Earrings are an essential part of almost every woman’s jewelry wardrobe. They complete a look and frame a face.
Earrings come in every type of metal, including stainless steel, but we’re starting here because it’s the one thing people can be allergic to. The most common metal allergy is nickel, which can cause itching, rash, swelling and blisters.
If you have a nickel allergy, choose nickel-free metals, such as 18K yellow gold, platinum, titanium, copper and sterling silver. White gold is a no-no — it usually contains nickel. If you already have a pair of earrings with nickel, you can purchase plastic covers to protect your ears, but these only work with certain types, such as studs. If you don’t have a nickel allergy, all metals work for you.
Also, consider your complexion when making a metal choice. Fair skin tends to look better with white or silver metals. Darker skin tones glow with the warmth of yellow gold.
The world pretty much went pierced in the 1970s, so clip-ons aren’t very popular anymore. Clip-ons are held in place literally with a hinged pressure clip on the back of the ear or with a screw that tightens onto your earlobe. It’s rare that you’ll find a comfortable pair of clip-ons, but, like certain shoes, certain pairs are worth it.
Studs are probably the most popular form of earring. Diamond studs are popular because a single, beautiful gem stands alone with no other distraction on the ear surface. Studs with or without gemstones in them look great on a narrow face, and can be worn to dress up jeans and a tee, or finish a night-on-the-town look.
The classic hoop is a piece of metal that circles the ear from front to back, leaving room between the bottom of the earring and the earlobe. Thin, large hoops are young and trendy, while smaller hoops are more sedate and elegant. Hoops can be simple, clean metal, garnished simply with a gem or two, or encrusted with diamonds. There are asymmetrical hoops for a more adventurous look. Super-versatile, hoops are a classic business or weekend look for many women, and look great on a square face.
Drop earrings are “ear pendants” that can be all metal or combined with gemstones or diamonds and fall just below the earlobe. There’s usually not much movement in a drop earring, as opposed to chandeliers (see below). Drop styles are perfect for business, as well as any hair length.
A form of drop earring that’s much longer and more complex, chandelier earrings are often dramatic because of their shape, length and size. Chandeliers are great for those who love drama and movement, and are good looks for women with heart-shaped and oval faces. They also provide women with round faces with a slimming effect — but keep in mind they may tangle in long hair. Because they are so long, and usually made up of multiple gems and metal elements, you should consider their weight on your earlobe before purchasing.
A versatile and easy look, threaders feature a simple chain (aka the “thread”) that slides through your piercing, allowing the design, whether gem, diamond, or all metal, to hang free in the front. With no back closure, they can be easy to wear. Just thread them in and go! Curvy threaders look great on heart-shaped faces. As with other dangly earrings, you must be careful not to catch them on clothes or tangle them in your hair.
No worries about catching in clothing or hair here! Huggies are a newer form of the hoop earring, usually small and thick, that run through your piercings and hug the earlobe. Their thickness lends their design to rows of gemstones or diamonds, but they can also be etched, studded or feature other forms of worked metal.
Ear cuffs do not require piercings (although some include a chain element that can connect to your piercings) and are designed to slide over the outer ear cartilage to hug securely wherever you place them. This earring style can be a plain cuff or have dangles of metal or gems. They are almost always sold as singles. Ear cuffs look great on women with very short hair, or hair that clearly exposes the ears. But beware: If an ear cuff does not fit snugly, it’s easy to lose.
They aren’t exciting stuff, but you should know what’s keeping your earrings in place, since they’ll prevent you from losing what you’ve got. In general, the finer the jewelry, the better the backings.
Post or stud push-back
This closure features a single post of wire that sticks out of the back of an earring and into the post or stud behind the earlobe. These are also called push backs, push-back clips, friction backs and tension backs.
The screw back is similar to the post style, except that the wire coming out of the earring is a screw that literally screws into the stud backing. Screw backs are found in higher end jewelry — no one wants to lose an earring, but no one really wants to lose a diamond set in platinum.
Omega back, French back or hinge
A post runs from the earring through the piercing into a hinged loop in the shape of the Greek “omega” (basically an upside down “U”), which closes over the post and holds it in place. Omega-backed earrings are common, but are an adaptation of the clip-on backing, which means that they can be uncomfortable if not designed properly. (Backs can be adjusted properly by a jeweler, though, if you love what you’ve found.)
Latch back or lever back or Euro wire
Dangly earrings will often have latch or lever backings. In these earrings, a hook goes through the pierced earlobe and is held in place by a latch or hinged lever attached to the back of the earring.
A piece of curved wire, much like a fish hook, threads through the piercing to hold the earring in place. It doesn’t “lock down” the way a latch or lever backing does. However, it is commonly used with dangly earrings such as threaders and stays in place because the wire is usually fairly long and creates balance behind the ear.
Popular in hoop earrings, this back has a hinged piece of metal that goes through the ear and snaps into a latch on the opposite side of the earring.
Ready to shop? Kay Jewelers and Jared the Galleria of Jewelry have a great selection of earrings.