The Ancient History of Hoop Earrings
Archaeologists have found evidence of gold hoop earrings in the frescos and tombs of ancient times, including the Sumerians of Mesopotomia 5,000 years ago – now the regions of Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey. The findings of the Sumerian culture indicates they were incredibly sophisticated with skilled jewellers who created pieces using precious metals and gemstones.
Hoop earrings were introduced to Egypt around 1,5000 BC and worn by Men, Women and even cats – considered the most sacred animal. In ancient Egypt, hoops were worn for status and style to symbolize power and wealth, with royals and Pharaohs like Nefertiti, Hatshepsut, Tutankhamen and Cleopatra adorning their ears to enhance their beauty.
Egyptian hoops were heavy and thick using twisted gold wire, beads and glass or jasper inlay. Gold was symbolic to the Egyptians who believed it represented the flesh of their Gods and deities, embodying the warmth and light of the Sun. Hoops also carried special meaning circles represented the rhythms and cycles of life and nature to the Egyptians.
Jewels of Ancient Nubia
The Egyptians were closely linked to their northern neighbours, the Nubian civilization, with whom they had close trade links. Historians date hoops worn in Nubia, present day Sudan, back to the fourth century. Many of the hoops worn by the Nubian people used intricate detailing and pendants, often depicting Gods and Goddesses.
Hoops as a status symbol in Ancient Greece
Ancient Greek and Roman’s also embraced gold hoop earrings, with Julius Ceasar turning them into a status symbol during his reign. Prior to that the Etruscian civilization who lived around modern-day Tuscany brought refinement and artistry to hoops, while frescoes in Santorini from 1600 BC depict Women in hoops. The Minoan civilization on the Aegian islands and Crete also wore gold, silver and bronze hoops.
The ancient Italian and Greek hoop earrings ranged from plain twisted metals to elaborately ornate designs using chains, beads and pendants. In Greece, disk earrings held pendants of amphorae (ancient Greek jars), figures of Eros and animal-head finials such as Lion and Ram’s. Much like the Egyptians, gold hoop earrings were thought to bring the wearer closer to the Gods, in fact the pendants were often hung to pay respect to certain gods during moments of significance. Expectant parents honoured Hera, the goddess of childbirth and fertility with Women wearing hoops adorned with cow’s heads; and Men honoured Zeus by wearing bull’s heads to enhance their masculinity.
Tapered hoops of gold, silver and bronze spread through Asia by 1,000 BC. Throughout India, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia elaborate gold hoop earrings were worn as part of traditional cultural dress and during ceremonies at Temples. Indian and Vietnamese ethnic groups such as the Hmong and Gadaba people still wear the traditional hoops that have been worn for thousands of years.
Of course, hoop earrings have continued to be worn well past ancient times across many cultures through to present day.
Reflecting on their deep history and the significance they have played is important to use here at Temple of the Sun so we can respect, honour and celebrate this piece of jewellery beyond its beauty.