EARRINGS: HISTORY, STYLES, AND POPULAR DESIGNS
Ear cuffs, drop earrings, made of silver or gold, set with diamonds or gems – there are countless types of earrings we can choose from. The earrings date back to early history, but have undergone many changes in shape and design. When were earrings first used, what are they made of, and were they always this popular?
The Popularity of Earrings
Earrings were a popular piece of jewelry among the higher classes since early history until the 4th century. With the fall of the Roman Empire and through the middle ages and the Renaissance (11th to 16th centuries) earrings all but disappeared. The popular style with women at the time included intricate hairstyles, hair ornaments and high collars, which left little room for earrings. Additionally, many women wore head coverings which concealed their ears. The 17th century brought about some changes, the neck and ears were exposed again, and earrings made a comeback. Since then, earrings have been a popular piece of jewelry.
What are Earrings Made of?
In early history, costly materials were used to produce gold, silver and bronze earrings. Gemstones were set in jewelry pieces and earrings since the 4th century, alongside glass (which was considered valuable) and enamel. The gemstones used were pearls, emeralds, rubies, turquoise stones and more.
At the beginning of the 17th century, as jewelers improved their polishing and setting techniques, they began to set big polished diamonds in earrings. Diamonds were then set in silver earrings, and a sliver of the precious material was placed under the diamond to highlight the shiny hue of the piece.
Who Wears Earrings?
Today, women usually wear matching earrings in both ears, while men tend to be satisfied with just one. Children, and especially girls, get their ears pierced and many wear earrings from an early age.
The situation wasn’t much different in early history. The main difference is that the materials used to make earrings were more expensive, and earrings were owned by people who could afford their steep prices. Today, earrings are made out of a variety of materials and are sold in a wide range of prices.
A Little Bit of History
Early evidence of earring-wearing is evident in drawings on tombstones and statues from the 3rd century B.C. Ear piercing probably dates back to the East. In Ancient History, there were two main types of earrings: simple hoops and drop earrings.
In Ancient Greece, as the East began to export gold into Greece, there is evidence of earrings made of gold. The earrings were fashioned with three styles of pendants: a moon or a boat, a spiral or a snail, and a cone or an inverted pyramid.
The boat shape was popular in the 13th century. It originates in Cyprus, and the earrings were set with beads, gold balls, and were made using the filigree technique. In the 4th century, a more ornamental style rose and different types of drop earrings emerged.
As tulips arrived in Europe in 1599, jewelry styles were deeply inspired by the floral motif. In the 17th century, pearl drop earrings became increasingly popular, but were very expensive due to the difficulty of finding two identically shaped pearls of the same color and size.
Drop earrings set with diamonds, pearls and gemstones became very popular, as they fit into the high, intricate hairstyles popular in the second half of the 18th century.
In the second half of the 19th century, earrings became longer and longer, some even reaching the shoulders. Pendants were becoming more original, and some surprising shapes, such as a bucket, a windmill, a hammer and so on, were used. Designs were inspired by China and the classic Roman era, as well as Egypt and a “back to nature” vibe. At the beginning of the 20th century, earring designs were influenced by the art deco and art nouveau styles.
During those years, clip earrings were popular as well. Clip earrings do not necessitate piercing, and were therefore considered more hygienic. The clip itself is a two-part piece attached to the back of an earring, and big clip-ons were fashionable.
Today, earrings are designed in all colors and shapes, and are made out of many materials. Today’s trendy earrings include long, heavy earrings set with diamonds for special events, while smaller, gold stud earrings set with diamonds are more appropriate for everyday wear.
In short, diamond earrings are appropriate for every hour of the day, and for every occasion.
By Iris Hortman