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By Reviewed By Andreas Zabczyk May 01, 2015 Updated Jan 22, 2019

Ear Cuffs - Gemstone Jewelry

Multi-colored Gemstone Ear Cuff
Multi-Colored Gemstone Ear Cuff

Ear jewelry does not only consist of simple earrings. Nowadays there are fourteen different types of ear piercings and many new ways of wearing jewelry in the ears. Recent years have seen an increase in unique ear ornaments including ear cuffs. These ear decorations, also called kaffa, are worn on the outer rim of the ear (the helix) by men and women. These can be piercings or clip-on accessories. Ear cuffs may be made from precious metals, such as gold and silver, or something more affordable. They may also be plain, decorated or glitter with gemstones.

Helix piercings can be limiting, since the holes can only accommodate certain styles, such as barbells, rings and studs. Long and large ear cuffs may also not be comfortable to wear in piercings. Additionally, these pose a health risk, since they penetrate the cartilage and are more invasive than earlobe piercings. Helix piercings can take 2-4 months or longer to heal. For helix piercings, gemstone studs are popular, especially opals and white gemstones. Helix ear studs tend to have rounded backs, to reduce the possibility of catching on clothing and for more comfortable wear. Beaded hoops are also widely worn.

Clip-on Gemstone Bead Ear Cuffs
Clip-on Gemstone Bead Ear Cuffs

Clip-on ear cuffs allow for a greater diversity of sizes and styles, from a simple ring that clips around the helix, to an elaborate piece of jewelry that surrounds the entire ear. Larger cuffs that wrap around the helix are also called "ear wraps". Some ear cuffs are joined to earrings with chains and some clip over the top of the ear.

Some benefits of clip-on ear cuffs are that they can be easily removed and they feel comfortable to wear. Large ear cuffs can be clipped onto the ear without weighing the ear down. As with other jewelry types, ear cuff styles are incredibly diverse with something for everyone, from tribal to red-carpet-ready and bridal ear cuffs. Some novelty ear cuffs are produced in the shape of animals, such as panthers, dragons or tree frogs. Ear cuffs can even be bought in sets of several pieces that can be worn on one ear. One downside to consider is that prominent ears will be even more noticeable when adorned with large ear cuffs.

Ear cuffs are not new to the jewelry scene but have existed for thousands of years. In fact, an ancient gold artifact believed to be an ear cuff was recently discovered in the UK. The 4,300-year-old ear cuff was found along with buttons made from jet and three flint arrowheads by a group of primary school boys in Cumbria, England.

Thai Classical Dance Ear Ornaments
Thai Classical Dance Ear Ornaments

Ear cuffs have been worn throughout history by various cultures. In India, ear cuffs have been worn for many years and are known as a variety of kaan phool, kaan means "ear" and phool "flower", so together, these words combine to make "ear flowers". Golden ear ornaments are also worn by Southeast Asian classical dancers. These tend to be pointed at the top and go around the outside of the ear. They accentuate the shape of the ear and can also be seen in Thai temple art.

Although ear cuffs have been used over the centuries, they were not a prominent jewelry item until they re-emerged during the Art Deco era on the ears of wealthy socialites and stayed around into the late 1950s. Ear cuffs in the 1980s represented alternative culture. After the turn of the millennium, ear cuffs once again appeared adorning the ears of celebrities.

The modern ear cuff is not confined to a particular style, but represents a range of cultures. Ear cuffs that have been especially popular in recent years are gemstone hoops that are worn at intervals all the way up the ear. These may be one clip that gives the appearance of several cuffs. Ear cuffs tend to be worn on one ear, with the hair behind the ear on one side or swept up, so that the ear cuff can be seen and admired. Ear cuffs are another item of jewelry that can be personalized to represent the unique style of the wearer and allow for experimentation with a variety of different looks without having to endure the pain of piercing or commit to a permanent piece of body art.

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