Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Earring findings for non-pierced ears -- an overview

Last week I wrote about some of my clip-on earrings and mentioned how I don't see clip-on design ideas very often, save on japanese jewellery-making websites. It's like everyone assumes that people either have pierced ears or, if they don't, they aren't interested in wearing earrings. The late might be the case for some, but not for everyone as there can be many reasons for a person not to pierce her ears -- and I also believe some of those not wearing earrings would change their minds about clip-ons if they saw the different findings available today. Clip-ons don't have to be chunky, painful earlobe crushers. Some are very dainty and "earlobe-friendly". And if you don't like any types of clip-ons, why not give in to the ear cuff trend?

As promised, here is my introduction to some of the clip-on earring findings and ear cuffs available today. It is by no means an exhaustive listing, but rather showing some of the options you can use. For some findings, I don't have any photos of my own so I will be referring to a few bead shops that I know have a wide variety of the findings I'm writing about.

First out is of cause our old friend:


The classic clip-on earrings are probably the type most people think of when talking about earring findings for non-pierced ears. Wellknown for often being painful to wear as they press hard against the earlobe in order not to fall off. There are ways to alleviate the problem. First, some clip-ons are designs as the pair above with holes you can fit rubber cushions into. Second, there's a little tool called Comfee Key you can use to tighten or loosen the tension. You can find it e.g. at B'Sue Boutiques.

These clip-ons come in different versions. Some are big and chunky, others are more dainty. They can have a flat pad for you to glue on flatbacks and other components on, be fitted with settings for stones, have beadable perforated discs (aka mesh screens, sieves), have loops for bead dangles etc. Some are especially made for being soldered. For examples of different designs, see Jan's Jewels and Perles & Co. Below is an example of a slightly unusual old silver clip-on model.

Clip-ons are available in precious metals and plated basemetal.

Adjustable clip-ons

These are pretty much just a variation of the clip-ons above. Because they have a folded "tab" on the back, you can easily adjust the tension of the earrings by bending the pad back or forth. It is not recommended that you do this too much as it can weaken the metal. When worn, they can look similar to leverback earrings, making it less obvious it's clip-ons. I have seen them being referred to as "pierced look" because of this.

They can come with a loop, as in the picture, pad, cup-and-peg or cup. See examples at Fire Mountain Gems and Rings & Things.

Screw-back earrings

Screw-back earrings are my old favourites. I first saw them in some vintage costume jewellery as a kid and they were such a great option to the trendy 1980's clip-ons I had at the time. Best thing about screw-backs is that it is easy to adjust the tension -- no tools needed (great for jewellery buyers who don't have tools at hand) and you can do it over and over without weakening the structure.

Screw-backs come in two versions: with or without hinges. Hinges are useful if you have thick earlobes as you don't have to "push" the earring onto the ear. Unhinged versions are useful as they don't have a mechanism that can sheave or break down. Apart from this variation in design, there are several different models to choose between. Findings with loops, as the earrings on the left in the photo above, are the most common, but the screw-backs can also be fitted with pads (for glueing on flatbacks etc), cup and peg for half-drilled pearls and beads or stone settings. Some also have decorative fronts like the violet earrings in my photo. Just check out all the different versions at Jan's Jewels.

Earring converters

There's a special type of clip-ons and (though less common) screw-backs made for converting ear studs into earrings for non-pierced ears. You can read more about that in my post Örhängen -- från stift till clips. It's in swedish, but you'll find links to international websites for pictures of the various converters available for clip-on users.

Hoops with spring closure

This type of clip-ons can often be seen in Japanese beading designs. They look very similar to hoop earrings, making them perfect for people who what a "pierced look". They come in different sizes and colours/platings (including pink!) and some have a loop at the bottom for adding dangles. I've used these as a base for wire-wrapping as well as for just dangling beads off. Only downside to this design is that the spring gives a rather loose tension, meaning the earring will fall off if you add beads or components that are too heavy. Stick with lightweight beads and simple designs is my advice.

More than once I've been asked were to find these elusive clip-on hoops. In the US these are sold by e.g. Fire Mountain Gems. In Sweden by Smyckestillbehor.se (Panduro used to have them too; some of their retailers might still have a few in stock if you're lucky).

Open hoops

Now, these are the simplified version of the hoop clip-ons above. As there is no mechanism these are much cheaper -- and it should'nt be too hard to make them yourself at home. They come in different sizes and colours (silver- or goldplate). Just as the hoops above they work best with simple, lightweight designs. You can't really adjust the gap much, though, so the fit might not be perfect depending on how thick your earlobes are. You can find these at Fire Mountain Gems (and Smyckestillbehor.se used to have them too).

