Gold and diamond earrings are absolutely one of the best possible gifts for the modern woman. But who invented the first pair of earrings? And what have earrings symbolised in the fields of economics, politics and faith throughout the course of history? BAUNAT explains it all in this guide.

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The concise history of earrings

Earrings have had a long history and various functions depending on the period and the people who were wearing them. You can find a brief history of earrings here:
William Shakespeare with earring. Men could wear earrings, too. – BAUNAT

  • Gold, silver and bronze earrings were already known in the Minoan civilization (3000 - 1200 BC). They were worn as body decorations. They may even be older, as older mummies have been found with pierced ears.

  • In the Middle Ages, women often wore jewellery in their hair, and their hair came below the ears. So earrings were superfluous at that time.

  • Popularity increased In the 16th century — among men, too. William Shakespeare and Francis Drake, among others, often wore earrings. Sailors also wore earrings symbolically.

  • By the 60s, more and more women had started piercing their ears. This had not been done for some time. Around this time, earrings also acquired additional meanings: as a sign of non-conformism in hippies, as a tribute to their roots for Black people, or as an expression of sexual orientation in men.

The first people to wear earrings

Long before our time, the Minoans wore gold earrings. The Minoan civilisation had been established on the Greek island of Crete between 3,000 and 1,200 BC. The Minoans traded with neighbouring populations in Asia Minor, Turkey, Greece, Egypt and Phoenicia. They were masters in metalwork, and made jewellery out of bronze, copper, silver and gold.
The history of earrings goes back a long way. Around 5000 years or more.
Gold earrings are also mentioned in the Bible. While Moses was talking to God on Mount Sinai, his brother and high priest, Aaron, asked the Israelites to melt their wives', sons' and daughters' gold earrings into a golden calf. This idol was worshipped by the people as the God who had delivered them from Egypt.

Cultural references to earrings

For a long time, earrings were not only used for decoration. Throughout history, earrings often had symbolic meaning, or were a kind of financial safety net.

Pirates with earrings

The most common depiction of a pirate is as a bearded man with an eye patch, wooden leg and an earring. Earrings seem perfectly respectable. So why do pirates wear them? The most plausible explanation is that the jewellery was a kind of insurance for when pirates and sailors died at sea. If their bodies washed up somewhere, selling the gold earrings would pay for their burial. Others claim gold earrings were a sign of experience or a status symbol: the larger the earrings, the longer the wearer had sailed the world's oceans.
That pirates wore gold earrings is no myth, but an historical fact.
Fishermen also wore an earring as identification in case their ship was wrecked, or to pay for their burial. Today, earrings are more a tradition with fishermen and a tribute to the profession.
Earrings have various meanings in India. - BAUNAT
According to yet another theory, the tradition has something to do with Eastern medicine, and, more specifically, auriculotherapy. This is a form of acupuncture performed on the outer ear. Doctors were using this technique widely in the 18th and 19th centuries. In traditional medicine in the Netherlands, wearing a gold earring was recommended for curing and preventing eye problems. Pirates might have worn earrings to see better.
Martin Luther King quote. For black men, earrings denoted non-conformism. - BAUNAT

Earrings and political movements

Some white Americans remained convinced that the white race was superior, long after the abolition of slavery. Following the Second World War, self-awareness grew among the Black population. Martin Luther King's “I have a dream speech” set in motion the movement that fought for racial equality in America. The Black Power movement emerged in the late 1960s, which proudly promoted collective values and interests. Supporters wore gold earrings to honour their African descent.
In the 60s, hippies used to wear earrings as a symbol of rebellion and non-conformism. Men also started wearing earrings to show their sexual orientation. Heterosexual men wore their earring in the left ear, homosexual men wore one in the right. That distinction is much less pronounced these days.

Earrings today

These days, men and women of every age, race and social class wear gold earrings, with or without diamonds. Purely for decorative reasons in the West, but in other cultures earrings also carry a religious meaning. Muslim men are not allowed to wear gold jewellery, for instance. Some Jewish scribes see gold as a symbol of luxury which leads to ruin.
Small creole earrings by BAUNAT. These earrings are mainly a fashion item these days.

Creole earrings

Creole earrings are very popular today with trendy women. Creole earrings are large, round earrings which have recently gained in popularity. They symbolise resilience, strength and identity in some Black and Caribbean cultures. In recent years, these earrings have grown into a true fashion item and a popular accessory, with the stunning Rihanna wearing conspicuous, large gold earrings, bringing creole earrings back into fashion..

Browse these smaller creole earrings from BAUNAT now

Women should never go without earrings. Passing on them is an opportunity missed.
Rihanna wearing large creole earrings. These earrings find their roots in slavery. - BAUNAT - Rihanna
Creole earrings are now a distinct form of self expression inspired by African and Caribbean ancestry and are regarded as one of the most historic design styles ever created.

Are you looking for the perfect pair of earrings?

Are you not sure which type of earrings you like? There are plenty of designs, so you can certainly find a style which makes your personality shine through. As well as creole earrings, we also have stud earrings, designer earrings and drop earrings in our extensive earring collection. Would you prefer to come in and try them first, instead of ordering online? Book an appointment online at one of our showrooms.

What else should you know about earrings?

After reading this blog, you already know a little more about earrings in all shapes and sizes. There is much more to discover in the blogs below about earrings, stud earrings, wedding earrings, which earrings suit you best or how to wear statement earrings. For other questions and specialist advice, you can always get in touch with our experts.

Frequently asked Questions

What are diamond earrings?

Diamond stud earrings are the perfect gift for your girlfriend, wife or fiancée. Every woman wants a pair. Diamond earrings are probably the most versatile piece of jewellery out there. You can wear them with anything and on every occasion. Diamond earrings can be worn for casual evenings out, but are well suited for work and formal occasions as well.

Brilliant earrings are the most magnificent variety of diamond earrings. Also with the precious metal you have a wide array of options, with earrings in white goldyellow goldred gold and platinum. Certain earrings for women, such as the diamond studs, saw big changes and are now suited for both genders.

Related information:

1. What are diamond necklaces?

2. What are diamond pendants?

What are diamond necklaces?

The diamond necklace is a jewelry designer's most expansive canvas. It is a medium for expressing both the sublime and the beautiful. The allure of our diamonds, in the hands of the world's most skilled artisans, produces jewelry of outstanding quality and significance.

Related information:

1. What are diamond earrings?

2. What are diamond pendants?

What are diamond pendants?

Throughout time, pendants and diamonds have held a special meaning for various different cultures. Diamond pendants are worn for more than just their ornamental value, as they also express the identity and social status of the person wearing them. What a diamond pendant is depends on the culture it comes from and the meaning behind it. Diamond pendants have also been associated with mysterious powers of protection.

Related information:

1. What are diamond earrings?

2. What are diamond necklaces?

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