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History of diamond earrings

Precious stones and metals have been used to adorn the human body since the dawn of humanity. Ancient peoples, both male and female, all over the world found ways to decorate themselves from head to toe. They draped chains of precious metal around their necks, wore circles of gems on their wrists and ankles, slipped rings of gold and silver on their fingers and hung decorative jewels from their ears.

These decorative markers may have been symbols of a person’s religion, marital status, rank, status or wealth. There were times when people of non-noble, or ‘common’, birth would not have been allowed to wear such fine things. Back then, only the most noble and wealthy individuals or families could afford something as rare and precious as a pair of diamond earrings at all.

Today, no outfit feels complete without earrings and diamonds just make them even more special. Men and women alike sport diamond earrings in both casual and formal settings and there are options (even in diamonds) for many different budgets.

Early earrings were most often actual rings or crescents of metal or carved stone slipped through a pierced hole in the earlobe. The oldest earrings that archaeologists have found are thought to be between 8,500-8,200 years old. The jade rings were unearthed by the Chinese at the Xinglongwa culture site in Inner Mongolia. While, the ancient Egyptians put mushroom-shaped plugs in enlarged holes in their lobes.

Earrings disappeared almost entirely in Europe between the 11th and 16th centuries. Women, who before this had become the primary wearers of earrings, were wearing hairstyles and head coverings that obscured the ears entirely. This made earrings an unnecessary adornment and expense.

The 16th century saw a shift from head covering and high ruffs to standing collars, bringing the ears back into view. Improved gem-cutting techniques had developed in the meantime and gemstones, including diamonds, could now be worn as earrings. That is, if one could afford them!

 

Fashions for the wealthy became increasingly elaborate in the 17th and 18th centuries. Two of the most popular styles for earrings were the girandole and the pendeloque. Women would wear them in pairs, more than one set if she could afford to, and men wore them in only on one ear. The girandole was rather like a chandelier with a single top station that branched to support three drops. The pendeloque had a top station that held a single long drop (like a pendulum). As hairstyles grew to towering proportions, earrings grew longer and heavier and were often tied into a woman’s wig for support.

The 19th century saw a shift to the neoclassic look and earrings became simpler and lighter. Historical styles were revisited with newer techniques. Then, in the middle of the 1800s, another hairstyle almost wiped out earrings once more. This style in the 1840s and 50s looped the hair around the ears, covering them, and then gathered it at the nape. Soon, this too passed and once more earring became a fashion staple.

When the South African diamond fields were opened in the late-1860s, diamond solitaires became the standard of sophistication that we still revere today. The open-claw setting had been developed by then. This increased the amount of light that passed through the diamond, giving it, and thus its wearer, added sparkle.

By the 1920s it seemed that no woman went without her earrings, even if many wore ‘paste’ imitations instead of genuine diamonds. Today, we have endless options in diamond earrings, as well as many other gemstones. From sleek, modern designs to a classical esthetic, you can find any style you crave. Accessories make the outfit and diamond earrings will complete any look!

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