Crafty Ginger has a great tutorial for making "Tree Branch earrings" with just wire, pliers, and a few beads and findings.
"Elegant" and "personal" are not words that always go with "easy" and "last-minute gift," but this jewelry project is an exception. Even a beginner should be able to create something they and the recipient will love. The technique itself is applicable to larger projects, like necklaces and garlands.
If made in sterling silver wire, these earrings would also be perfect gifts for bridal attendants. Try making a pair or two in cheaper craft wire, first, to get the feel of the process.