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From Studs to Statement Pieces: All Types of Earrings

Quick History

Almost universally, ancient civilizations from Sumeria to Cyprus utilized earrings as a way to promote wealth, class, fashion and status. Frescoes left behind by the Minoan civilization from around 1800 BCE show that hoop earrings were regularly worn on the South Aegean island of Santorini, now part of Greece. Ancient Egyptians, including pharaohs and their cats, also wore designs made out of gold and gemstones including turquoise, lapis lazuli and jasper. Much like earring styles, necklace styles have varied throughout time.

From stud earring to diamond earring types, join us on a journey through the history of earrings and explore the modern adaptations of this long-standing tradition of ear decor.


Stud Earrings

Art Deco Diamond Stud Earrings. 20th Century. M.S. Rau
Art Deco Diamond Stud Earrings. 20th Century. M.S. Rau

Earring popularity has fluctuated for centuries, and the stud is no stranger to such evolution. In our modern era, the simple stud first earned wide appeal at the turn of the 20th century. In the 1920s, a fascination with Art Deco style gripped the world. As a way to express both functionality and this new creative expression, studs became a wardrobe staple for fashionable 20th century women. The history of diamond cuts is as vast as their shapes and styles.
Following the Great War, culture in the United States experienced a seismic shift into the modern era. Monumental skyscrapers like the Empire State Building soared above cities and the brilliant sheen of steel engulfed New York City as rising buildings towered above the streets. Inspired, in part, by society’s new adoration of technology and architecture, the Art Deco style emerged. Designs mimicked the streamlined aesthetics of the changing world with crisp, angular and geometric lines, embracing this new chic and exuberant cosmopolitan culture.
During this era, studs were regarded as the most in vogue earring style. As the new everyday standard, women would often wear practical stud earrings that could keep up with their increasingly busy lives. Luxurious diamond studs featuring the standard round cut, a cut only made possible by 1920s technological innovations, embodied the innovative aesthetics of the Art Deco era and became a most-popular style for ladies of the day.

Hoop Earrings

David Webb Enamel and Diamond Hoop Earrings. M.S. Rau.
David Webb Enamel and Diamond Hoop Earrings. M.S. Rau.
Queen Paubi, Ancient Sumeria. Circa 2500 BCE. Penn Museum.
Queen Paubi, Ancient Sumeria. Circa 2500 BCE. Penn Museum.

Hoop earrings are almost as old as human civilization itself. They made their debut when Sumerian women wore gold hoop earrings around 2500 BCE. Beloved by everyone from pirates and aristocrats, hoops have symbolized empowerment and independence since the time of ancient Egyptian queens like Cleopatra and Nefertiti. Interested in more ancient jewelry styles? Explore the history of the necklace and see the ancient styles that have inspired countless modern trends.


In the 20th and 21st centuries, African, African-American and Latina women have championed the symbolism of the hoop earring as a sign of defiance and bravery.


As Western societies repeatedly look back to ancient styles and rituals, such as the popularity of Greek styles during the Enlightenment era, hoops ebb and flow in and out of fashion. For many women, especially in the modern age, hoop earrings are considered more than an accessory but rather, a symbol of culture, ancestry and strength.


Dangle Earrings

Much like their counterparts, dangle earrings also have a unique history of their own. In her acclaimed book, Bejewelled: Men And Jewellery In Tudor And Jacobean England, Natasha Awais-Dean writes:
Contemporary portraiture also shows men such as Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh, figures hardly considered womanly in their conduct, with a single earring. [Sixteenth-century clergyman] William Harrison may have had this in mind when he wrote, 'Some lusty courtiers and also gentlemen of courage do wear either rings of gold, stones, or pearls in their ears.'
To both historic European aristocrats and modern men and women, the dangle earring has always made a statement as a bold and fashionable way to adorn the ears with precious jewels and metals. Modern jewelry has built upon the millennia-old legacy of artistic innovation and craftsmanship. Jewelers, such as the famed Tiffany & Co., Cartier and Raymond Yard, have created countless artful designs in this perennially popular style. Today, dangle earrings not only serve as statement pieces for fancy special occasions, they can also elevate everyday wardrobe to new heights. Today, many choose to take the pressure off their clothing pieces by letting their dangle earrings do all of the talking.
Cartier Panthère Diamond, Onyx and Emerald Drop Earrings. M.S. Rau.
Cartier Panthère Diamond, Onyx and Emerald Drop Earrings. M.S. Rau.



