Older & Wiser: why ageing lobes don’t mean the end of earrings

— by Nilgin Yusuf


Beautiful image from Renaissance Magazine


One of the most bizarre complements I ever had was from an art student in a university lift. She praised my earlobes then informed me they were lucky. I did some quick research and sure enough, in Asian cultures, long earlobes are auspicious symbols of luck and wealth and signifiers of wisdom and compassion. Consider Buddha the epitome of this idea.

While loss of hearing is the most pressing concern with ageing ears, their changing external appearance can become an issue for some. It is a myth that ears continue to grow (alongside noses). What you’re seeing is the normal aging effects of gravity and lax skin elasticity that are more visible here. ‘I see a lot of ears,’ says jewellery designer Sian Evans, ‘Loss of collagen causes once plump, softly cushioned earlobes to become floppier and thinner from front to back’.

And so, while a distended lobe may be considered fortunate in some parts of the world, it is unlucky for our favourite statement danglers that might have to be relegated from service. Heavy earrings can also cause ear piercings to become stretched and in worse case scenarios, split. But mature ears don’t have to spell the end of earrings.

Fashion’s stock answer to the ageing lobe is the tiny stud or modest hoop. Evans advises if buying studs, combine them with big butterfly fasteners, ‘Big scrolls on the back will provide a flat plate and support for the earring’. Evans has also designed a fitting that looks like a faux drop earring that is actually a stud.

When it comes to adorning the mature lobe, weight – not size – is key. After all, you can have small studs made from heavy gold or other metal whose weight will drag on and  emphasise a stretched piecing. A lightweight material like relatively inexpensive brass, will permit larger, more ornamental designs. At Nou Moon, an ethical jewellery company, brass – which can resemble gold but is an alloy – is utilised to create simple and striking earrings of all sizes.

Sian Evans earrings

Sian Evans’s BOTANY collection was created in the lightest aluminium and brass gold plate. A process called anodising makes it possible to introduce colour to these large, but ultralight earrings. Inspired by 19th century botanical drawings, Matisse cut-outs and Alexander Calder’s mobiles, the designer was drawn to these materials because they are easy to recycle. Pieces from this spectacular range are now in the Victoria & Albert Museum’s permanent collection.

Other lightweight materials include resin, wood, clay, buffalo horn and acrylic. TNMA favourite, Branch jewellery has a selection of ethically-sourced buffalo horn and rose wood earrings, in a variety of shapes and finishes. For party-season dazzlers, Toolally creates earrings using layered pieces of acrylic, with a focus on bold colours and art-deco design influences. Clay polymer earrings are also very light, and you can pick up lots of cheap and cheerful handmade designs on Etsy, or Light Moves Atelier on Wolf & Badger.

Another solution is any earring with detail at the top that will conceal an elongated lobe piercing. For many women, the go-to has been large 1950s or 1960s- inspired clip-ons that cover the entire lobe. But these can be uncomfortable and hurt after a while.

Considering the entire ear, not just the lobe, as a potential site of decoration is a popular solution. Numerous jewellery designers create ‘ear cuffs’, ‘climbers’, ‘creepers’ and ‘wings’ that can spread upwards, across the top of the ear, drawing emphasis away from the lobe. Here the structure support of the ear depends on cartilage not collagen. For those with loyalties to their Punk or Boho sensibilities, ‘Adding piercings around the ear can show a continuing joy in life,’ Evans says.

So, perhaps it’s time to think of our ears, not as sad holes but glorious wholes!

Nilgin Yusuf is a freelance writer. You can find her on Twitter @Nilgin and Instagram @nilgin_yusuf



Adorn your ears with these cuffs, crawlers, clip-ons and lighter-weight earrings:



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    One of the most bizarre complements I ever had was from an art student in a university lift. She praised my earlobes then informed me they were lucky.