The History of Earrings
The following is an article by Susanne Kathol, Exclusively for Fire Mountain Gems and Beads® Read the original text HEREEarrings have enjoyed a long history of being used as adornment, cultural identification and a sign of wealth and prosperity for thousands of years, dating back to 2500 B.C. According to legend, evil spirits were thought to be able to enter the body through any of its openings and take control. The first earrings were probably worn to bar away these spirits. Even though earring styles and popularity have fluctuated throughout time based on economic conditions, fashion and style influences and societal factors, they have always remained an important part of fashion.
Originating in Asia and the Middle East, there were two common types of earrings, the hoop and the more elaborate pendant. Earrings were used as a simple way to determine the wearer’s religious, political or tribal identity. Earrings were also an indicator of the individual’s social status in the community and were considered a sign of wealth and prosperity. Among sailors, a pierced earlobe was a symbol that the wearer had sailed around the world or had crossed the equator. In addition, it is commonly held that a gold earring was worn by sailors as payment for a proper burial in the event that they might drown at sea. Earrings were also worn for acupuncture purposes, commonly believed to aid eyesight and hearing.
During the Roman Empire, wealthy women used earrings to show off their rich status. By the 2nd century A.D., gemstones such as sapphires, emeralds and aquamarines were used regularly in earring designs. In the Dark Ages, poverty prevailed and metal jewelry sharply declined although designs were preserved for later use. During the Middle Ages attention turned to elaborate hairstyles, skillfully crafted dresses and headdresses, resulting in earrings losing much of their appeal.
However, during the 16th century, high collars disappeared and hair was being worn up and away from the face, so
earrings began to make a comeback. During the 1850s, earrings lost popularity once again as hair was tied behind the head, covering the ears, or bonnets and hats were worn. In addition, the religious and social sentiments of the time associated earrings with heathens, vanity and excess.
With the 1920s came the advent of the clip-on earring, causing ear piercing to fall out of favor. Many viewed clip-on earrings as being more sanitary and proper. (Eva Shaw Designs can convert any pierced earring to clip on! E-mail us!)
By the middle of the 20th century, earrings of all shapes and sizes were popular, though there was a clear distinction between more conservative earrings worn during the day, and more glamorous earrings worn in the evenings. In the 1970s, pierced earrings gained popularity and at the same time, styles merged and were no longer limited to either day or night wear. Today we see a wide variety of earring styles, for both men and women…