Plug (jewellery)

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Totonac figurine wearing prominent earspools.

A plug (sometimes earplug or earspool), in the context of body modification, is a short, cylindrical piece of jewellery commonly worn in larger-gauge body piercings.[1] Because of their size — which is often substantially thicker than a standard metal earring — plugs can be made out of almost any material. Acrylic glass, metal, wood, bone, stone, horn, glass, silicone or porcelain are all potential plug materials.

Plugs are commonly, and have historically, been worn in the ears. They can, however, be inserted into any piercing.

In order for a plug to stay put within a piercing, the ends of its cylindrical shape are often "flared out," or the plug is fastened in place by o-rings. Combinations of these two methods may also be used.

  • A double-flared (or saddle) plug, flares outward at both ends, and is thinner towards the middle. No o-rings are needed to keep the plug in the piercing, but the fistula needs to be wide enough to accommodate the flare when the plug is initially put in.
  • A single flared plug has one flared end, usually worn on the front of the piercing, and one end with no flare. The no flare end is held in place by an o-ring and may or may not be grooved. These plugs give the aesthetic of double-flared plugs without requiring that the wearer's fistulas be large enough to accommodate flares.
  • A straight plug (or no-flare plug) is a typical-looking cylinder, without flares, and is kept in place by sliding o-rings against both ends of the plug. A grooved plug is a variation on the straight plug, with grooves carved in the material to hold the o-rings snug.


Pre-Hispanic earspools crafted from amber, at the Museum of Amber in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas.

During the ancient Egyptian New Kingdom, both sexes wore a variety of jewelry, including earplugs and large-gauge hoop-style earrings.[2]

An earspool, or an ear tunnel, is an ornament worn inserted into the earlobe. They were particularly used among indigenous cultures of the Americas, including Mesoamerican cultures such as the Maya and the Aztecs. Their use could sometimes significantly stretch the earlobe. In Mesoamerica they were used from as early as the Preclassic Period (2000-100 BC).[3]

Inca men wore gold or silver plugs in the ears, which indicated their nobility. Their stretched piercings, which could reach the size of two inches, later inspired a Spanish nickname for the Inca people: orejones ("big ears").[4]

Ivory earplugs have been used by the Hmong people.[5]

Silver plugs, called rombin, are worn by Aka women.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Miller, Jean-Chris (2004). The Body Art Book: A Complete, Illustrated Guide to Tattoos, Piercings, and Other Body Modification. Berkley Trade. ISBN 0-425-19726-3. 
  2. ^ Bard, Kathryn (1999). "Jewelry". Encyclopedia of the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-18589-0. 
  3. ^ Matos Moctezuma & Solis Olguín 2002, p.448.
  4. ^ Malpass, Michael A. (1996). Daily Life in the Inca Empire. Greenwood Press Daily Life Through History Series. Greenwood Press. ISBN 0-313-29390-2. 
  5. ^ Borel, France (2001). Splendor of Ethnic Jewelry: From the Colette and Jean Pierre Ghysels Collection. Harry N. Abrams. ISBN 0-8109-2993-7. 
  6. ^ Untracht, Oppi (1982). Jewelry Concepts & Technology. Doubleday. ISBN 0-385-04185-3. 


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