The Earring Style Reference Guide: 5 Looks You Must Know to Sell

For years, all jewelers really needed to know about earrings were the basics: studs, hoops, or drop styles for those with pierced ears, and clip-on varieties for those whose lobes weren’t pierced. But there’s a whole new crop of styles—cuffs, climbers, front-to-backs, modern jackets, and mismatched pairs—that jewelers need to know about because they’re chic, whimsical, and irresistible to shoppers.

To help you identify these looks at the shows this week in Las Vegas, here is a visual guide with styles’ names and pictures of how to wear them. Bookmark this page for reference and for the confidence to offer shoppers all these cool new pieces now.

1. Ear cuffs
These are ornaments that hug—not pinch—the lobes by way of a tiny cuff. Ear cuffs can be dramatic like wings or subtle like micro bracelets on the ear. Variations include ear cuffs with a stud and chain, an ensemble featuring a stud earring with a chain that connects to a cuff on the upper part of the ear. (It resembles guy’s wallet chain of sorts, but for gals on the ears.)

Marla Aaron ear cuffling in silver with pink sapphires

Ear cuffling in silver with inverted pink sapphires, $391; Marla Aaron

Cristina Debs Hinged Ear Huggies

Hinged ear huggie cuff in 18k gold with gemstones clip comfortably onto ears and start at $330 retail, Christina Debs Fine Jewelry at LUXE Intelligence.

Colette stud earring with chain and ear cuff

Stud and ear cuff in 18k gold with 0.45 ct. champagne and 0.3 ct. colorless diamonds, $2,480; Colette

2. Ear climbers

Climber earrings snake upward on the ear and stay in place via a post and back (mainly for short climbers), a long shepherd’s hook that slips through the pierced ear while the wearer positions the ornament up, a cuff on the upper cartilage or the lower back portion of the lobe, or a post and back earrings with a cuff for longer motifs.

Jack Vartanian model in short ear climbers

Courtesy Jack Vartanian

Jack Vartanian’s short Comet climber-style post earrings on the ear

Mastoloni ear climbers

Emily ear climbers from the Sorrento collection in 18k gold with 3.5 mm–5 mm freshwater pearls and 0.06 ct. diamonds, $1,275; Mastoloni

Emily ear cuffs from Mastoloni on the ear

Courtesy Mastoloni

Emily ear climber slips through pierced ears with a long post and no back, and the wearer positions it upward on the ear. These styles can also be worn simply as drop earrings when facing downward.

Climber-style earring with post and cuff from Jewelmak

Winged Rope climber-style post earrings in 14k gold with a white freshwater pearl, $480; Jewelmak

Jewelmak climber-style earring with post and cuff on the ear

Courtesy Jewelmak

Jewelmak’s climber-style post earrings with a cuff

Efva Attling ear climber with a post and back and cuff

Catch a Falling Star ear climber with a post and back and a cuff in silver, $155; Efva Attling

3. Front-to-back earrings

These function as they sound: an earring in the front that attaches to one in the back (think of a seesaw effect). The jewel or ornament in the rear is always bigger than its front-facing companion so that it’s weighed down just enough for all to see. Plus, there’s a variation with drops—decorative on both ends—that has been popping up at the shows this year. Click here to see a pair on.

Imperial Pearl front-to-back earrings

Front-to-back earrings in sterling silver with a 9.5 mm–12 mm freshwater pearls, $545; Imperial

Long front-to-back earrings from Yoko London

Long front-to-back drops in 18k black gold with 12 mm–13 mm white South Sea pearls, 0.35 ct. t.w. black diamonds, and 0.21 ct., t.w. colorless diamonds; $4,200; Yoko London

4. Earring jackets

Everyone knows what traditional jackets look like: They slip onto front sides of earrings for embellishment (sometimes it’s a drop and sometimes it’s a halo). But with all of the newer varieties available now, it’s a good time to get reacquainted with the category. For example, some jackets look like skirts on the ear because they slip onto the backsides of host earrings and flare out underneath the lobe like peplum or a frilly skirt. (These are sometimes sold as singles in order to give shoppers options to mix and match.) There are also skirts with a linear silhouette, like a long bar or spike, à la straight skirts. Myriad variations of these also exist.

Alexandra Mor halo-style earring jacket

Traditional halo-style earring jacket from Alexandra Mor

Stud earrings with jackets from Pamela Love

A frilly skirt: Moonphase earring jacket in silver with brass star studs, $235; Pamela Love

Pamela Love model shot in studs with earring jackets

Courtesy Pamela Love

Model in Pamela Love stud earrings with jackets that flare out like a skirt behind and underneath ear lobes.

Jayden stud earrings with a long jacket a la straight skirt

A straight skirt: Jayden stud earrings with long jackets in recycled 14k white gold with 1.15 cts. t.w. champagne diamonds, $2,400; Arya Esha

5. Mismatched pairs

Pairs of earrings no longer mean perfect matches. Mismatched mates are the norm among certain designers, giving consumers plenty of freedom for personal expression and customized looks.

Utopia mismatched earrings with one black and one white South Sea pearl

Mismatched earrings in 18k gold with black rhodium and black and white South Sea pearls and diamonds by Utopia Jewels

Lightening bolt and cloud mismatched earrings from Finn

Mismatched cloud studs in 18k gold, $675 a pair, and lightning-bolt motif earring with 0.25 ct. sapphires and 0.0825 ct. diamonds, $1,950 for one; Finn

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