Earwires: What's Good for What Job Earwires: What's Good for What Job

by Barbara van Look, Content Development Group, Fire Mountain Gems and BeadsĀ®

The necklace may be the oldest form of jewelry, but earrings aren't that far behind. In ancient Egypt and Babylon, both men and women pierced their ears. Otzi the Iceman had pierced ears, as did Julius Caesar and King Tut. Through the centuries, earrings have kept their place as jewelry for the ages.

Earstud Components

While post styles of earrings were worn by the Etruscans before the rise of Rome, the post or stud style of earrings we know today were first commonly available in the 1920s. Since then, the earstud/earpost component has been available in a variety of metals and finishes, ranging from empty mountings to pre-set with gemstones.

Some variations of the earstud/earpost component include loops or holes for creating earrings with drops. Earstud components can be enameled, painted, embossed, engraved or otherwise embellished. Other styles include recognizable shapes (such as spirals, crosses, animals or more) as well as cups, pegs or flat pads for adding half-drilled beads, pearls or cabochons.

Post or stud earrings can carry heavier embellishments than many wire styles, due to the thickness of their construction. Post-style earrings, especially styles without drops or loops, do not tangle in hair, collars, bridal veils or other hair treatments and keep attention at the cheekbones.

Hook Earwires

Hook and hook-style earwires are one of the earliest forms of earrings, used as early as Roman times. Kidney-style earwires are found on earrings from the Victorian era, with the French hook not far behind. The fishhook earwire, with its coil or ball (or both!), is a relative latecomer to the party but has become the most common seen of the earwire styles.

Hook and hook-style earwires offer an extremely wide range of materials, sizes, styles and weights. This ear finding is the most popular, and jewelry makers experiment with it frequently. The variety of wire weights used to create earwires allows for extremely lightweight designs, especially when combined with wood, acrylic or fiber components.

Styles such as the kidney earwire, with built-in latch, allow for added security without added weight. Perfect balance earwires have angular fronts to help prevent ''tip-out''--that moment when a fishhook style earwire just falls out the front of the ear.

Ear Threads

Also called earthreaders, threader earrings and other names, this new earring form consists of a short post with attached chain. Some variations of ear threads include loops for adding drops; cups and pegs for adding half-drilled beads or half-drilled pearls; and recognizable shapes such as spirals, crosses and more.

The post serves as a ''needle,'' allowing the chain to be threaded front-to-back through the ear. Includes a variety of metals, chain lengths, chain types and embellishment styles. Ear threads can be embellished to create long, lean earrings that sway with every movement.

Hoop Earring Components

Hoop earrings aren't just for pirates anymore. Hoop and hoop-style earrings were worn as far back as the Bronze Age, in cultures around the world, for a variety of reasons. Hoops were worn to announce social superiority, flaunt or store wealth, indicate servitude and more. This eternally popular style has been made out of almost everything under the sun, such as gemstones, glass, acrylic, metals and organic materials.

Hoop earrings are now available in a wide variety of sizes, materials--even shapes! Hoops can be found in triangular, rectangular, square, oval and more. The traditional circular hoop shape can be found in a range of sizes, from the understated earlobe-hugging small loop to huge gypsy-style hoops festooned with crystals and drops. Frequently worn in secondary ear piercings, the hoop is as popular in the Information Age as it was in the Bronze Age.

Leverback Earring Components

The leverback or hinged earwire has been seen on earrings dating from the 1880s. The leverback is designed to snap tightly over the wire without causing discomfort to the wearer, yet remaining comfortable to use. This earring style is immensely popular for fine jewelry in gold and silver as the leverback design helps prevent earring loss.

Immensely popular in European jewelry, the leverback recently made a transition to the North American market. It is growing in popularity due to its low profile, sturdy construction and additional security. The leverback is available in multiple styles; some have attached or dangling embellishments, some have single preset stones--some have both. Other leverback styles are equipped with loops for attaching dangles and drops, pegs for half-drilled pearls and beads or empty settings for cabochons and faceted gemstones.

Clip-On Earring Components

During the early 20th Century, the clip-on and screwback earring findings were invented, meaning women no longer had to pierce their ears to wear earrings. In some circles, ear piercing was considered barbaric, gauche--even unsanitary.

Clip-ons, earclips and screwback earring findings allow designers to create comfortable styles for non-pierced ears. There are also hoop earring styles which use spring-loaded pressure to keep the earring on. Many findings include pegs, holes, loops and more to create the same fashion opportunities that exist for pierced earring wearers. Clip-on and earclip styles have also been used to create shoe-clips or shoe roses--interchangeable embellishments for footwear.

Half-Ball and Ball Post Earring Components

While post styles of earrings were worn by the Etruscans before the rise of Rome, the post or stud style of earring we know today were first commonly available in the 1920s. Since then, the earpost/earstud component has been available in a wide variety of styles.

One of the most popular is the ball post, which has a small metal ball on the front of the post, as an embellishment. The half-ball gives the appearance of a ball post yet has a lower profile and often less weight than an equivalent sized ball. Some variations of half-ball and ball post earring include loops for creating earrings with drops.

Chandelier Earring Components

Chandelier-style earrings have been popular in India and the Middle East for thousands of years, yet first appeared in western fashions during the 1920s. After decades in the shadows, they recently re-emerged into the limelight and are more popular than ever. Worn during the day for a casual, Bohemian look, chandelier-style earrings easily transition into evening and after-work events.

Chandelier earring components are the hoops, loops, filigree and wire components supporting the dangles, chains, sparkling crystals and drops. Find them in a variety of metals, finishes and designs to create dazzling designs.


With the development of the post-style earring came the need to secure it from falling out. The ''butterfly clutch'' earnut was used as early as the 1920s, while barrel style earnuts were first patented and used in the late 1940s. The selection of earnut styles has expanded to include threaded earnuts for screw-style posts; monster earnuts, comfort clutches and stabilizers for larger, heavier styles; and rubber earnuts which blend into the back of the ear.

Earwires, especially the popular French hook, also have earnuts that prevent earring loss: rubber-lined capsule earnuts, soft rubber earwire safety sleeves and nearly-invisible clear plastic earnuts.

Customer Comments

We would like to share some of the customer comments we received in response to the article, "Earwires: What's Good for What Job," featured in a newsletter. Please keep in mind that the comments expressed below are those of our customers and do not reflect the views of Fire Mountain Gems and Beads.

"Hello, yes, I found it immensely helpful! Thanks."
- Debbie

"Very interesting topic! I love to know the history of things and it's wonderful to educate yourself in all aspects of your interests!!"
- Julie

"I found the article to be very informative. Thanks for making it available."
- Fran and Chet
"Great article! She did a great job! Nice pix to go with it. I had wanted to hear a little more in-depth for examples of using the ear wires which curl around on the bottom. I like that they just hold the stone or crystal in suspension."
- Karen

"Very good article, Thank you so much."
- Chris

"I like the article very much, sometimes we do and use things not knowing the history behind. Thanks for all your tips and information."
- Anonymous