Throughout the centuries and across all cultures, adorning the body with jewelry has been integrated to express individuality, beliefs, or traditions. While earrings for pierced ears can be traced back thousands of years, clip-on earrings are a relatively new phenomenon.
However, like any good fashion, earrings have come in and out of style numerous times.
Ancient earrings have been discovered in the royal graves in Iraq and the ruins of Byzantium. Biblical writings discuss figures of authority and power wearing earrings, and other cultures have ancient illustrations that include both men and women embellishing their ears with rings.
The meanings varied based on location and time, but many anthropological reports believe that earrings and other forms of costume jewelry were used more as a symbol than as a thing of beauty accessible to all. Pierced ears were a luxury of the majestic while earrings for non-pierced ears were simply non-existent.
Earrings did not appear in European countries until the 16th century but did not remain a staple of fashion. While they gained a bit of popularity, earrings were often overlooked given the traditional dress of the Renaissance era.
The women often wore elaborate wigs and high-collared clothing that hid their ears. This virtually eliminated the need for such decoration. The fashions changed again in the 17th century. Women began wearing their hair pulled back much tighter and the collars became more relaxed. Earrings made a quick, yet short-lived comeback.
As the 18th century was ushered in, so were bonnets and wide ribbons that once again covered the ears.
The 19th century was a turning point in the history of earrings. During the mid-19th century, women abandoned their bonnets and began tying their hair up once more. However, while earrings re-emerged on the scene, they were met with disapproval by the Victorians who believed that piercing was uncouth.
This led to a classic catch-22 situation. The upper-class Victorians wanted to wear elegant jewelry, but by doing so, they would be considered vulgar because of the holes they necessitated.
In the early 20th century, a solution was found in the invention of clip-on earrings. This new invention allowed anyone to wear earrings without the “disgrace” of piercing holes in their ears. Crystal clip-on earrings that resembled chandeliers became a defining feature of the Victorian.
The sophisticated members of society could embellish their bodies without fear of scandal, and the faint of heart could engage in the same pleasures of those brave enough to undergo the piercing.
Because of the invention of clip-on earrings, traditional pierced earrings started to fade out of the picture. Clip-on earrings could accommodate everyone, while pierced earrings only could be worn by those with pierced ears.
In turn, clip-ons were in every jewelry store, in every style, and for every occasion. The flappers of the 1920s were notorious for ornamenting themselves with this new fad, often with drop clip-on earrings that were not quite as glamorous as the crystal drop earrings favored by the Victorians but still sparkled and shone with the best of them. Diamante clip-on earrings also stole the stage in the late 20’s and early 30’s. With simpler geometric shapes and colors, the diamante style never lost its appeal. Short haircuts allowed the earrings to be the focal point of the face, adding a touch of femininity when it was popular to mimic the boyish figure.
However, the enormous fad that was clip-on earrings did not last throughout the ages. Rebellious, non-conformist teens and young adults of the 1970s always seemed to opt for the more extreme form of self-expression. The pearl clip-on earrings that were common among girls of all ages in the 1950s were tossed to the wind.
To them, clip-on earrings were not showing dedication to the art, and they began the resurgence of pierced ears once more. While today, pierced ears are a common occurrence in young girls and even babies, it was considered an act of defiance back in the seventies.
Today, the majority of people who wear earrings have their ears pierced. However, many exceptions keep people turning back to the clip-on earrings of yesteryear.
For example, many women occasionally want to dress a bit more outlandishly with large, dramatic, eye-grabbing earrings, but do not want the weight of that earring pulling on the hole and causing it to become larger or tear. In this case, they will likely opt for clip-on earrings that will not damage the piercing and will allow them to easily slip their tiny studs back into the hole when the night is over.
Another main target for the clip-on earring market is younger children. Many parents do not want their small child to be responsible for the care and cleaning of pierced ears; clip-on earrings are a suitable compromise.
Earring fashions have become a bit more subtle in recent years. Hoop clip-on earrings can have extremely large diameters, yet the same pattern or finish will be available in a style that hugs the earlobe much more closely. Another favorite is the gemstone clip-on earrings.
They can dress up a casual pair of jeans, or they can complement an evening dress. Gemstone jewelry has always held a place dear to fashion lovers’ hearts because of its versatility. Another element of the subtlety of recent fashions is the fact that gold has taken a backseat to sterling silver clip-on earrings.
One of the most popular reasons for some people reverting to wearing clip-on earrings is to wear beautiful vintage jewelry, so often not available for pierced earrings.
The elegant styles worn by the Victorians and the Jazz Age styles worn by the flappers are nearly impossible to find newly manufactured. However, they still hold the timeless beauty that women of today want to embrace and many women are happy to forego pierced earrings for a night to personify classic beauty, clip-on earrings, and all.
/ June 6th, 2019
Editor's Note: Comfort is key with clip-on jewelry. We have cushions to avoid the pinch unique to this type of jewelry clasp.