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All You Ever Wanted To Know About Earrings But Were Afraid to Ask

Updated: Sep 13, 2023


earrings today

Earrings, those tiny adornments that dangle from our ears or rest snugly against our lobes, have a history that spans millennia and a cultural significance that traverses continents. In this comprehensive guide, we embark on a journey through time and culture to unravel the captivating story of earrings, their various types and designs, their impact on society, and how they've become a symbol of personal style and self-expression.



A Glimpse Into History

Earrings have graced human ears for thousands of years, with origins tracing back to 3000 BC in Asia. These early adornments took two primary forms: the hoop earring and the pendant earring. Little did those ancient wearers know that their choice of jewelry would leave an indelible mark on the annals of human adornment.


In the 2nd century during the Roman Empire, earrings became a popular way for rich women to show off their wealth and the use of precious gemstones in the jewelry also became more popular.


Poverty in the Dark ages meant that work with precious metals dwindled although some goldsmiths preserved designs that were to later emerge in 7th century Greece. The most popular earrings then there were the pendant type and they often featured a bird or likenesses of the gods Eros and Nike.


During the Middle Ages, earrings became less popular and practical due to the popularity of elaborate hairstyles and headdresses. In fact for a time it was considered immoral for respectable married woman not to have their heads covered in public.


In 16th century a type of earring called an earplug became fashionable and these fitted snugly into a wide stretched hole in the earlobe. This type of piercing is seen on the sculpture of Tutankhamen. In during the same period Italy, hairstyles changed with hair being swept away from the face leaving ears exposed although for another 100 years things stayed the same in England, Spain and France with the wearing of high collars keeping earrings out of fashion.


By the 17th century, earrings became very fashionable accessory for the well dressed lady across the whole of Europe. One of the most popular designs of those times were the very large heavy pendant type earrings called girandoles which were great favorite's of Queen Victoria. These earrings required a substantial amount of precious metals and gemstones and so were very heavy, which meant that most people that wore them suffered from elongated earlobes.


17th century earrings

Image: 17th Century Earrings

Archaeological Gems

Archaeological discoveries reveal fascinating insights into the history of earrings. The oldest earrings ever found were unearthed from royal graves in Iraq and date back to approximately 2500 BC. Meanwhile, on the island of Crete, gold, silver, and bronze hoop earrings from around 2000 BC serve as a testament to the enduring allure of these accessories. It's intriguing to think that these precious pieces were interred alongside their wearers, suggesting the profound value attributed to earrings in various cultures.



Cultural Riches and Symbolism

Different civilizations across time and space have imbued earrings with profound symbolism. In the New Kingdom of ancient Egypt, a unique type of earring known as an earplug gained popularity. These earplugs fit snugly into stretched earlobe holes, creating a distinctive look that was even captured in sculptures of renowned figures like Tutankhamen. These historical symbols serve as a reminder that earrings have often held cultural and spiritual significance beyond their aesthetic appeal.


Egypt earrings

Ancient Egypt Earrings - Image: nbcnews.com


Empires to Eras

The popularity of earrings ebbed and flowed through different epochs. In ancient Rome, earrings became a status symbol, denoting wealth and opulence. Fast forward to the Middle Ages, where elaborate hairstyles and headdresses caused earrings to fall out of favor. The 17th century marked a revival of earrings, with the emergence of extravagant pendant types like girandoles. Queen Victoria herself was captivated by these heavy adornments, although their weight led to elongated earlobes—a small price to pay for fashion.


The 20th Century Revolution

The 20th century ushered in a revolution in earring designs and fittings. Screw and clip-on options offered alternatives to the traditional pierced ear, catering to diverse preferences. The definition of earrings expanded beyond special occasions; they became a statement piece for daily wear. The 1960s shattered conventions, giving rise to creative, unrestrained designs. It was during this era that men too embraced earrings, adopting a single earring as a symbol of counterculture and self-expression.



Earring Evolution: Modern Styles

Today, the world of earrings is boundless. Materials like titanium and lightweight plastics have transformed earring design, offering endless possibilities while prioritizing comfort and hypoallergenic qualities. From minimalist studs for everyday wear to opulent creations adorned with diamonds and precious gemstones, earrings reflect our evolving tastes and sensibilities.


Cultural Connections

Earrings have played a vital role in cultures worldwide. From ancient Egypt's earplugs to tribal adornments, they've been intertwined with identity and tradition. Earrings can denote marital status, social class, and even religious affiliation, making them more than just jewelry.



Styles and Varieties

Earrings come in myriad styles, each allowing for self-expression. The classic earlobe piercing is a canvas for various earring types: studs, hoops, dangles, huggies, and ear cuffs. Each style tells a different story, inviting wearers to express their uniqueness.


ear piercings names

Ear piercing names - Image: knowmastery.com

Earrings Beyond Gender

Earrings have transcended gender norms. Queen Victoria's favored girandoles were the precursor to modern unisex earrings. In the 1960s, men adopted earrings as a symbol of individuality. Today, both men and women celebrate diversity by adorning their ears in ways that resonate with their personal styles.

Choosing Your Earrings

With an array of options available, selecting the right earrings can be a delightful yet daunting task. Consider hypoallergenic materials for sensitive skin. Think about your style, the occasion, and comfort when picking the perfect pair.


Earrings are more than just accessories; they can enhance your features and complement your overall look. Just like choosing the right hairstyle or makeup, selecting earrings that suit your face shape can make a significant difference in how you present yourself. Each face shape has its unique characteristics, and the right earrings can emphasize your strengths and balance your features. Here's a guide to help you choose the perfect earrings for your face shape:

  1. Round Face: A round face benefits from earrings that add length and angles. Opt for dangling earrings, long drops, or angular shapes like rectangles and teardrops. These styles can create the illusion of a more elongated face.

  2. Oval Face: Lucky you! An oval face is versatile and suits a wide range of earring styles. You can experiment with studs, hoops, chandelier earrings, and more. Just be cautious of earrings that are too long and overwhelm your proportions.

  3. Square Face: To soften strong jawlines, go for rounded and curvier earring designs. Hoops, circular studs, and oval-shaped earrings can add a touch of elegance while complementing your angles.

  4. Heart-Shaped Face: Balance a wider forehead with earrings that widen at the bottom. Chandelier earrings, teardrops, and earrings with intricate details around the jawline can enhance your look.

  5. Long Face: Create the illusion of width with shorter earrings that add volume to your face. Studs, clustered earrings, and wider hoops can help balance the length of your face.

  6. Diamond Face: Emphasize your cheekbones and highlight your stunning features with button earrings, studs, and short dangles. Avoid overly long earrings that could elongate your face even more.


Face shapes

Remember that personal style also plays a role in your earring choices. While these guidelines are helpful, feel free to mix and match based on your preferences and outfit. Ultimately, the right earrings should make you feel confident and accentuate your unique beauty. Experiment and have fun exploring different earring styles that suit your face shape and resonate with your personality.


For more information on ear piercings read this comprehensive beginner's guide to ear piercing.



The final Thought: Celebrating Earrings

Earrings, those modest yet mighty adornments, have graced our ears for millennia. From ancient civilizations to the modern era, they've symbolized wealth, culture, and individuality. As you explore the world of earrings, remember that every pair has a story to tell—a story that intertwines with the intricate tapestry of human history and self-expression. So, the next time you put on your favorite pair of earrings, take a moment to appreciate the beauty, history, and meaning they carry.


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