The wearing of earrings was revived in the 17th century as high collar ruffs went out of fashion, placed by a framing ruff which left the front of the neck and face free, and hair was worn in a drawn back bun or fold, revealing the ears. Large drop pearl earrings were popular, as well as the girandole earring, comprising three pear shaped gems dangling from a central piece, often in the shape of a bow. Some girandole pendant earrings were huge and weighed significant amounts. The various parts could be separated and won as brooches or hair ornaments, and the smaller sections worn as daytime earrings. The girandole earring was to remain popular until the Victorian period. The photo below, although it is a brooch, shows the girandole shape and structure.
Another popular earring in the mid 17th to 18th centuries was the pendeloque earring. This was an elongated earring comprising a a marquise shaped top supporting a bow attached to which was an elongated drop of a similar design to the top section. Few of the diamond pendeloque earrings have survived as the stones have been re-set but paste and white topaz earrings have survived. Pendeloque earrings were not as heavy as the girandoles. Even so, the earrings dragged down the lobes of their wearers and there are photos of Queen Victoria showing her elongated lobes.
Because of the difficulties in wearing heavy earrings like the girandole and, to a certain extent, the pendeloque, and because of the difficult economic times due to the costs of the Napoleonic wars, jewellers had to achieve expensive looking jewellery with limited materials. Cannetille work became popular, in which thin gold wires were wound into tight coils and scrolls. This decoration was often further embellished with burr and bead work granulation. The resulting setting was much lighter and used less gold. An example of cannetile work is attached below. Repousse work also became popular, whereby long earrings were stamped out of thin sheets of gold and then embossed into ornate scrolls and flowers. This was also economical in its use of gold.
At the end of the 18th century and for the first quarter of the 19th century, double drop earrings were produced, usually with a small drop, with a larger drop attached. This style has really never gone out of fashion. Some earrings comprised three parts and joined by chains were common. Hair was worn up up off the neck, ears were exposed and dresses, particularly for evening wear, were low cut. These thin gold earrings, made of articulated plaques of gold connected by fine chains, were made quite long but were light to wear. They could often be separated into day and night wear. Hair styles during this period usually involved a centre part, with hair drawn back into a back knot.
In the next post, I will discuss earrings from the Victorian era.