When it comes to learning about the different types of earrings, the materials used to craft these earrings are almost as diverse as the cultures that have utilized them. From a variety of fine metals to a plethora of beautiful gemstone colors, the possibilities are endless.

Classic Metals

Gold, silver and platinum are all used in classic fashions throughout the world. These simple gold earrings, for example, show a contemporary take on a ancient form; the earrings' softly rounded curves lend modernity and visual interest to the design. Designers like David Webb, Tambetti and Henry Dunay specialize in gold-only jewelry that is both simple and sophisticated.
Gold knot earrings. M.S. Rau
Gold knot earrings. M.S. Rau

Rare Gemstones

All jewels are rare in some regard as the geological conditions required for their creation are nothing short of miraculous. However, certain gemstones are highly prized among jewelry firms for their distinctive unique qualities. Designers often choose to set their most precious gems in earrings because they are certain to be seen.


These fancy colored diamond earrings are an example of a natural phenomena that is showcased in some of the most beautiful earrings in the world. Due to the presence of boron in the stone, natural blue diamonds are second only to red diamonds in terms of rarity. Just as rare, though not as popularized as blue or pink, green diamonds are extremely scarce as well. They are the result of a rare phenomenon that exposes the diamond to radiation deep within the earth over the course of millions of years.

Fancy blue-green diamond earrings. M.S. Rau, New Orleans
Fancy blue-green diamond earrings. M.S. Rau, New Orleans

Other rare stones such as sapphires, rubies, emeralds, aquamarines and paraibas are all coveted stones seen in the finest antique jewels and utilized by modern jewelry makers.


Classic Stones

Flaunted by celebrities, coveted by ancient cultures and worn as a ubiquitous symbol of commitment, legendary white diamond are an ever-popular choice for those in the market for antique jewelry. From antique necklaces to rings to studs and beyond, the closer a natural diamond comes to being classified as "colorless," the more expensive it is.
Almost nothing feels as timeless as a true Asscher-cut diamond, although they are uniquely difficult to find, as very few stones feature this highly complex step-cut design. Asschers have more facets than any other diamond shape74 in total — so cutters often choose more conventional cuts.

For a softer look, classic pearl earrings have remained a staple for centuries. Different types of pearls display a wide range of hues from lustrous and milky white to rare and romantic rose tones. Farmed from the large French Polynesian Black-Lip pearl oyster, the Tahitian pearl earrings below display a coveted moody deep hue, reflecting the silvery luster for which Tahitian pearls are celebrated.

Asscher-cut diamond earrings. M.S. Rau, New Orleans
Asscher-cut diamond earrings. M.S. Rau, New Orleans
Tahitian pearl and diamond earrings.  M.S. Rau, New Orleans
Tahitian pearl and diamond earrings. M.S. Rau, New Orleans 

Finding the Perfect Fit


The first thing to consider when picking out your perfect pair of earrings is the setting and occasion. As discussed, there are a variety of earring types available to meet any moment. If looking for a conservative pair of earrings to wear in the office, trade the statement hoop or dangle earrings for classic studs in gold or silver. Do you prefer a romantic style and enjoy feminine attire? If so, a style tip is to choose earrings with rounded and curvy details. For a dramatic style, choose earrings with straight edges, geometric jewelry in square, rectangular, and triangular designs. And if you're looking for an extra glimmer of shine, you can never go wrong with a diamond earring style — just be sure your earring backs are screwed on tight.
Whatever life brings you, you can find the perfect earrings to fit. Browse our extensive collection of estate and antique earrings for sale, from studs to statement pieces.


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