Ask Angel

Curated Ear Piercings

Dear. Ms. Angel,

I have been getting calls and requests for “curated ear piercings” and to be honest that wasn’t part of my training. I haven’t said no, but I also don’t know whether I’m doing it right. I’m not even sure if I know what it means exactly. Can you help me out? Also, a lot of those customers ask about gold jewelry but we only have like three pieces of it here. How can I convince my boss (the owner) to get more of it in the shop? Thanks.

Sincerely, A.

Dear A.,

Thanks for the great questions. First, I think we should define what that term means: A “curated ear” refers to new piercing(s) and/or upgraded jewelry for existing holes that work with the individual anatomy of the ear to produce a unified, aesthetically pleasing look. Instead of focusing on each piercing as a separate entity, it involves viewing the entire ear and the ornamentation for it as a cohesive creation.

To quote Bustle magazine(i):

Jewelry designer and piercer Maria Tash is a particularly large proponent of this method, which basically means you get a bunch of piercings all at once (or work with the piercings you already have), then pick jewelry that goes nicely together to fill all the holes. “The phrase itself first emerged in late 2015, early 2016,” Tash tells me during a visit to her studio in NYC. “It describes styling of the ear with jewelry in a very deliberate and beautiful way. Something that resonates with the wearer’s personal aesthetic.”

On social media, the phrase (and hashtag) achieved greater popularity in 2018, so only the newest of piercers could have had that terminology used in their training. But in one sense, a “curated ear” shouldn’t be that different from what any good piercer already does. That is, you should always carefully evaluate and work with the individual anatomy every time someone comes in for a piercing. I frequently see piercers thoughtlessly doing whatever a client asks for, without taking personal suitability into consideration. The results are often poor both aesthetically and for healing.

In the case of ears, each build will often “suggest” placement(s) that may be slightly different (or a radical departure) from what the person had in mind. I would provide a mirror to show each piercee which of their anatomical features call out for adornment. I’d explain any potential issues in requested areas that I found less suitable, such as minimal tissue, uneven surfaces, or vessels in the pathway. Further, I would not hesitate to make recommendations for all of the “best” spots—regardless of which piercing(s) they came in planning to get. Customers would routinely revise their plans after a guided survey of their own anatomy and hearing my discussion on the particulars of their ear and how jewelry would rest in it.

If you aren’t already doing this, I highly advise that you always show patrons the piercing options that are presented by their unique anatomy. Even if they don’t follow through with all of your ideas that day, they might find themselves inspired, and return for more at a later date. I call this “planting seeds” for future piercings.

Anatomical Considerations

Search for areas that call out for attention: atypical configurations, pierceable ridges, particularly flat expanses, or other structures that differ from the norm. Some people have a small, harmless bump on the rim of the helix toward the upper ear on one or both sides. It is known as “Darwin’s tubercle” or (bump or point)(ii). Depending on the ear and any existing piercings, these can be especially interesting to frame with jewelry in different ways, because they are so distinctive. Remember to leave some negative space (unpierced parts) too! Overcrowding an ear seldom leads to the most attractive results.

Jewelry Considerations

To make recommendations, first get an overall impression of the client. Evaluate any regular earrings, body jewelry, and other ornamentation they’re wearing, including metal type/color. Observe their clothing, color palette, and personal style: rocker, casual, vintage, preppy, bohemian, etc. Based on what you can see and your impressions, formulate a few suggestions for jewelry and potential placements.

There should be a unifying element to the ear, but in general, you don’t want to go too “Garanimals” and have everything match exactly. The idea is to combine pieces that work well together—often a mix of rings and studs and/or varying sizes in similar or related styles of jewelry.

Propose some kind of theme that presents itself after you get a feel for their fashion sense and build. It could be one of these, or any other combo that you can imagine:

  • * A grouping of piercings placed in a geometric formation
  • * Multiple jewelry pieces with a certain gemstone or color combination of stones
  • * Stud ends in a motif such as nature (bees, flowers, butterflies), or moon and star, or other imagery like skull/snake/dagger/lightning bolt, or all triangular-shaped pieces, etc.
  • * A row of piercings with an array of stud ends that ascend or descend in size

Start with what you think is the very best proposal and try not to overwhelm them with too many possibilities at once. Listen carefully to their feedback and tailor further input based on their stated preferences.

Note that three fresh cartilage piercings at once is a reasonable maximum so as not to overload the body’s healing capacity. As piercers should all know, cartilage can be quite tricky to heal since it doesn’t have its own blood supply. Further, it can be exceptionally difficult to heal piercings on both ears simultaneously. For this reason, piercing one side at a time is preferable.

It can’t hurt to follow the principle of piercing from bottom to top when possible. That way, if there is bleeding, you’re moving above it, instead of having it get in the way of subsequent piercing(s).

Regarding your question about gold jewelry: start a running list and add to it every time a request for gold comes in. Write down specifically what the shopper was looking for. If there’s much demand, it should be evident pretty quickly, and you’ll have something concrete to show your boss. It will demonstrate all the sales he’s missing out on, and you will already have the start of a shopping list. You should read my article from last year entitled Buying and Selling Gold Body Jewelry (iii), which contains an abundance of practical information to get you going. Some brief excerpts:

“…you are not required to launch in with a massive order initially; you can begin slowly and build up your inventory over time.”

“I’d suggest that you start by purchasing some gold pieces for the most prevalent piercings you do in the most common sizes you already use.”

“…it might be best to focus primarily on yellow gold (and rose, if people have asked for it), since the white is more similar in appearance to what you already stock.”

Since curated ears encompass existing piercings, this provides a great opportunity to sell additional jewelry.

There’s no one correct way to create a curated ear. The point is to work with the individual anatomy and produce an aesthetically pleasing overall effect with the piercing placements and jewelry. If you and the client are both happy with the results, then chances are you’ve done it correctly!