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Home > A little history about earrings

History of the earrings

Earrings through the ages

It would seem that the oldest earrings found date from the third millennium BC, but it is obvious that men and women adorned their ears with shells, bones or polished pebbles many centuries before.

They already adorned the ears of the most ancient deities of the most archaic cultures where we find two kinds: the round or oval rings and the pendants which came to enrich the previous one by coming to hang on it and which could include various pattern.

Over the years, they were decorated with tiny gold beads called "grenetis", filigree, amber or glass. The decorations were plants, fruits, human or animal figures like rams or griffins and then came the enamels.

Earrings from the Renaissance to the Age of Enlightenment

  • It was the Renaissance when the fashion for large burrs, headdresses or hairstyles that hid the ears made it impossible to wear long pendants. It was not until the 17th century that the earring came back with pendants in floral motifs enhanced with enamel and set with emeralds, rubies and pearls. Then these pendants were tripled to be called "girandoles".


  • In the Age of Enlightenment, the hair was pulled up to clear the face and ears. Stones are faceted and bring an incomparable brightness. Enamels were abandoned in favor of pearls. Earrings are larger and matched with brooches and necklaces to form sets. The motifs are in knots, to which are suspended the pendants alone but lengthened: they were the "pendeloques".

Earrings from the Revolution to the 19th century

It is necessary to let pass the Revolution and to wait for the Directory to see arriving of new motives and drawings. The dimensions were always important but very light with little gold because in this difficult period, it was rare and it was used in thin sheets with false stones because the real ones were also rare.

There were two trends: the "poissarde", named after the fishmongers of the markets who were not very discreet and who showed their wealth by displaying very showy and imposing gold jewelry. This fashion spread to the bourgeoisie whose jewelers enhanced these jewels with larger and more expensive stones.

The second trend was the long pendants without thickness with different patterns connected to each other by chains. It is at the beginning of the XIXth century, with the development of arts and techniques that France finds its place in the jewelry. The Emperor who shows an interest in glyptics launches cameos.

At this period, the pendants are so long that they almost reach the shoulder.

Earrings in the early XXth century

Around 1890, with the discovery of diamond mines in South Africa which arrived en masse on the market, women abandoned long pendants and replaced them with a single pearl surrounded by diamonds during the day and a larger or smaller diamond at night, always looking for quality.

With the beginning of the 20th century and the Art Nouveau movement, this movement brought new and creative forms in jewelry in general but curiously not in the field of the earring; the pieces of this time are rare and thus exceptional. It was not until the 1930s that an innovation was introduced: the clip.

Earrings from the 1940s to 1960s

Since the beginning, the only way to wear earrings was to pierce the lobe to hang the jewel. However, this method did not allow for a heavy weight to be carried. With the clip, women could and still can adorn their ears with larger and heavier earrings according to the fashion of the moment. This is the case of the 1940s where the shapes are important, very geometric and with windings. Few precious stones were rare in these troubled times by the war. From 1950, the diamond became again the favorite gem and the clip always preferred. It was considered a bit tacky to have your ears pierced.

In the 1960s, flowers or animals were the patterns. 

Earrings from the 1970s to today

In the 1970s, large rings often accompanied by another ring, enamel in bright colors or materials such as rock crystal, wood or other gems: lapis lazuli through onyx very fashionable.

From the 1980s to today, the earring is the most worn jewel with the ring.

Women have several pairs, from the most daring: very large rings, long pendants to the most discreet like studs adorned with pearls, diamonds, sapphires, rubies ... and this time worn without complex on a lobe pierced. They bring back to fashion the antique earrings of their grandmothers with their charm of yesteryear and this knowledge to make today disappeared. Shimmering, shiny, they capture the light with the movement, they give the final touch luxurious or fancy to the toilet. 

The prophylactic use of earrings

To pierce the lobes of the ears had for virtue to improve the sight and said one to drive out the humors! The moms took along very early their small girl to be made pierce the ears. Very small rings called expectations were placed in their ears and then, over the years, small natural or coral pearls were attached. Arrived at a more advanced age, one replaced them by more important loops.

Earrings for men

Men were also concerned by the wearing of earrings and this since always. The journeymen for example wore one or more rings. On the day of the feast of their patron saint, they hung an attribute related to their profession. Nowadays, it is not uncommon to find men wearing an earring.

Article written by Geneviève Baume, Certified Jewelry Expert, State Certified Gemmologist.

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