Jingling and huge earrings - where did they come from? Trending as they are today, these earrings have a rich history that stretches back to Antiquity. Archaeologists have uncovered ancient earrings with tiny jingling pendants that were determined to be from the 5th century B.C. Similar earrings from the 3rd century B.C. , that were made of gold filigree, were discovered on the east coast of Turkey. Further examples of this tiny pendant style were made with emeralds, sapphires and pearls... Many of these earrings were dated from A.D. 600. [ 6. ]
I think this is the right moment to look back at some fascinating moments of history of such jingling and huge earrings.
Earrings With Jingling & Dangling Pendants
Ear piercing is one of the most ancient known forms of body modification. Many written references and sources in art come from different cultures around the world dating back to early history. Gold, silver and bronze hoop earrings were prevalent in the Minoan Civilization and examples can be seen on frescoes on the Aegean island of Santorini, Greece. It is important to mention that hoop earrings with conical pendants were fashionable during the late Minoan and early Mycenaean periods of Bronze Age Greece.
Ancient Romans inherited from Greek culture such a type of pendant earring that was made in the form of a large gemstone in a gold setting from which are suspended three other gemstones or pearls. Such earrings, of Roman jewelry, are the apparent precursors of the Renaissance girandole type earrings. [ 1.]
In the typology of jewelry such earrings are also known as chandelier earrings. It is surprising, but perhaps even natural, that these glittering luminaire-like earrings were further captured in the Byzantine Empire. And they became more luxurious.The Byzantines further developed antique prototypes and created brilliant glittering and colorful earrings with dangle pendants. Chandelier... What does this term mean? In a broader sense chandelier is an ornamental hanging light with branches and holders for several candles or bulbs. [5.]
Therefore such type of earrings associate with ancient churches, luminaries and symbolism of light in the broader sense. And yet in the ancient times these luxurious earrings were not associated only with light, pendants and golden glittering luxury ... They were also known as crotalia (from the Greek word for rattle or castanets) because the pearl pendants would produce a jingling noise when worn, earrings of this type were extremely popular with Roman ladies. Numerous examples have been found at Pompeii and Herculaneum. [ 7. ]
Chandelier or Girandole ?
In the long history of jingling earrings we come to the period from the 16th and 18th centuries, when we can again mention luminaires and chandeliers, because in the end quite similar are chandelier and girandole earrings.
What then is girandole?
It is a type of earring composed of a bow-shaped ornament, or more usually a large circular gemstone at or near the top of the setting, and having suspended at the bottom three pear-shaped faceted diamonds or sometimes three pearls or paste gems. The style (which was employed also for a brooch) was used in the 17th and 18th centuries. The precursor of such girandoles was the chandelier earring of Roman jewelry.[1.]
Named after contemporary candelabra hung with crystal pendants, such earrings first appeared around 1660's and they remained a very popular type for the next couple of centuries. By the 18th century, girandoles were produced all over Europe using a wide variety of gemstones and materials. For example, French girandoles were set entirely with diamonds and had great movement and a sculptural quality. It was not until after the second half of the 18th century that the French began adding colored gemstones into their designs. [3.]
Girandoles from Spain were sturdier in design and typically set with emeralds and diamonds due to the availability of mined emeralds from Columbia, which belonged to Spain. Portuguese girandoles featured simple, flat lines and were usually set with topaz and chrysoberyls that were mined from Brazil, then a Portuguese colony. Italian girandoles had bold lines and were most often set with seed pearls rather than gemstones. [3. ] But there were exceptions as shown in the picture below.
The popularity of these earrings was largely determined by the magnificent nature of the festive events of the 18th century courts all over Europe. Girandoles with their moving parts really provided maximum sparkle and brilliance of the gemstones used in their creation. Of course, those were perfect for those evening events held under 18th century candlelight. [3.]
The fashion has always demanded some kind of sacrifice. The large size and the sheer weight of the metals used in their creation to set the stones, combined with the weight of the gemstones themselves, often resulted in painful ear lobes that became elongated from wearing such a heavy earrings... The need to alleviate the weight of girandoles led to special fittings being designed to help take the weight off the ear lobe. The special wire was hinged on one side that could be inserted, back to front for pierced ears, or looped up over the top of the ear. An additional loop held a ribbon which was secured in the hair, also taking weight off the ears.[ 3.]
Although the girandoles were no longer visually similar to those of ancient prototypes who swayed or spread jingling sounds, they, however, arose in the long evolutionary path that began in the ancient world.
This is also the case in today's earrings ... If there were no ancient inventions, today's earrings would probably be a lot different.
References & Further Reading:
1. Newmann H. An Illustrated Dictionary of Jewelry. - London: Thames & Hudson, 2000.
2. Phillips C. Jewelry: From Antiquity to the Present. - London: Thames & Hudson, 1997.
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My name is Edīte Parute and I am a fashion historian and researcher from Latvia, association member at "The Association of Dress Historians" (UK) and author of the book "Stila un modes enciklopēdija"/"Encyclopedia of Style and Fashion" (2010) as well as author of many publications.
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