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A brief history of earrings through the ages

history of earrings

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 of power, wealth and importance. They are particularly visible as they are the closest adornment to the wearer's eyes, heightening their value and influence.

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. This ornamental metal work is often combined with the use of coloured glass beads and precious pearls.

Queen Victoria reigned from 1837 to 1901, a total of 64 years. Her tastes dictated the fashion of the time, mirrored by the wives of members of the courts and wealthy women alike. Interestingly, earrings took a backseat through the 1840s and 1850s, as the favoured hairstyle involved centre parted hair which was usually styled to loop over the ears. After the passing of Prince Albert in 1861, Queen Victoria began her mourning and the country joined her. Jewellery was often set with jet and onyx, darker gemstones which reflected the mood of the country.

At the beginning of the 19th century a key development was the use of the new metal, platinum. It was first seen in jewellery at the beginning of the Edwardian period. This opened up a new world for jewellery makers. At this time, platinum was largely used in the settings of pieces. It was used for its strength, and also its ability to be finely worked. These involved elegant garlands, bows and ribbons. Similarly, with the influence of nature, pansies, floral motifs, and daisy clusters, both drops and studs, along with single diamond earrings were in fashion.

Come the 1920's, the Art Deco era embraced right angles and bold, sharp lines, along with striking bursts of colour against bright white diamonds and platinum settings. In terms of earrings, craftsmen re-styled the classics including girandoles and long pendant drops into more contemporary pieces. These long styles worked beautifully with the shorter haircuts of the day. Coloured gemstones featured heavily, usually being the central point of the piece which were brought to life by accompanying diamonds.

The statement 70’s saw a resurgence in yellow gold earrings and were often set with strong and bold opaque colours. Earrings tended to be larger to be visible under the large afro and beehive hair styles of the era. Earrings were often set with vibrant colours and emerged a very popular design still to this day, the hoop.

At Berganza, we have a range of wearable, unique and distinctive antique and vintage earrings, spanning many centuries and design periods. Find the perfect earrings for that special occasion or to add some sparkle to your daily wear.

antique diamond stud earrings berganza hatton garden
Antique diamond coronet cluster earrings, English, circa 1880.
Ref: 26189
Ruby and diamond tassle earrings berganza hatton garden
Ruby and diamond tassle earrings, circa 1920.
Ref: 24782
cartier ruby diamond sapphire emerald earrings berganza
Cartier vintage ruby, sapphire, emerald and diamond earrings, English, 1978.
Ref: 26224
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Updated 16/04/2024 at 10:48AM

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