Earrings, earrings, earrings – a history of….

Earrings, earrings, earrings… a history of earrings!

Here at FiorSó we love earrings! We design them, we make them, we sell them, we wear them – and in our opinion earrings are the most wonderful pieces of jewellery for showcasing beautiful designs and colours.

But what is the origin of earrings?

Origination of Earrings

Earrings have been around for a very long time.

There is evidence of cultures wearing earrings in pre-Biblical times – over 3000 years BC – from ancient cultures in India, Mesopotamia and Crete, to the Egyptians and Persians.

But did you know that the fashion for wearing earrings in Western Europe didn’t really take off until the late 1500s during the Renaissance Period?

Why did earrings originate?

There are many different reasons why people have worn earrings over the years.

For example:

  • To carry wealth: Wearing jewellery, including earrings, was a way to carry your wealth around with you, in particular for nomadic people.
  • Religious reasons: Some ancient tribes are thought to have worn earrings to ward off evil spirits from entering their minds through their ears!
  • To show status:
    • In some ancient cultures earrings were worn by the lower classes, and in others earrings were worn as a sign of wealth by upper classes and royalty.
    • In other cultures marital status was shown through earrings.
  • To show political loyalties: In the Renaissance Period in Western Europe, for example, courtier men started wearing earrings in direct contradiction to the Church’s edicts.
  • To symbolise social and political change: In the Art Deco era earrings became a symbol of women’s liberation. Read more about that here.
  • As decorative items: This is reason why we wear earrings nowadays.

Who wore earrings – and why – some interesting facts

Who and why people wore earrings over the years depends on the culture and period of time.

Some examples are:

The Persian Empire

  • Only men, especially soldiers wore earrings – and they are often depicted in paintings as only wearing one earring.

Ancient Egypt

  • Children commonly wore earrings – this is thought to have been evidenced by Tutankhamun’s earrings holes and him only being 18 or 19 when he died.
  • Cats are also showed as wearing earrings in paintings and statues, and mummified cats have been found buried with their jewellery!

Ancient Rome

  • In early Ancient Rome periods, both men and women wore earrings – indeed Julius Caesar is thought to have been a fan.
  • During later Ancient Roman periods, it was mainly women who wore earrings.

Ainu of Japan

  • The men and women on the Ainu people of Japan both wore earrings – although the practice for men wearing earrings was later curtailed in the late 1800s by the Japanese government who declared this should be a practice only for women.

1200s Western Europe

  • The Church banned ear piercing, deeming it ungodly to mutilate the body – so during this time only those who lived on the edges of the law like pirates and thieves tended to wear earrings!

Renaissance Period in Western Europe (1300s-1600s)

  • The revival of earrings in the Renaissance Period may have been a reaction to the 1200s when the Church banned ear piercing as a ungodly act.
  • During the Renaissance Period it was mainly upper class men who wore earrings – a somewhat maverick move at a time when the Church still held great power, with some clergymen describing men who wore earrings as “lusty”!
  • There is also evidence that a man would wear two earrings to signal that he was the last of his family line, so he would be exempted from fighting in armies in case he was killed and his family name disappeared.
  • Sailors also wore earrings (often gold), the idea being that if they drowned and were washed up, the earrings could be used to pay for a burial.
…And to more modern times? Earrings have signified major political and social change – for example in the Art Deco period which you can read more about in our blog  here.


So earrings clearly have a long and rich history. Nowadays earrings are mostly worn as decorative items – which is fine with us!

You can see our earring collections at www.fiorso.ie