also ear-ring, Old English earhring, from ear (n.1) + hring (see ring (n.)). Another Old English word was earspinl. Now including any sort of ornament in the ear; the pendant sort originally were ear-drops (1720). Worn by Romanized Britons and Anglo-Saxons alike; their use declined in the Middle Ages and was reintroduced in England 16c., but after 17c. were worn there almost exclusively by women.
The two groups which had formerly a near monopoly on male earrings were Gypsies and sailors. Both has the usual traditions about eyesight, but it was also said that sailors' earrings would save them from drowning, while others argued that should a sailor be drowned and washed up on some foreign shore, his gold earrings would pay for a proper Christian burial. ["Dictionary of English Folklore"]
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