough site.)

Kate Middleton Duchess of Cambridge Kiki McDonough morganite earrings at Pippa Middleton's wedding, 2017

The Duchess of Cambridge wears Kiki McDonough morganite earrings at the wedding of her sister Pippa Middleton and James Matthews in Englefield, England. (Picture by i-Images / Pool)

A few months later, she wore a similar style to her sister Pippa Middleton’s wedding. Described as a custom order, made of matching blush-pink morganite, the two-stone design featured a square top stone and a rounded egg-shape on the bottom. Like the tourmaline-amethyst combo, these earrings were highlighted by diamond edging. The estimated cost? Likely the same as the first pair: US$11,300 or 8,900 pounds.

Diamonds, diamonds, diamonds

Kate’s confidence wearing more dramatic earrings styles expresses itself in one word: diamonds. The glittering stones are no longer limited to delicate outlines on Kiki McDonough creations. Kate’s wearing larger and larger diamonds, in both the evening and daytime.

For Remembrance Sunday 2016, her black outfit was set off by diamond-and-pearl drop earrings (well, earrings made up of one large round diamond, as well as four smaller ones and 3 baguettes, and a big pearl) loaned by her grandmother-in-law, Queen Elizabeth II. They were a wedding present in 1947 from the ruler of Bahrain.

Kate MIddleton Duchess of Cambridge red Marchesa Notte Kate Spade tassel earrings 2017

The Duchess of Cambridge attends “42nd Street” on April 4, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Mark Cuthbert)

At this year’s Trooping the Colour, she busted out her most dazzling pair to date: diamond pendant earrings. Like her other diamond jewellery, they were loaned by the Queen. First worn by Kate at an evening event in Canada in 2016, the earrings feature a cluster of diamonds from which four graduated diamonds fall within a frame of even more diamonds. For someone who takes care not to upstage more senior royals, wearing such exuberant earrings while all others wore simple pearl-and-diamond ones, at most, was telling. Kate’s confident of her style, and it involves diamonds, lots of diamonds.

Let them see the light

In 2015, Kate borrowed a flamboyant Art Deco diamond-and-sapphire fringe earrings from the royal collection of the Queen, but few saw them in all their glory as they were largely invisible behind sweeps of loose hair. Not any more. More often than not, Kate chooses upswept or pulled-back hair to accompany big earrings.

For times when she keeps her hair down, she’ll often pull her hair behind an ear, such as at that National Portrait Gallery function. Sometimes, it doesn’t matter. In April, she wore a pair of red Kate Spade tassel earrings. The price (US$70, 55 pounds) was inversely proportional to their elaborately exuberant nature. One couldn’t help but wonder: if Kate Middleton saw them in 2011, would she have ever considered wearing them?