The known history of ear-piercing begins 5000 years ago with the discovery of an ancient mummy whose ears had been pierced. It is thought that ear-piercing was a spiritual practice, used to ward off evil. The first known wearers of earrings were ancient Persians. Pictures on ancient palace walls depict men wearing earrings. Through history, both men and women have adorned themselves with earrings. The classic hoop earring was introduced during ancient Rome. We know that leaders like Julius Caesar donned rings in his ears, as did Shakespeare during the Renaissance period and Sir Francis Drake. Earrings were a part of many Native American cultures. Sailors wore earrings because they were thought to improve eyesight.
The earliest earrings were probably fashioned of natural materials like wood or bone, inserted through larger holes in the ear. The first fashionable earrings were hoops made of metal. Earrings were rarely worn after the Dark Ages and didn’t become in style again until the 17th century; it is then we witness the advent of gemstones in earrings. In the early 19th century, pierced ears were replaced with screw-on earrings and then clip-ons. Piercing one’s ears was thought of as gauche. Pierced earrings came back into style in the 1950’s and are still the norm today. Over the years, the style of earrings has changed according to popular dress and hairstyle. For instance, when high collars and elaborate hairstyles were all the rage, earrings were virtually non-existent. Earrings made a comeback when women wore wigs and lower necklines.
Today, virtually every woman has her ears pierced. Pierced ears in men are less popular within western culture, but are still the norm for many eastern cultures. Earrings come in every shape and size and taste and price. The average woman owns a pair of earrings for every conceivable type of outfit.
Fashion Earring a personal adornment, sometimes an amulet, worn attached to the ear lobe. Since prehistoric times the ear has been pierced for the insertion of the earring; certain primitive tribes distort the lobe with plugs several inches in diameter or with heavy stones. Egyptians first wore large gold hoops, which eventually became smaller and supported pendants. In Babylonia and later in Assyria where the earring was worn by men to denote rank, the earring evolved into an exquisite work of the goldsmith's art. In Greece the finely wrought gold earrings often had tinkling pendants. The Romans were first to popularize earrings set with precious stones. Earrings were little used with the headdresses of the Middle Ages, but their use had a vigorous revival during the Renaissance and was also adopted by men; pearls were especially favored. In the 18th cent. the diamond earring became most fashionable; the 19th cent. saw extensive use of the cameo. With the invention (c.1900) of a screw device for attaching the earring, their popularity again increased.