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An Incredible History & Cultural Significance of Women’s Earrings

Posted By: Neha Bhatia
12 September, 2019

The American pop star Jennifer Lopez says, “Women should never go without earrings. Passing on them is like an opportunity missed.” And so, just take this opportunity to dig deep into the incredible history of these jewel drops, so that each time you put on a pair of earrings, you fall in love with yourself even more than ever.

For most women, earrings are the first love after chocolates or flowers. These jewelled ear rings and crystal-beaded dangling trinkets too add to the gorgeousness of women like nothing else. The American pop star Jennifer Lopez says, “Women should never go without earrings. Passing on them is like an opportunity missed.” And so, just take this opportunity to dig deep into the incredible history of these jewel drops, so that the each time you put on a pair of earrings, you fall in love with yourself even more than ever…

EARRINGS IN THE ANCIENT PERIOD

 

In the ancient worlds, it was believed that the spirits enter a human body via one’s ears. During this period, earrings were worn primarily for the purpose of protecting oneself from the destructive spirits and energies.

Earrings as Men’s Jewellery

It might sound surprising at first but, in the earliest times of jewellery discovery, earrings were made as a part of men’s jewellery. In fact, one of the oldest pair of earrings discovered was found to be associated with a man’s jewellery box. This man was the king of a state in Iraq.

Even today, the friezes and finials of various monuments created during Persian Empire display the carved sculptures of warriors wearing earrings, mainly hoops.

Emerging Era of Women’s Earrings

Time went by. And the fashion of earrings began to turn more towards women’s aesthetics. Ear piercing became a popular form of body artistry and aesthetic modification mainly among women. From America to Africa, from Asia to Europe, different kinds of ancient style earrings have been discovered from all parts of the world.

The Bronze Age

There are archaeological evidences which prove that women have been wearing earrings since the time of Bronze Age, about 5000 years ago. Many mummies have been discovered from the European region with pierced earlobes and ear trinkets made in precious baubles and beads. From tapered hoops to conical and boat shapes, a variety of designs were prevalent in this era.

Egyptian Regions

The tomb of great Egyptian king Tutankhamen was also found to have traces of ear jewels, mushroom shaped hoops and ear bobs of various kinds. Also, it is said that due to their symbolism and sacredness, the cats from Egyptian regions were also made to wear earrings. Many old statues provide the evidence to this.

European Regions

In European regions, earrings were worn mostly by the lavish and the wealthy women. A pair of pearl earrings depicted a royal status in society. Soon enough, among the Roman Empire, danglers and designer earrings began to come in highlight. Conical shaped earrings were popular among Greeks. Victorians were still experimenting with their Byzantine art style. You will find their Victorian style Etruscan earrings still in vogue these days.

Generation of Gold

In ancient period, the metal gold was considered synonymous with the rays of the Sun. Owing to its royal appeal and a divine lustre, gold became the centre of the moment for jewellery designers and wearers alike. Also, it became a symbol of the rich and wealthy.

Read Also: Silver Jewellery Online

You might have heard the tale that the prince Siddhartha Gautam aka Buddha used to wear heavy gold earrings in his ears prior to his spiritual bequests. It is said that his long earlobes were a result of the wealth of his kingdom which was depicted in the heaviness of his gold earrings.

Other regions would create earrings out of gold wires which were twisted, spiralled or scrolled to give various shapes and designs. Other styles included thick stamped gold flakes, cluster of beads dipped in gold foils, gold filigree and even gold coins containing motifs of peacocks, flowers, swan, dove, birds, lion, bull, gazelle, elephant etc.

Apart from gold, even bronze and silver earrings were beginning to come to picture.

EARRINGS DURING 11th TO 15th CENTURIES

 

During this time period, the popularity of earrings started to fade away among women as there were various heavy ornaments being created for head and hair. Women would wear elaborate headgear such as bonnets, which would often cover their ears as if hugging their face from both sides. Due to the lush head pieces, women didn’t find any use of wearing accessories in their ears. During this time, the jewel makers focused more on the other areas of the body such as necklines, waist, ankles and arms for creating jewellery items.

EARRINGS FROM 16th TO EARLY 19th CENTURIES

 

Post 15th century time frame, the popularity of earrings gained pace once again in the 16th century. During this period, even Shakespeare was spotted wearing gold hoops in his ears. The market of women’s earrings was in full bloom.

Up until 15th century, the most popular form of material used in earrings had been pearls. With the mushrooming of earring fashion, jewel makers started to experiment with materials, beads and baubles of other types as well.

It was the time when gemstones, crystals and beads were considered to possess symbolic qualities and healing properties. And so, this belief carried forward in the making of earrings too. While the earrings containing pearls were symbolized to relive one’s stress, earrings containing topaz was believed to carry energy of love and romance.

In 17th and 18th centuries, diamonds appeared in the scene. Royal women would wear girandole earrings studded with diamonds and precious gemstones to display their wealth. This style of earrings became prominent for royal parties and evening gatherings of the wealthy.

EARRINGS POST 20th CENTURY

During 20th century, the two main styles of earrings dominant among women were screw-back and clip-on. The reason behind this was, during this time, it was considered taboo to get one’s earlobes pierced.

However, pierced earrings came back in fashion during 1960s. Since then, there has been no looking back.

EARRINGS THEN AND NOW

 

Earlier the young girls in a wealthy family hosted ear piercing parties for themselves and their friends. In some regions, brides used to have an ear piercing ritual during their marriage. In India, a Karnavedha ceremony was started for newborn babies in which their ears would be pierced within one to five years of age.

Many countries hold ritualistic, healing and cultural significance properties like these till this day. However, these days, earrings are worn mostly for aesthetic, ornamental and styling purpose more than anything. Some wear it for the love of art and jewellery as well.

From gold and silver to other materials such as wood, plastic, terracotta, silk threads, glass, crystals, lighter metals and jewelled beads are also used in making earrings for women. Also, these days piercing is quite common and can be easily taken from the roadside stalls, shops in malls and various street markets.

WRAPPING UP

 

Knowing about the incredible history of earrings, you are probably thinking about one of those pair of antique earrings from your jewellery box. Or perhaps you are tracing the ones you’re wearing right now with your fingers. Maybe you are planning to buy that pair of emerald-dipped sterling silver earrings you window shopped in a jewellery store. Well, ponder, wear, adore or gift, either way you are going to love these ear droplets now! 

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