Museum Talk

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Women have always loved jewelry and the Buffalo Island Museum has two jewelry boxes full of necklaces and earrings of the early and middle 1900s. They were worn by Beulah Blankenship and are on loan by her granddaughter, Janie Blankenship Miller. Ms. Beulah loved her "earbobs", a term southern women called screwback earrings. They had a small screw that was tightened to hold the earring in place. The gold and coral rose necklace and screwback earring set shown here was one of her favorites.

Jewelry boxes filled with necklaces and earbobs from the early to middle 1900s are on display at the Buffalo Island Museum in Monette. (photo provided)

Earrings date back to 2500 B.C. They were usually made from gold and were hoops. Earrings have come in and out of fashion over the centuries. In the Renaissance Era, women wore elaborate wigs and clothing with high collars and earrings weren't in fashion. In the early 18th century, women wore large bonnets and again earrings were not worn. But in the last part of the 18th century and through the 19th century, the bonnets came off and the hairdos were upswept, and earrings became popular again. In the early part of the 20th century, Victorians thought that piercing the ears was barbaric. In the 1930s the screwback earring was invented and women were able to reconcile the wearing of earrings. The screwback earrings offered greater freedom with style and shape of earrings that were comfortable to wear. Shorter hair was popular and jewelers created long, dangling earrings. Clip on earrings also became popular. Ear piercing returned in the middle of the century and women could have their ears pierced in jewelry stores, the doctor's office, or often girls would get together and pierce each others ears.

You may think that men wearing earrings is a new fad, but even King Tut wore earrings. Ancient sailors were very superstitious and thought a pierced ear would improve eyesight or hearing. It was also a status symbol that meant they had sailed around the world or survived a shipwreck.

Today some people wear more that one set of earrings at a time. Most women have a jewelry box full of earrings to match whatever outfit they may wear, from casual to formal. Styles and materials continue to change. They are made of real gold or silver and jewels to plastic, glass, or metal. Visit the museum and see the jewelry that one early Buffalo Island woman wore. You may be surprised to see that this jewelry is back in fashion today.

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