Earrings have always been cherished…
In antiquity, earrings were one of the most popular forms of jewelry. Sumerian women wore crescent-shaped gold hoops. These were worn around 2500 BC and are the earliest earrings for which there is archaeological evidence. In Crete and Cyprus, earrings were embellished with twisted gold wire, clusters of beads, and pendants stamped out of thin sheet gold.
In Egypt, earrings were introduced about 1500 BC and were later worn by both men and women. Many Egyptian earrings took the form of thick, mushroom-shaped studs or plugs, which required an enlarged hole to be stretched in the earlobe.
In the first millennium, Etruscan and Greek goldsmiths brought new refinement and artistry to earrings, which were valued as both an adornment and a sign of wealth. By about 330 BC twisted gold hoops with animal-head designs were incorporated. All of these forms were stamped out of thin sheets of gold and decorated with fine scrolls and flowers, such earrings were fairly light in weight, but gave an extremely rich effect.
Roman earrings were similar to Etruscan styles until the first century and after the center of influence shifted to Byzantium in AD 330, and Roman influence began to decline so local variations once more emerged. Characteristic Byzantine earrings were plain gold hoops with multiple pearl pendants hung on chains, and crescent-shaped earrings of gold filigree.
In Europe, earrings virtually disappeared between the eleventh and sixteenth centuries, as hairstyles and headdresses that completely covered the ears, and later high ruff collars, made them impractical. Earrings finally began to revive in the late sixteenth century, as ruffs gave way to standing collars.
It was also fashionable to wear pendant earrings on strings or ribbons threaded through the earlobes and tied in bows, and to tie ribbon bows at the tops of earrings to achieve the same effect. Similar earring styles were also worn by fashionable gentlemen, but usually in one ear only.
By the late seventeenth century, earrings had become an essential element of dress, and larger and more elaborate forms began to develop. New sources of diamonds, along with new methods of cutting them, developed early in the eighteenth century, made them the material of choice for jewelry, and high-quality paste imitations were also available.
When the neoclassical style of dress and simpler hairstyles came into fashion at the end of the eighteenth century, earrings became lighter and simpler. Matched sets of jewelry assumed new importance in the nineteenth century, and they were available even to women of modest means. These sets usually included at least a matching necklace or brooch and earrings, but could also include bracelets, buckles, and a tiara or tiara-comb.
In the 1820s, a romantic interest in the past also inspired jewelry designers to revive historical styles from the ancient world to the eighteenth century, and a modified version of the girandole earring returned, along with elaborate gothic tracery and rococo-revival scroll work. Earrings with long, torpedo-shaped drops of carved gemstones with applied gold filigree were also popular, many with detachable drops to allow the tops to be worn alone.
In the late 1840s and through the 1850s, a new hair-style, with hair parted in the middle and gathered to the back of the head in loops that covered the ears, caused a virtual disappearance of earrings. Around 1860, once again owing to a return to upswept hairstyles, long pendant earrings made a comeback, and through the 1860s and 1870s they were produced in an astonishing variety of styles. One major theme was historical revival, with Egyptian and Classical styles particularly popular. A new style in the 1870s was the fringe or tassel earring, with a graduated fringe of pointed drops suspended from a large oval pendant.
In the last two decades of the nineteenth century, large pendant earrings went out of fashion. Small single-stone and cluster earrings, either firmly mounted to the ear wire or mounted as pendants to move and catch the light, were the most commonly worn style through the early twentieth century. The most fashionable earrings of all were diamond solitaires, which became more available after the opening of the South African diamond fields in the late 1860s. New cutting machines and open-claw settings, both of which increased the amount of light reflected by diamonds and made solitaire earrings more appealing, were developed in the 1870s. To prevent valuable diamond earrings from being lost, catches were added to secure the bottoms of the ear wires. Another innovation, first patented in 1878, was the earring cover, a small hinged sphere of gold, sometimes finished in black enamel, which could be snapped over a diamond earring to protect it from loss or theft.
By the end of the century diamond ear studs (also called screws), with a threaded post passing through the ear, and held securely in back by a nut screwed onto the post, were also popular. By 1900, as earrings declined in size and importance, many women stopped wearing them altogether. Some commentators denounced ear piercing as barbaric, and women who pierced their ears were considered "fast," or not quite respectable. In spite of piercing's negative image, small screw earrings continued to be worn, and new screw-back fittings, which could be tightened onto un pierced earlobes, were available for those who did not wish to pierce their ears. Around 1908, pendant earrings were revived, but with light, articulated drops of smaller stones rather than single-stone drops; diamonds, pearls, and stones matching the color of the costume were the most popular materials.
The earring revival continued into the 1910s, aided considerably by a growing acceptance of costume jewelry. Jewelry could now be selected for its decorative value rather than its intrinsic value, and women could afford to own many pairs of earrings to match particular costumes; the rise of costume jewelry also made ear piercing less necessary, as women were less concerned about losing inexpensive earrings.
The fashion for the Oriental and exotic inspired by Paul Poiret and the Ballets Russes was reflected in bead necklaces and long drop earrings of Chinese amber, jade, black and red jet (glass), and carved tortoiseshell. Empire-revival fashions also inspired a revival of nineteenth-century jewelry styles and materials, including cut steel and cameos.
Pick whatever style suits you today from our great earring collection!