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Earrings made of yellow gold, white gold , red gold or platinum are the perfect gift for every woman. Men are now also increasingly wearing one or more earrings. But has this always been the case? And have gold earrings always been purely decorative? Discover what gold earrings have meant throughout history here, in the areas of economy, politics, religion and culture.
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How long have gold earrings been around?
Did you know that gold earrings were being made by, for example, the Minoans, long before Christ? The Minoan civilisation was located on the Greek island of Crete between the third millennium before Christ and 1200 before Christ. We are not sure how this civilisation first came about. However, what we do know is that this was the first large civilisation in Europe.
The economy was incredibly important in order to maintain that civilisation. The Minoans therefore traded with neighbouring people in Asia Minor, the peninsula in the far west of Asia which covered part of Turkey and the Greek mainland. The island’s location in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea strengthened its trading position.
The Egyptians and the Phoenicians, the current Lebanese, also travelled to Crete in order to exchange their goods. The Minoans had become masters in metalworking as a result of their many contacts with various other peoples. Some of the things they made included very fine jewellery of bronze, copper and gold, including gold earrings.
Even the Bible refers to gold earrings. Although admittedly in a less positive light. When Moses walked up the Sinai hill to talk to God, the people had to wait a long time for him. They all gathered around Aaron, who, according to the Hebrew Bible, was Moses’ brother and the first high priest of the Israelites, asking him to make them a God who could go before them.
They didn’t believe Moses would come back down from the mountain and Aaron therefore answered: “Ask your wives, sons and daughters to take off their gold earrings and bring them to me.” Once he had melted all the earrings, he made a golden calf, which was worshipped by the people like the God who had freed them from Egypt. Which didn’t go down too well with Moses and God ...
Why does a pirate wear a gold earring?
Two things which characterise a pirate are the famous ‘aargh’ cry and the gold earring. The cry is fictional, but the wearing of a gold earring can be explained and supported. One of the possible explanations is based on acupuncture, the Eastern healing method which involves inserting needles into the body.
A more recent Western form of acupuncture is auriculotherapy or ear acupuncture. This exclusively uses the concha, on which all parts of the body are projected. It can even help with eye complaints. And even though neurologist Paul Nogier didn’t introduce his auriculotherapy until 1957, it was already being used in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Descriptions were found from Valsalva and Malgaigne, two doctors from that period, about the positive effects of ear stimulation for nerve pain. And the Belgian and Dutch folk medicine talks about the benefits of wearing a gold earring for curing and even preventing eye complaints.
This custom was also observed with Hindus, Arabs and gypsies alike. But also with pirates, who were convinced it would improve their vision across the open seas. The well-known eye patch was also used to improve their vision. This was supposed to ensure one eye was always used to the dark. They would have to move it out of the way to instantly see better below deck.
Another explanation for the pirate’s gold earring is linked to the risk of dying at sea. It served like a kind of insurance for both pirates as well as other sailors. If they drowned and washed up on some unknown shore, the sale of their gold earrings could pay for their funeral. But if that actually happened like that ...
What political significance did gold earrings take on?
Just about every white American was convinced of the fact that the white race was superior until the Second World War. Even during the war, or at the very least at the start of the war, black people were kept apart from white people as much as possible and mostly used for carrying out the dirtier tasks.
Racial segregation was virtually untenable in the United States after the war. Black people from various different corners of the globe found their voices and let themselves be heard. Six civil rights organisations organised a march to Washington on 28th August 1963 for more employment, freedom and equality. This is where Martin Luther King’s legendary words were spoken: “I have a dream”.
In addition to the moderate civil rights movements, a more radical movement also arose in the 1960’s: black power. These Afro-Americans used to wear gold earrings to emphasise their identity. After all, jewellery had always formed part of the African culture and these were therefore added to the Black Panther Party uniform.
Another group started to oppose discrimination, violence, war and lovelessness in the late nineteen sixties: the hippies. The men who formed part of this youth culture wore earrings too. This is how men wearing earrings became the symbol of rebellion and non-conformist thinking.
Homosexuality became an easier topic of conversation in the swinging 60’s. Having said that, the homo-emancipation suffered a significant setback in the 1980’s with the discovery of AIDS. An increasing number of gay men started wearing an earring in their right ear during this period. An expression of their nature. Wearing an earring on the left hand side meant you were hetero. This statement came to an end halfway through the 1990’s.
How are earrings worn today?
Men, women, black, white, young, old, gay, straight ... these days everyone wears gold earrings. With no reason other than their decorative function. Or at least that’s the case in the Western culture. The wearing of earrings still appears to have a religious meaning in other cultures.
For example, in Islam men are forbidden to wear gold jewellery. Some Islamic scholars emphasised that gold symbolises luxuries which will ultimately lead to destruction. Other scholars subsequently claimed that gold had feminine characteristics which only a woman would be able to handle.
There are still plenty of modern Afro-Americans who are very fond of their ‘hoops’. As mentioned earlier in this article, members of the Black Power used to emphasise their identity with the wearing of gold earrings. The jewellery has therefore continued to be symbolic for the black culture right through history until the present day.
This really applies to jewellery in general. Have you ever noticed that rappers are usually laden down with gold chains? Gold jewellery is inextricably connected to the hip hop culture. Research has shown that this, on the one hand, was to compensate for the often poorer youth and, on the other, to make an impression on their rivals.
So it was really a case of ‘dress to impress’... Are you looking for a pair of gold earrings you can impress with? Discover yourself in the collection of authentic gold earrings or contact BAUNAT’s expert for a tailor-made piece of jewellery, made by hand.