Ancient earrings - A History of Earrings: Part 1


Monday 29th September 2014

Throughout jewellery history, earrings have taken a variety of forms, decorating ears and beautifully framing the face of women from Ancient Greece right through to the present day. Earrings have long been symbols power, wealth and importance. They are particularly visible as they are the closest adornment to the wearer's eyes, heightening their value and influence. We have a range of antique earrings dating from as far back as Ancient Greece and Rome, through to Victorian, Art Deco and vintage 70's pieces.

Ancient Greece and Rome

The goldsmiths of The Ancient World, inspired by art, science and detail, made the majority of jewellery with two basic elements, sheet metal and wire. They would heat the metal and use hammers, files and chisels to handcraft their creations. Earrings were mostly made with these fine gold sheets, and they would use filigree, twists and granules as decoration. Repoussé features heavily in Ancient earrings, an embossing technique involving hammering the sheet metal to create a repeating textured pattern of differing reliefs. Stamping the sheet metal was a similar technique, often used to recreate the same motif on each ear piece.

Most of the decorative wirework was made from sheet metal, hammered and rolled into thin strips between two plates. The wire would then have been stretched to become finer still. For ornamental work, two wires would be wound together and twisted to form a broader more interesting design. Filigree was created with these wires, soldered onto the sheet metal into patterns of spirals and circles. Granulation, the crafting of fine spherical gold grains was a highly skilled technique, and we are still not certain today on how it was created.

The techniques outlined above often made the earrings seem more massive than they actually were, meaning they are remarkably comfortable and light to wear. This ornamental metal work was seen throughout Ancient Greece and Rome, often combined with the use of coloured glass beads and precious pearls. Styles varied from simple hoops and discs, to crescents with colourful beads, and intricate metal patternation, some more elaborate examples extending further down the neck as pendant drops.

Ancient earrings are surprisingly wearable and are incredible survivors of near on two thousand years of history. These craftsmen of Ancient Greece and Rome inspired jewellers for centuries to come. Find your perfect pair of ancient earrings in our collection of museum quality pieces.

front view ancient roman gold earrings berganza hatton garden
Ancient Roman earrings, 2nd century AD.
Ref: 17125
front view ancient roman gold earrings berganza hatton garden
Ancient Roman gold earrings, circa 5th century AD.
Ref: 20796
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