The definitive guide to earrings

Posted in Jewelry 101 on March 21, 2020

While being one of the oldest forms of ornaments and most regularly worn jewelry, earrings have a wide variety of styles. In this guide to earrings, you will get answers for questions that you have maybe wondered before: What are the differences between studs, drops, and hoops? Which are more liked? What shape of the stone is best for stud earrings? gold, silver or platinum earrings? Are they hypoallergenic? 

By the end of this guide, you’ll know how to choose earrings and remember that the person who wears the earrings that you’ve given them will always remember you by it. Which brings us to the history of earrings, how did we start wearing them?

four pairs of silver drop earrings with different color stone in them on pink background.

Earrings history

There are multiple references from different cultures to earrings both written and artistic. One of the first golden earrings among other jewelry appeared around 2600 BCE. Minoan Civilization was the first to wear gold hoop earrings around 2000-1600 BCE. Hoop earrings with pendants originate from the Bronze Age Greece. Later Persian Empire soldiers wore earrings. So we can see that earrings are not that recent however they got more popular during the 60s. Wikipedia has a more in-depth article about earrings history.

In the Western world during the 1960s teenage girls were known to have piercing parties. About five years later physicians started to offer piercing services. At the same time, Manhattan jewelry stores started offering ear piercings, being the first non-medical location for them. 

In the late 60s, ear-piercing started to become popular with gay and hippie communities. For men, piercing on the right ear was often considered to be a sign of a person's LGBT orientation. Left ear piercing showed a straight person orientation.

During the early 1970s, ear-piercing and earrings were common among women. Which created a broad market for ear piercing, department stores would hold piercing events around the country. At the event, a trained person would do the piercing. This usually involved pushing a starter earring through the earlobe by hand or using a special piercing instrument.

In the late 70s, the piercing culture had made its way to music performers especially punk rock. During the 1980s this also made piercings popular among men. Later this grew among athletes as well. Since then various cartilage piercings have since become popular.

Types of Ear piercings

Picture of ear piercings, Photo by Kimia Zarifi on Unsplash

Most common piercings are done at the lobe of the ear, where the ear feels softer. However, cartilage piercings are also quite common but first, what is cartilage piercing? Cartilage is a strong connective tissue that is more resilient than the skin but not stronger than bones. When an ear-piercing is done then the needle goes through the cartilage, in from the front and out from the back. This type of piercing is popular due to its versatility. The ear has multiple places that can be pierced. The piercings are the following:

  • The Helix piercing
  • The forward Helix
  • Industrial
  • The snug piercing
  • Rook Piercing
  • The conch piercing
  • Orbital
  • Tragus
  • Anti-tragus
  • Lobe piercings
  • Transverse lobe
  • The Daith piercing
  • The Auricle
  • Dermal

This list might feel overwhelming but it's not that complicated. Are you getting your first piercing? You might like the following article since the topic is quite wide we wrote A guide to ear piercings.

Types of Earrings

And now we have made it to our most important part of a guide to earrings. Generally speaking, the most common and popular types of earrings are studs, drops, and hoops. There’s also a sub-category of chandeliers and then there’s also Huggies, Clip-on, and Ear cuffs. Let’s dive into them and see what are the benefits and downsides of each one of them. Maybe you’ll find something new that you might add to your earrings collection.

picture of two diamond stud earringsStuds - they’re the most popular amongst earrings. They work with and without gemstones in them. They can be worn with casual jeans and a tee up to dress, they fit with almost any outfit. Diamond studs usually look the best, because of the gem that stands out. These earrings are your go-to, they don’t have any troubling downsides. Studs also make great gifs.

Hoop type

two silver hoop earringsHoops - These ones are classic. Whenever I think of Hoops first things that come to mind are the 80’s and 90’s. But don’t let their classic name fool you, they come in many forms that are quite modern. Hoops are metal earrings that are circle shape. For more color and sparkle they might have gemstones embedded within them. Their size also varies, they might be large or small. They can be worn with formal and everyday outfit depending on the complexity of the hoop.
A pair of Huggies earrings filled with diamond stonesHuggies - These are like modern hoops, no need to worry about them getting stuck. They are small and keep close to your earlobes. They often are covered with gemstones or diamonds. Wearing them with a smart outfit suits them.

Drop type

A pair of drop earrings with heart shaped diamonsDrops - also a great option when choosing earrings. Drops have a variety of lengths and shapes. They have a gemstone in the center or multiple linked gemstones. They can be all metal as well. Drops are also well-rounded earrings that go with casual or formal wear very smoothly. Since they don’t hang to low you can wear them effortlessly with any hair length. Because of their options in styles, they also make for exclusive gifts.
A pair of Chandelier earrings filled with diamondsChandeliers - Are complex and longer than drops. They often consist of multiple metal elements and gems, because of this be wary of their weight. Their size and weight might be a strain for your earlobes and shouldn’t be worn for long periods. Also, keep in mind that they might get tangled with your hair. Taking all that in an account, they are dramatic looking and provide great looks. 


Clip-on - Don’t want to get your ear lobes pierced? Clip-on’s might just be for you. They were popular during the ’70s but since ear piercing became popular they became less relevant. However nowadays magnetic clip-on’s and softer clip-on’s have emerged. Which just might be more comfortable to your ears.
picture of womans ear with ear cuff earrings attachedEar-cuffs - Also don’t require piercings. They hug close to your ear cartilage. They can follow the ear curve all the way to top, beginning from the lobe. They work great with short hair or hairstyle which doesn’t cover your ear. Be careful, if cuff feels loose they are easy to lose.

There are few more earrings styles but they are quite similar to others, thus further categorizing them might cause more confusion. However, perhaps you might come across some special or new designs that we haven’t covered. But there’s also an important feature that you can categorize earrings with and that is earring back.

Earrings Backs

Knowing whats keeping your earrings in place is always beneficial. Since who wants to lose their earrings. Knowing which earrings might come loose without you knowing or feeling it, might save you from many headaches. There’s also a general rule: “the finer the jewelry, the better the backings”. 

screw back earring, with the screw part in focusScrew back - Pretty much what the name says, a wire that comes from the back of the earring and has a screw that screws itself on it, like a bolt and nut. They often indicate earring quality. Losing a diamond earring is something no one ever wants to experience.
push back earring, with the stud in focusPush-back - This is quite similar to screw back however instead of screwing the back on you need to push the stud into it. They are held together by tension, thus sometimes they are called tension backs.
Hinge back earrings with the lock part in focusHinge back -  While being similar to clip-on type but the latch is curved like a fishing hook and it can be opened and closed. Due to their design they might be uncomfortable to wear. But they can be adjusted by the jewelry if required.
Fish hook -  Looking like a fish hook but without a latch and made for earrings. They are common among drop and tangling types of earrings. The length of the hook and earring balance out, this makes the earring stay in place.

And this pretty much covers our definitive guide to earrings, we also wrote about Best earrings for your face shape. If you feel this guide helped you share it with your friends. We especially left out the earring fashion because of its depth, but we tried to cover it see - A guide to earrings fashion 2020.

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