ear irons, made between 1575 and 1860

Originally the ear iron was a narrow, inconspicuous iron clamp to hold a woman’s undercap – hence the name ‘ear iron’. A second cap, the overcap, was worn over it.

Oorijzers, van smal naar breed, gemaakt tussen 1575 en 1860

Ear irons, from narrow to broad, made between 1575 and 1860. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Along with the rising standard of living, the ear irons became larger. They developed into precious head ornaments, and in the 19th century even became status symbols with which rich farmers’ wives competed to show off their wealth. Foreigners could not believe their eyes: in the Netherlands servants walked around wearing gold helmets! The ‘irons’ were usually pure gold or silver but sometimes they were made of gilded copper, brass or silver.

On the sides they had ornaments, the shapes of which – often flowers – varied with the prevailing fashion.