He's been there for every step of Lorde's transformation from a shy Auckland teen to a globe-trotting chart-topper.

But the Herald understands the writing is on the wall for Lorde, 19, and her boyfriend of three years, photographer James Lowe, 26.

Several sources have told the Herald the couple have ended their relationship. The split is understood to have happened towards the end of 2015.

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Lowe hasn't featured in Lorde's Instagram posts since September, when she posted this photo and called Lowe a "facetime angel".

Likewise, Lorde - real name Ella Yelich-O'Connor - hasn't featured in Lowe's Instagram posts since November, when he called her "the heart that oxygenates my deepest blue".

she's the heart that oxygenates my deepest blue ❣💙

A post shared by JKL (@jamesklowe) on

The pair have been dating since Lorde emerged as an international pop presence in 2013, often going on tours and posting intimate backstage photos of the star.

Lowe took to his blog in 2014 to detail what it was like to date Lorde, and how their lives had changed since her single Royals topped the US charts for a record nine weeks.

"My life is probably a lot different now, but it feels normal on the inside," he said. "Jared Leto said that fame doesn't change you, it changes everyone around you. While I'm not the centre of attention here (and f***, the times I have, it's never been fun), I do become aware of the people around me and their transparency. They fail to hide it."

Lorde showed off a sexy new image in her latest video for Magnets, her collaboration with Disclosure in which she has an affair with a married man.

At the time of the steamy video's debut, sources told Spy Lowe was less than impressed with Lorde's appearance in the clip. But Lowe did not respond to an approach for comment.

Last week it was reported Lorde has bought her first home - a villa in Herne Bay, with a heated swimming pool, that cost $2.84 million.

It's understood Lorde is currently recording her second album, the follow-up to Pure Heroine, with producer Joel Little in Kingsland.

She has been keeping her four million followers in the loop, telling them she's "quietly excited" about the year ahead.

- nzherald.co.nz