Earrings & Beyond: The New World of Ear Adornment

If your jewelry wardrobe hasn’t been refreshed in a while, you may be surprised at the number and variety of developments in jewelry design that have made this an exciting time to explore new looks in jewelry. Although cutting edge, most of these designs are eminently wearable. The most significant developments reflect a new approach to adornment.

Earrings have taken new directions quite literally — moving upward and extending over a larger portion of the ears. With this new direction comes new terminology.

The initial groundbreaking forays into fresh adornment of the ears may be attributed to Dior, whose Mise en Dior front-back style earrings were ubiquitous in the fashion press in the autumn of 2013. I wrote about this style on October 2, 2013 in my post about stud earrings in my TrulyJewelry.com blog:

“One creative rethinking of stud earring design that has received a great deal of editorial attention is the Mise en Dior earring collection from Dior. The earrings are designed much like men’s cufflinks, with a small glass pearl on one end and a larger, more colorful bead on the other. The earrings are worn with the smaller of the beads in front of the ear with the larger one behind. The resulting look is fresh and unexpected.”

front-back earrings Emma Watson CU Dior earrings vogue.co.uk 2014 Golden Globes REV

Illustration:  Emma Watson wearing Mise en Dior earrings at the 2014 Golden Globes.

Notice that the Mise en Dior earring brings the front bottom of the earlobe slightly into prominence, a design that may not be flattering on large earlobes.

By the spring of 2014, earring jackets were back in the fashion spotlight in a big way. Traditionally, earring jackets are flat disks or other designs placed behind stud earrings, giving them more presence on the ears. They are affixed at the front of the ear. I wrote in my post on the new earring jackets in April 2014:

“”Ear jackets,” otherwise known as “stud earring jackets” or simply “earring jackets,” an add-on accessory for stud earrings, are receiving notice for their style potential this season. The latest styles go beyond designs that expand the perimeter of the stud earrings with which they are worn. They may attach to the earring posts behind the ears and may be worn singly for extra edginess.”

ear jackets 040714 People REV

“The April 7, 2014 issue of People magazine spotlights the ear jacket on the Style Watch page, reporting:  “The newest trend in ear candy is the ‘jacket’ which dangles from the post of a stud and is held in place with the earring back. Kate Mara wore a spiked gold one and completed the look by adding that other of-the-moment piece of jewelry: an ear cuff.“”

ear jackets_ Jacquie Aiche_yg_pave_starburst_ear_jacket REV FI

Illustration:  A close-up of the Jacquie Aiche ear jacket worn by Kate Mara.

In my post on June 2, 2014, I noted that the meaning of the term “front-back earrings” had expanded to include what looked very much like the new style of earring jackets:

front-back earrings 0614 People Style Watch REV

“The June 2014 issue of People Style Watch confirms that front-back earrings have become a new category of ear adornment. Featuring styles from Forever 21, ASOS, Rebecca Minkoff, and GoJane, the magazine notes: “These fun pairs add a touch of color, sparkle or cuteness–it’s a party from every angle!”"

The distinction between front-back earrings and earring jackets in the new sense of the term, generally seems to be that the earring jacket is generally worn on one ear only. In addition, many earring jackets appear to cradle the outside edge of the ear, whereas front-back earrings do not relate to the shape of the ear.

Speaking of styles worn on one ear only, this widely reported trend likely started with the second groundbreaking change in direction of the adornment of ears, with ear cuffs. This trend took off in 2013, as I wrote in an October 2013 blog post:

ear cuffs 1013 InStyle shop it accessories REV

Illustration:  report on ear cuffs in the October 2013 issue of InStyle magazine

“[T]he outer edge of the ear is the focus of the latest styles of jewelry for the ears. Some designs attach to the top or side edge of the ear; others hang over and around the entire ear. The designs are sometimes seen worn on one ear, sometimes on both ears, providing even more variety. All of these designs are referred to as “ear cuffs.”"

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“Ear cuffs are very much a fine jewelry phenomenon, not just a street trend. Writing in the September 2013 issue of Harper’s Bazaar, Emily Cronin writes, “what women want from jewelry is evolving. ‘Women are trying to find a different way to wear fine jewelry, where it’s not just the statement watch, the statement bracelet, and diamond studs,” says jewelry designer Jennifer Fisher. Instead designers like Fisher, Eva Zuckerman of Eva Fehren, Ana Khouri, Irene Neuwirth, Jennifer Meyer, Hoorsenbuh’s Robert Keith, Gaia Repossi, and Anita Ko are energizing the genre with pieces that are more than future heirlooms: From ear-climbing earrings to sleek modern bangles, they are a chance to express your style every day, no matter the dress code.””

Ear Climbers Yellow & peach crescent earrings necklace set CU earrings REV

Illustration:  vintage ear climber earrings

Given the interest in adorning a larger portion of the ear, the vintage earring style that curves upward along the ear is finding a new renaissance in what are now termed “ear-climbing earrings,” or “ear climbers.” Quite fabulous mid-Century versions, usually in clip-on style, can be had for a fraction of the cost of the new pieces.

Front-back style earrings, earring jackets, ear cuffs and ear climbers:  these are all part of the sea change in jewelry design for the ears. There’s yet more for me to report, which will follow in an upcoming post.