Each season, there is an inescapable itch that takes hold of jewelry enthusiasts. As much as you might feel the need to refresh your wardrobe staples or shop new-season workwear, magpies succumb to an intense urge to update their piercing repertoire. This year’s piercing buzzword? Earscaping. The ‘earscape’ is all about taking a holistic approach to piercing placement – curating your piercings and the jewelry within them to create a highly personalized stack, with cohesive and well-thought-out styling across the ear.
“I think of curating an ear like choosing the perfect outfit; every component works together for a combination that is all the wearer’s own,” says Maria Tash, who founded her luxury piercing and fine-jewelry brand in 1993 and is now the go-to guru for the likes of Hailey Bieber, Rihanna and Ashley Graham. “Great curation is imaginative and memorable, and there are many ways to achieve it,” she adds.
Just as with fashion trends, the A-list has led the charge. “Celebrities like Dua Lipa, Jennifer Lawrence and Kaia Gerber have introduced chic ways to style layered piercings on the red carpet this year – with a slick bun and punkish styles by the likes of Eéra, along with elegant diamond studs and emeralds,” says Libby Page, market director at NET-A-PORTER. Page argues that a fully stacked-up ear has become a go-to styling choice that can be just as easily paired with a white T-shirt as with statement chandelier earrings and a minimalist gown for occasion wear. The earscape is now ubiquitous.
Want to start earscaping? Read this first…
“My number-one tip for looking chic is don’t make it too busy,” says Edwina Hilton, fine-jewelry buyer at NET-A-PORTER. “Careful curation is key to making your stack look effortless,” she explains. This can take some serious consideration. “You need to plan ahead and design how you want your ear to look, ultimately – do your research, look at piercings online and, more importantly, look at your ear,” says Vanessa Chilton, co-founder of Robinson Pelham, a British brand famed for its ‘stud club’ and piercing parties, where customers can embark on a whole ear overhaul.
“Some piercings just might not work on your anatomy, and it’s crucial to consider your lifestyle factors, too,” advises Chiltern. “Ask yourself a few questions: do you wear headphones? If you have a daith, tragus or anti-tragus piercing, will you still be able to get earbuds in your ear? If you have an orbital, transverse lobe or helix piercing, will these be uncomfortable with over-ear headphones? Do you have long hair, and do you wear it up or down?” she probes.
I think of curating an ear like choosing the perfect outfit; every component works together for a combination that is all the wearer’s own”Maria Tash
The key earscaping trends for 2023
Much like fashion and beauty trends, fine jewelry is feeling the influence of the 1990s in full force, with the return of eyebrow, lip and industrial piercings (two piercings at the top of the ear, connected by a sleek bar). This time around, however, ’90s placements are being populated with dainty gemstones and mixed gold tones – a far cry from the metal-heavy silver designs pre-Y2K. Maria Tash’s floating diamonds have become hugely popular in recent years, with delicate stones adorning unexpected parts of the ear, yet in 2023 she is witnessing a gear change: “We are seeing larger clusters of stones, different diamond cuts and shapes in unusual combinations, hidden in the ear,” she says. The consensus among experts is that forward-helix piercings are also trending, along with ‘constellation’ piercings (a smattering of delicate studs that create a pattern across the ear) and ‘snake bite’ piercings – a double set of studs spaced side by side.
How to choose the right jewels for your piercing
Just as important as the placements is the jewelry itself – working out which metal tone you prefer is the best starting point. “Yellow gold is still the most popular choice, but I see the demand for white gold is gaining momentum again, especially with larger diamond pieces,” says Anita Ko, an LA-based fine-jewelry designer. Ko’s best-selling ‘Safety Pin’ earring is regularly spotted on A-listers and is available in multiple hues of 18-karat gold and colored gems, so you can choose which best suits your skin tone and existing stack. Brian Keith Thompson, owner of LA’s iconic piercing studio Body Electric Tattoo, is also finding that white gold requests are on the rise – he often pairs its cool tones with rose gold to add a 2023 twist.
If sifting through the myriad options leaves you stumped, it can be helpful to consult a personal shopper or piercing expert to work as a creative team. “It’s a bond between client and piercer, and, like any relationship, it’s best to build things in steps,” says Matt Mayfield, a specialist at New York Adorned – one of New York’s premier piercing destinations. “Often, when a client comes in with a full idea, we will end up doing something completely different; a good piercer will make sure you are as much a part of the process as the piercer is.”
In Mayfield’s experience, it’s best to start simple. “If you have a plan for a 10-piercing project, come with the mindset that the plan may change. You might like to move a piercing somewhere else, or even use a different piece of jewelry in the next piercing. Patience is the key to a successful project, or overhaul, or redesign,” he explains. And the most important thing to remember when creating an innovative earscape? “Trust your piercer,” says Mayfield. “Innovation comes in so many forms, and tandem innovation and creativity between two parties working to create something special is the best kind.”
JOIN THE PIERCING PARTY
The people featured in this story are not associated with NET-A-PORTER and do not endorse it or the products shown