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Pearl ear-rings

Submitted by Katherina Weyssin on September 4, 2011 - 7:03pm

Late sixteenth-century Italian ear-rings

I'm slowly accumulating accessories to go with my new gown. This was a very quick, very cheap project; and the finished product looks a lot like the pictures. I was even able to get real (though poor-quality) pearls for no more than the cost of plastic beads. My pearls are a little smaller and more irregular than most of those depicted, but they're not bad.

Source pictures:

Portraits of Italian women in this period very often show simple pearl ear-rings. Most are egg or tear-drop shaped pearls, hanging off small, plain, gold hoops that look much like modern sleepers. Some portraits show more complicated pendants, some show gold hoops worn alone, some even show two piercings in one ear.

Below are some images from the Web Gallery of Art (wherein I seached for "Italian portraits, painted, 1551-1600"; and chose the first suitable images).

Pearl-drop ear-rings (like those I've made)

Plain hoops (like unadorned modern sleepers)

More complicated ear-rings

Materials and tools:

  • plain gold sleeper ear-rings (bought from a pharmacy for ~$14)
  • 2 pearl beads (from a packet of ~15 irregularly-shaped freshwater pearls, bought from Spotlight for ~$4)
  • shanks to attach beads to ear-rings (bought from Spotlight for ~$4/packet)
  • assorted pliers, borrowed from Caterine (but you can buy a cheap set for ~$15)

Total cost of materials: about $22


  • Choose 2 pearls of similar size and appealing shape (this was the hardest bit)
  • Thread one "shank" through each pearl
  • Make a loop in the shank where it sticks out the top of the pearl; round-nosed pliers help
  • Snip off the excess shank
  • Thread the sleepers through the loops

Total time: less than 10 minutes (plus shopping)

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