Types of Earrings

Updated April 17, 2017

Earliest record of ear jewellery was a ring-shaped hoop earring that dated back to 2,500 B.C., according to Valerie Steele's book "The Berg Companion to Fashion." Over the centuries, different cultures and civilisations have worn earrings for more than aesthetic purposes -- as they have been used to show social ranking, status and affiliation. Today, earrings vary in style shape and materials -- from simple studs to the more ornate chandelier earrings.

Pierced Versus Clip-on

Earrings come in two main forms: ones that pierce the ear, and clip-ons that clamp onto the lobe. At the top of the 20th Century many women stopped wearing earrings, according to Valerie Steele's book, as pierced ears were thought of as barbaric. At that time, women whose ears were pierced were considered to be of an inferior class or tramps. This view point was altered slightly by the 1920s as women began to embrace clip-on and screw-back earrings. But, it wasn't until the early 1960s that the pierced earrings made a comeback, as some women argued that it was less likely to lose an earring this way. Thus present day, both earring styles are available.

Stud Earrings

From a plain gilded ball to a dazzling cluster of jewels or rhinestones, stud earrings come in many shapes, styles and sizes. Some of the earliest civilisations to wear these earrings were the Greeks and Etruscans, as cited in Victoria Sherrow's book "For Appearance' Sake: The Historical Encyclopedia of Good Looks, Beauty, and Grooming." Back then, the earring of choice was studs encrusted with precious stones -- a style that can still be found today. Though stud earrings can be elaborate, simpler studs are recommended by Nandini D'Souza's article "The 10 Accessories Every Woman Needs" as a staple that can be worn every day.


Hoop earrings come in many styles from an ear cuff to an arrangement of multiple loops. An earring once worn by the ancient Sumerians, hoops are commonly found in gold, silver, bronze and stainless steel, as described in Valerie Steele's book. Though hoop earrings can be simple, more elaborate styles included earrings that are embellished with jewels and precious stones, and ones with metal that has been twisted or embossed. Other variations include plastic hoops, a style that became popular in the 1960s, and was revisited in the 1980s, according to Amy Peterson's and Ann Kellogg's "The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Clothing Through American History 1900 to the Present, Volume 1."

Dangling Earrings

Earrings that dangle off the ear lobe have been popular in Europe since the late 1700s. Back then the style of choice was a pendant earring, where a teardrop shaped pearl or precious stone hung off a slender gold or metal wire. A favourite for evening wear, other forms of this popular style of earring include the chandelier -- an ear ornament that mimics the lighting fixture. Multiple strands of metal support many rhinestones or jewels, creating a very opulent jewellery. Dangling earrings can also complement many evening hairstyles that expose the ears, such as chignons and up-dos, both of which are featured in the article by Sophia Panych "A Party Look Straight from the Spring Runways?"

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About the Author

B. Maté has been reporting on creative industries since 2007—covering everything from Fashion Week to the latest artist to wow the Parisian art scene. Her experience stems from a marketing background, with more than 12 years of experience consulting fashion-forward entrepreneurs.