Throughout the centuries and across all cultures, adorning the body with jewellery 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 jewellery 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 the 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 the elegant jewellery, 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 jewellery store, in every style, and for every occasion. The flappers of the 1920’s 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 favoured 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 colours, 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 1970’s 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 1950’s were tossed to the wind. To them, clip on earrings were not showing the 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 men and women who wear earrings have their ears pierced. However, there are many exceptions that 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 the recent years. Hoop clip on earrings can have extremely large diameters, yet the exact same pattern or finish will be available in a style that hugs the earlobe much more closely. Another favourite are the gemstone clip on earrings. They can dress up a casual pair of jeans, or they can complement an evening dress. Gemstone jewellery has always held a place dear to fashion lovers’ hearts because of their 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 women reverting back to wearing clip on earrings is to wear the beautiful vintage jewellery from the early 1900’s, 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.