What are the Different Types of Earrings?

Paulla Estes
Paulla Estes

Earrings are more than just decorative jewelry for the ear lobes; they represent style, flair, and the way a person sees herself. This jewelry are available in two basic types, pierced and clip-on, and from there they branch out into a wide variety of shapes and styles. Of pierced earrings, popular styles include simple studs, posts with dangling objects hanging off the front, and posts which hold either a round hoop or hugged-style. Many pierced types attach to the ear with a wire running through the earlobe rather than a post. Clip-ons lost much of their popularity when pierced types shot into style in the 1970s, but have since made a comeback in the last decade. They are just what the name implies: rather than attaching to the ear with a hole through the earlobe, they clip on with a spring attachment or screw-in post.

Ears can be pierced at any age.
Ears can be pierced at any age.

Both men and women of any age can wear earrings. Many cultures pierce the ears of newborn babies and the jewelry is worn long into old age. While fancy, jeweled earrings are often reserved for evening wear, every other shape and style can be worn with any fashion, either casual or formal, night or day. They are often used to signify special events such as holidays or parties, and fine jeweled pieces are popular gift ideas for birthdays, graduations and weddings. Earrings can enhance a hair style, dangling down with flowing long hair or accentuating a short bob.

A wearer's personality can be reflected in their earring style choices.
A wearer's personality can be reflected in their earring style choices.

Earrings are thought to have originated in Asia and the Middle East. Both hoop and pendant types have been found that date back to about 2000 BC. Pierced earrings date back to ancient Egypt around 1500 BC. They were always a sign of wealth and prosperity, as only affluent women could afford the precious metals of which they were made. Throughout the Dark Ages and Middle Ages, women were usually too poor to own earrings and up until late in the Renaissance, this jewelry was looked upon as flashy and inappropriate for proper women.

A woman wearing a post earring and a hoop earring.
A woman wearing a post earring and a hoop earring.

They became popular again in 17th century Europe as styles changed and new ideas were adopted. Queen Victoria set a trend in 19th century Europe with her long, jeweled earrings. By the middle of the 20th century, earrings of all shapes and sizes were more popular than ever, though there was a clear distinction between more conservative types worn during the day, and the more ostentatious ones worn in the evenings. In the 1970s, pierced varieties gained popularity and at the same time, styles merged and were no longer segregated to either day or night wear. While their popularity has risen and fallen over the years, they have always been a part of fashion.

Studs are a popular type of pierced earrings.
Studs are a popular type of pierced earrings.
Paulla Estes
Paulla Estes

Paulla is a freelance writer and website editor who currently lives in Maine. Paulla has a B.A. in English Literature from George Mason University and over 15 years of experience as a freelancer. She relishes the flexibility and consistency of working on wiseGEEK articles, as well as the opportunity to constantly learn something new.

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Discussion Comments


I love earrings! I have my ears triple pierced.


@ZipLine-- You should definitely consider the shape of your face.

I have a round face and I've noticed that dangle earrings do not look good on me. I stick to stud earrings for this reason. I think dangle earrings, especially chandeliers, look better on people with a long face.

The color of your outfit, the occasion and comfort all should be considered when picking out earrings. If you have a sensitivity to certain metals, like an allergy, that's definitely something to be aware of as well.


What type of things should I consider when picking out earrings? For example, do I need to consider my facial features?


My mom pierced my ears when I was six months old. It's usually not recommended to do this so early, but she's really fond of earrings so she wanted me to wear them as a baby.

She's a nurse so she pierced my ears herself with a sterilized needle. Apparently, I didn't cry much either. So I've been wearing earrings my whole life.

My very first earrings, which I still have by the way, were flower shaped gold earrings with turquoise colored petals. It was the type that goes through and attaches at the back of the earring. I'm keeping it as a memory. Who knows, maybe it will be my daughter's first earrings as well.


My favorite pair of earrings is my silver dangle earrings. Several solid silver leaves are hooked together to form a very flashy cluster that dangles down to about three inches below my ear lobes. They look so cool when the light hits them.


I like to make my own jewelry, and I recently stumbled onto a design for handmade earrings that all my friends love. Someone asked me if I could create a daisy earring using only wire, and I did it.

The daisies are about an inch and a half across, and I only used one continuous piece of wire to make the petals and the center. They are very fun and move around a lot when you wear them.


@shell4life – It might be that the earrings you are currently wearing are causing a reaction in your ears. Maybe you should switch to a hypoallergenic material.

I have a friend who can only wear 14k gold earrings, because she is allergic to all other types of posts. Since she began wearing them, she hasn't had any problems with cysts or itching.

As for your question about clip-on earrings, it all depends on the specific pair. I've worn some that pressed too much, while others could barely hang onto my ear lobes.

I will say that if you go the clip-on route, make sure you don't buy any that are very heavy. They will drag your ear lobes down over time, and they will be more likely to cause pain.


I think that gemstone earrings are so pretty. I love the little studs that are small yet tremendously sparkly.

I got my ears pierced a few months ago, and I was so looking forward to wearing these kind of earrings. Unfortunately, I think I'm going to have to let my holes grow up, because they keep itching terribly, and cysts are forming in my ear lobes.

Does it hurt at all to wear clip-on earrings? Do they apply a lot of pressure to the ear lobe, or is it barely noticeable?


Well, I'm an 8 year old kid and i got my ears pierced today at Claires. Also,this article doesn't talk about the risks of piercing ears.


Don't forget ear cuffs - those have gotten popular also - they fasten onto the upper part of the ear without any piercings required. I read somewhere too that old-fashioned earrings - they may have been the "earbobs" of Scarlett O'Hara's day - looped around the hear and hung that way so that the ears did not have to be pierced.

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