The earpiece, just like the choker (link back) and tennis bracelets (link back), has a storied history even though it may seem a completely new piece of jewelry. Well, actually it is, in a way, but more on that later.
Ear cuffs were discovered as far back 2000 BC in the British Isles. Called Kaffa, different from earrings that hang from the earlobe, these attached to the pinna, the outside edge of the ear. No piercing required!And since the weight was distributed around the ear, Kaffas were light, so larger, more intricate designs were the fashion. At this point in time artisans crafted Kaffas from brass without jewels.
In Greece in 350 BC the Greek royalty went to gold with ornate designs to show status. India, with their love of jewelry, took the Kaffa to a new level in the 12 century by making pieces using precious metals, stones, pearls and decorated with chains that clipped from the ear to the nose or hair—wearing them at fantastical wedding celebrations and still do today. Thailand also took to the accessory in the 12th century with winged motifs inspired by the gorgeous birds in the country.
By the 18th century, Kaffas emerged in Europe in a contemporary form, the designs less bold and resembling a more classic earring. Floral ornaments and patterns dominated the style for a more feminine look. Made from precious metals and jewels such as sapphires and rubies, so only the upper class could afford this treat for the ear.
Bye, Bye Kaffas for two centuries. The accessory fell out of favor and then was forgotten until the 20th century. Hello, Earrings! A French jeweler named Maurice Boucher living in New York developed them after World War II. Women wanted more glam with the return of prosperity.
Like the Kaffa, women wore it over their ear, but in a bit of a twist it was clipped and pinned to the earlobe. Still, no piercings required! His dainty, feminine creations became so popular in the 1950's that he patented his design and sold them individually. Famous women, such as Marilyn Monroe, Lucille Ball, and Lita Baron put the earring front and center as the must-have accessory. How could women resist wearing the ear accessory that swept through Hollywood?
Boucher's earring set the stage for the contemporary ear cuff, which rose into existence in the1980's and 1990's when couture designers such, as Alexander Wang, Karl Lagerfeld and Jean Paul Gaultier took the ear cuff in a different direction, with models sporting styles in a mixture of pop and punk on the runway. Now more edgy they were crafted from silver with chains, spikes, and studs.
In the early 20th century, designers such as Alexander McQueen gravitated toward the ear cuff with big bold designs that couldn't be ignored/ For example, he made a grand statement with his runway models wearing large, fluttering ear cuffs in the shape of feathers. Today the ear cuff is popular again, perhaps because Jennifer Lawrence, Jessica Alba, Emma Watson and Margaret Zang, among others, have displayed them as part of their outfits in public.
Today new and exciting applications put the ear cuff in a class of its own. Gifted designers have taken the original Kaffa and made it a must-have style accessory for your collection. Jeweled transformers (link to Buc) allow you to change the look of the ear cuff to fit your mood, and offbeat but gorgeous animals (link to caterpillar) are stunning art pieces all their own. If you prefer something less edgy but just as stunning, there are many choices.
Remember it's your personality and specific taste that make it and you an original. For any occasion from casual to black tie, they are a showstopper.