DIY clip-ons

As clip-ons usually work using hinges and springs, it's not as easy to make your own clip-on earring findings as, say, earwires. I have seen two wirework clip-on designs, though. Check out Wrapture and WigJig. Some DIY ear cuffs (see below) could probably be used in a similar fashion.

Magnet earrings

I've never used these. The principle is simple: each earring consists of two magnets, placed on either side of the earlobe. The magnet in the front has a flatback, image or other component glued to it. These are often sold as "perfect for kids", more small children should never play with magnet as they can cause problems if swallowed. Use magnets that are suitable for earrings: some supermagnets are so strong they will be as painful as the good old clip-ons. Tips for how to make magnet earrings stick better can be found on eHow.

Ear cuffs

These are the classic old ear cuffs that you can use as is or combine with piercing earrings (many times connected with thin chains as in this tutorial). Cuffs are worn by people who have pierced ears as well as those without as they aren't necessarily a substitute for piercing earrings. Cuffs are clamped to the helix (= edge of the ear), not dangling from the earlobe.

You can buy them readymade (as in the photo) or make your own from wire or metal strips. There are many tutorials for making your own ear cuffs, from the most simple unadorned rings to richely embellished cuffs covering much of the helix. Embellished ear cuffs are sometimes called ear vines (also used for a kind of piercing earrings) or ear wraps. A few suggestions if you are looking for tuts: Jewelrylessons.com, The Beading Gem's Journal and BellaOnline.

The cuff in the photo has a small hole for adding dangles or connecting to an earring.

"Around the ear" cuffs/ear wraps

These have been trendy this season. Just like the cuffs above they are called either cuffs or wraps, though wraps and vines are also used for similar designs for pierced ears. "Behind-the-ear" cuffs can also be called bohemian wraps. Unlike the smaller cuffs that clamp on to the edge of the ear, these are positioned behind the ear and can -- depending on design -- look similar to piercing earrings. Sometimes they are especially designed for either the right or leaf ear (as with the cuff in the photo).

They can be bought readymade or you can make them yourself. Tutorial can be found at e.g. WigJig [I used that tutorial -- but without the aid of a jig -- for these ear cuffs], Semi and JewelryLessons.com. If forging your own earrings, this style of ear wraps can be used to make some seriously cool earrings. Just check out these dragons!

Apparently, this type of earrings were used even in Ancient times. In the big Hollywood movie Alexander, Angelina Jolie's character wore several different models like these bead earrings and these metal earrings. The jewellery used in the movie is supposed to be historically accurate, I've been told.

As the ear cuffs wrap around the ear, do they work if you wear glasses? Yes, I think it works as they sit tight against the ear (especially if they are costume made for your ears) unlike the glasses. Just don't use/make a cuff that is too thick.


That's the end of my little introduction to "non-piercing earrings". Do you think I missed something? Did you learn something new? Please feel free to comment, adding your own tips and ideas as well as general feedback. If you have any questions I'll do my best to answer them. I'm not anywhere near an expert in the field, but I like to try different clip-ons and cuffs so hopefully I can be of some help.


  1. very nice explanation of the different types! Thank you.

  2. And thank you for you comment! I hope it can be of use (and inspiration).

  3. As I am surfing the net to find some earrings for my girlfriend, I have learned so much about piercings and the amount of products that are out there. This post just explained what earring is what. I did not think it was going to be this interesting. Thanks for the info.

  4. thanks!! i know the difference between spring earring and clip-ons. and variety for non pierced earrings,

  5. this was so helpfull! My ears are pierced, but I'm looking for healthier alternatives to use earrings that dont hurt my ears

  6. This is an interesting post! And I also wear clip on earrings and create them. I would like to trendy clip on earrings in Japan. They are invisible clip on earrings. They are made from resin and soft. So they fit your earlobes perfectly and stay on them all day. And since they are soft, invisible clip on earrings are comfortable to wear and actually you will forget you are wearing earrings. Of course, straight 12 hours wearable clip on earrings. Moreover, the earring findings are clear, so they are PIERCED LOOK. It is hard for people to recognize that you wear clip on earrings. Since the population of clip on earring users is high in Japan, more advanced style of clip on earrings has been developed. If you want to take a look of these invisible clip on earrings, please visit my blog MiyabiGrace :

    Now that I can wear only invisible clip on earrings since the metal ones pinch my earlobes a lot and give me a headache. So invisible clip on earrings are inevitable for my life!!!


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