Vintage Jewelry, Earrings

Vintage Earrings, clip ons

unsigned cliponsWhen I was little I loved going through my grandmother’s earring collection! They were so pretty, but those clip on earrings! They hurt! Why on earth would someone choose to wear something like that? Did you wonder the same thing?  Well, it turns out there is a historical or social reason for that.  Earrings have a long history in “fashion”.  For most of that history, people did pierce holes in their ears to wear them.  And not just for women, but men too.  They fell out of favor with men around the 1700’s as a more ‘masculine’ image came into style. I guess that would make sense because if you are trying to prove you’re ready for a fight, earrings would not be helpful. (I just imagine some guy getting ready for a dual or fist fight asking his buddy to hold his earrings for him.)  But for women, earring styles depended a lot on hairstyles. If hairstyles were low and covering the ears, then the earrings were smaller so they would not get tangled up.  Also, hats and wigs would call for smaller earrings as well.  But, high, swept back hair allowed for larger, elaborate earrings.  Sometimes the earrings would be so large that ladies would have to anchor them to their ears or in their hair.  Large earrings had the potential to pull the earlobe down or fall out. In the modern era, if you are into gauges (is that the correct spelling?) this might be a good thing.  However, back then, when the earrings were very costly, not so much.
Moving forward in time to about the turn of the last century…the concept of pierced ears began to take on a different perspective.  Established American women (meaning their families hd been in the United States for a couple of generations) were eager to distance themselves from the newer immigrants coming into the country.  This new group of Americans had pierced ears, so it became very unpopular to have pierced ears.  In fact is was considered to be kind of trashy.  (I wonder if anyone else is reminded of The Sneetches, by Dr. Seuss?)  However, women still wanted to wear something pretty on their ears, so clip on or screw type earrings became very popular.  In later years, it might not have been a desire to distance themselves from immigrants, but simply a matter of pierced ears were not acceptable and the stores sold mostly clip ons.

Made in Western Germany
Made in Western Germany
Following WWII, countries like Western Germany and British held Hong Kong, were looking for ways to develop their economies.  Costume jewelry, with its cheap production, was one way to do this.  During the 1950’s and 1960’s these areas were mass producing things like earrings to send to the blossoming economy of America! The new middle class gobbled items like this up to show off their new comfortable economic status! 
Of course, during the late 1950’s into the 1970’s, the American teenager was also looking for ways to show their independent and rebellious nature.  Pierced ears became a ‘new’ status symbol among the really cool kids.  Piercing parties, like the one in the movie Grease where the Pink Ladies pierce Sandi’s ears, became popular.  I personally, while knowing several people that did this, think it’s crazy!  I, being the 80’s kid that I was, went to The Mall, and had it done. (Ok, I still passed out afterwards, but that is not relevant to this story!)  I should also point out that the trend of men piercing ears changed about this time too. (Still thinking about the Sneetches! Have you read that story lately? You really should!)  All the ‘nonconformist’ boys I knew in high school had at least one pierced ear. (Yep, that was a little bit sarcastic.  But if they are reading this, ha, I still adored them!)  The problem with the one pierced ear, is it was never really clear which ear meant you were gay or not.  I’m sure there is an Official gay or straight side, but really things just get confusing. (Would it be my right or your right if you are facing me? But my friend in LaLa said it was the other way….)  
flue de lis
Some of my favorite “unsigned” earrings
Anyway, I hope this explained a little bit why Grandma (or Great Grandma) had so many clip on earrings! Or maybe she didn’t, and you now know why she was one of the “Best Sneetches”!

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