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How to Create a 'Curated Ear', According to an Expert

Curating now goes beyond interiors, tablescaping and wardrobes - a well-curated ear has become one of the biggest fashion trends in recent years.

Did you just get images of punk-like ear piercings tracking the entirety of the outer cartilage? No, we're not talking about that. The modern version is all about dainty studs and sleepers dotted across your entire ear as a form of creativity and self-expression. 

Just like a superbly styled art gallery wall can make all the difference in a home, a perfectly styled ear can have quite a powerful impact on your overall look. Plus, the opportunities to personalise your own unique ear constellation are endless. 

Where did the curated ear trend originate?

You only have to look towards Greek Mythology to see humans have been piercing their ears for centuries. However, the trend for multiple dainty stones and metals is a modern phenomenon, which can mostly be traced back to American jeweller Maria Tash.

Tash lived in San Francisco and Los Angeles in the early '90s where she watched the trend of body piercings become fashionable. However, she managed to make her mark by adding intricate details to otherwise plain metals. Once opening her first boutique in New York in 2004, she has created a global piecing empire.

Now known as 'the piercer to the stars', the jeweller is responsible for the curated ears of celebrities including Rihanna, Hailey Bieber, Charlize Theron and Zoë Kravitz just to name a few. She has now amassed over 702k followers on Instagram alone. 

But Tash isn't the only big-name in the curated ear piercing game; J. Colby Smith is known for piercing the ears belonging to Brooklyn and Los Angeles fashionistas, Brian Keith Thompson is known to have Beyonce and Lady Gaga as clients, and Brooklyn-based Cassie Lopez-March owns a private piercing studio and is the artist behind Kendall Jenner's curated ear. 

However, these piercings don't come cheap - a gap in the market realised by founder of Sydney-based jewellery brand Sit & Wonder, Emily Ko.

Ko wanted to create a place that meets the need for premium, yet accessible fine jewellery. She made her vision come true when she launched her dainty ethereal fine jewellery brand and has since become one of the country's household names when it comes to the curated ear. 

Here, Bed Threads Journal sat down with the jewellery designer to find out everything there is to know about the curated ear piercing trend.


How do you decide which ear piercings will go well together?

The best part about ear curation is that it's completely personal, depending on your style and also the shape and size of your ear.

"Some people might have larger ear lobes, so constellation-type piercings work really well because you can fill more of the space," Ko explains. "On the other hand, if you have smaller lobes, you may want to spread your piercings up the ear so your lobes aren’t too crowded." The same strategy applies for upper or cartilage piercings. 

In saying this, Ko says the end decision is really up to the individual. 

"As a proponent of dainty jewellery, I always say ‘more is more’; get all the piercings you want and it will be up to how you style the jewellery that will really make or break the look."

How do you decide on the placement of the piercings?

Play with a mixture of different shapes and colours. "You can also mix metals, but I’d prefer sticking to a maximum of two tones so it doesn’t look too complicated.

"Generally, I’d start the stack from the bottom (at the first lobe piercing) and work my way upwards. The largest or boldest pieces should start at the bottom so the ear looks balanced."

To achieve this balance, Ko recommends using the 40/60 rule: "Style roughly 40 per cent of piercings wearing bolder or more statement earrings, and the remaining 60 per cent of piercings filled with dainty and more understated pieces."

"If there’s space and you don’t have a conch piercing, it’s always nice to add a simple ear cuff, which can really elevate your look, especially if you don’t have many ear piercings."

Should you do the same piercings on both ears or should each ear be different?

Ko personally thinks each ear should be unique if you're going for multiple piercings. "The idea of having balance is not necessarily having the same matching earrings or piercings, but rather a balance of placement," she explains. "Having different piercings on each ear also allows you to play with different looks."

This explains why most jewellers sell earrings as singles - as opposed to pairs - as it makes it easier to create a curated look without having to pay for additional earrings you don't need.

Which ear piercing hurts the most?

Of course, pain is going to be subjective, but generally speaking, any piercing that goes through your cartilage is going to be more painful than a lobe piercing. There’s also the initial pain to consider (at the time of piercing) as well as the pain experienced as your piercing is healing.

"In terms of initial pain, some of the most painful piercings would be the conch, rook, tragus and helix," Ko notes. 

"There are also certain piercings, due to their position, which can be easily knocked during everyday life and make the healing process painful as well. These are usually any helix, flat or conch piercings as they are towards the outer edge of the ear, and/or extend through to the back of the ear. They can often be accidentally knocked when you're sleeping, tucking your hair behind your ear and even wearing sunglasses or glasses."

What is the most painless ear piercing?

Ko says the standard ear lobes will always be the most painless area to get an ear piercing. 

What does the aftercare involve?

There are two crucial aftercare instructions, according to Ko. These are:

1. Not touching your piercing and;

2. Keeping it clean.

"The first one is sometimes more easily said than done, especially with helix piercings. You should never touch the area with your hands or try to adjust the jewellery while it's healing. You risk introducing bacteria and causing irritation or inflammation to the skin," Ko explains.

"It’s also really easy to knock your piercing while completing simple daily tasks - some examples would include when you're sleeping, getting your hair done at the hairdresser, tucking your hair behind your ear, getting dressed, washing your hair, brushing your hair, and wearing glasses or sunglasses. All of these daily tasks must be done extra carefully."

"One of the hardest things is probably sleeping, especially if you’re a side sleeper. Even if you sleep on your back, it’s still possible to hit your piercing as the earring posts are usually longer to compensate for any swelling that may occur."

Ko's biggest tip would be to only pierce one ear at a time, so you can sleep on the opposite ear. Otherwise, you can also sleep on a travel pillow or even buy special pillows with holes in them - however, you'll still need to be extra cautious even with these pillows.

When it comes to keeping your piercings clean, that's a much easier task. The key to actually not overdo it.

"It’s actually best not to overdo it with the cleaning and washing as that can strip your ear of natural oils and irritate it. Instead, use a saline wash or spray as recommended by your piercer."

What are the different piercings called?

Lobe piercings

Standard lobe: The lower and middle part of the lobe where the piercing goes from the front through to the back of your lobe.

Upper lobe: Higher up on the lobe, closer to the middle of the ear before you hit cartilage.

Transverse lobe: Where the lobe is pierced from side to side with a barbell (rather than front to back).

Outer ear piercings

Helix: The cartilage part of your ear that runs along the outer edge.

Forward helix: The cartilage part of your ear at the front of your ear.

Tragus: The small flap of cartilage at the front of your ear in front of your ear canal.

Industrial: Two helix piercings joined with one piece of jewellery or barbell.

Inner ear piercings

Rook: The ridge of cartilage behind your forward helix.

Conch: The inner part of your ear located just next to the centre outer ridge.

Flat: The flat part of your ear just inside of the helix.

Daith: The part where your helix curls into the middle of your ear.

Anti-Tragus: The part of cartilage just above your lobe.

For more from Emily, follow her on Instagram @sitandwonderjewellery.

Lead image from Sit & Wonder.

Liked this? Step inside a jewellery designer's Sydney home that could double as an art gallery.

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