Antique Earrings: Type, History & Style

Unlike most modern jewellery, antique pieces are hand-made and thus have a unique personality. Consequently, they have an alluring whimsical aura that cannot be imitated.

Aside from their beauty, antique earrings are a symbol of history and culture. These antique earrings are a must have for any jewelry lover!

History of Earrings

Earrings are among the most popular and common forms of jewelry. In ancient times, both men and women wore earrings. They were often used as a symbol of wealth or status and they were also worn as an indication of religious beliefs or affiliations.

Hoop and pendant earrings can be traced back to 2500 BC. Gold hoops are one of the earliest types of ear jewelry. They are also found on the remains of women from the Roman period.

During the Renaissance era earrings were not very popular as women wore elaborate wigs and high collared dresses that obscured their ears. They almost disappeared until the late 18th century when the popularity of long hair brought them back in style. In the southwest Native peoples, a Navajo earring style known as tu oi naka (meaning blue corn stacked up) consists of a stone cabochon set with silver leaves and flowers.

Types of Earrings

Earrings are available in an array of shapes, styles and materials. The types of earrings you choose should reflect your personal style and complement the look of your outfits and hairstyles.

Hoop Earrings

These are metal tube earrings that form a circular or semi-circular shape when worn. They can be plain or adorned with decorative elements such as gemstones, charms or intricate designs. They also come in a variety of sizes, from small and subtle to large and statement-making.

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Cluster Earrings

These earrings feature multiple gemstones or decorative elements closely arranged in a compact design. They may have a central focal point or be designed to resemble flowers, geometric patterns or other shapes. They are often chosen for formal wear or to add a touch of elegance to evening attire.

Materials

Whether acquired through an estate sale, inherited or purchased for a special occasion, antique jewelry needs proper care to retain its appealing luster and enticing shine. Cleaning methods vary depending on the type of antique.

For example, gold jewelry can be cleaned using an ammonia solution: mix one part ammonia to two parts warm water in a bowl, dip the piece briefly to remove loose debris, then use a soft-bristled toothbrush to brush and rinse. Dry the jewelry with a lint-free microfiber towel.

Before buying antique earrings, determine what they are made of. Imitation materials such as Bakelite, glass and other modern plastics can fool the untrained eye. Mold lines, uneven color and patterns are telltale signs of machine-made pieces. Hallmarks and identifying marks are other clues to help identify the material.

Styles

Antique earrings are available in a wide variety of styles. From simple studs to elaborate dangles and chandelier earrings, there is something to suit everyone’s tastes. You can even find vintage-style dream catcher earrings for those who want to add a bit of witchy flair to their look.

Antique rings have also gained popularity recently. According to jewelry industry publication Rapaport, engagement rings inspired by the 1920s and 1930s are especially popular. These rings often feature geometric designs and contrasting colors. They may also include details such as milgrain engraving and filigree.

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If you have antique earrings that you no longer wear, consider selling them. You could use the proceeds to purchase a new pair of earrings for yourself or to give as a gift.

Value

Earrings are vulnerable to a number of perils. Their small size, proximity to the skin, and exposure to the elements make them susceptible to loss, breakage and even damage. This is why it is important to have your fine jewelry and antique earrings appraised on a regular basis for resale and insurance purposes.

Nostalgia, whimsy and provenance all play a role in the value of antique jewelry. It is also important to distinguish between fine and costume jewelry. A piece of carved bakelite, for example, may not be valuable in and of itself, but if it is a rare or desirable design, its value soars.

It’s also worth familiarizing yourself with different styles from different eras, so you can recognize what you have and know its history. For example, a Scottish kilt plaid brooch made of silver and cabochon stones adheres to the Arts and Crafts principles that date back to the 1860s.