A guide to ear mapping, jewellery’s latest trend

Lisa Armstrong
Lisa Armstrong

The last time the jeweller Robinson Pelham held one of its all-day piercing parties, the queue snaked around the corner from its shop in Chelsea. ‘We did 150 women that day, every age from 18 to 72,’ says co-founder Vanessa Chilton.

‘It’s addictive. Women who’ve always worn their hair down started tying it back to show off their earrings. One girl had three and came back an hour later for more. We had to say no – give it a few weeks and then see how you feel.’ The next piercing party is on 28 June.

I don’t know about chemically addictive – although they say the adrenaline you get from the actual piercing is similar to the heady sensation tattoo fans feel when they have a new one. That makes sense. Although minimal, there’s always a tiny shock of pain.

According to Ayurvedic medicine, piercings can tap into chakras (energy channels), helping to regulate appetite, sleep patterns and menstrual cycles, depending where they’re placed. Meanwhile, one London doctor offers a service piercing the daith, the inner cartilage fold, which he claims can help alleviate migraines.

My piercings, however, are purely for vanity. Over the years, I’ve acquired five on each lobe.

The first two were conventional enough – to the lobe, when I was about 15 and in love with dangly earrings. Then, about eight years ago, Maria Tash, an American piercer, became one of those New York insider obsessions that British fashion editors had to sample for themselves whenever they were over for Fashion Week. As a result I’ve added piercings to the standard and upper lobe (see below).

Tash now has London salons in Liberty and Harrods. They’re pricey but worth it – the service, aftercare and designs are all best in class. Tash has turned the prosaic business of piercing into an enjoyable ritual that combines art with facial contouring.

She examines her clients’ faces closely before siting and sizing earrings so they enhance cheekbones and give the illusion of smoother jawlines. A row of graduated hoops or studs laddered up the edge of the lobe will draw the eye upwards – always start with the largest at the bottom. Long faces should avoid big, droopy earrings.

Tash can be credited with turning the lobe into a focal point for women of all ages. ‘Older women come in with their daughters as a bonding experience,’ she tells me from New York, adding that piercings make everything look edgier.

I can vouch for that. Now that my heavy dingle-dangle-wearing days are over (they were dragging my lobes down, and the last thing I need is ears by my boobs), I’m far more experimental with my ear jewellery. Bats, arrows, ziggurats – they’re so tiny, I’m up for all of them. If you have a sprinkling of specks across your ear, you can easily achieve as much sparkle as the chunkiest chandelier earrings.

My only fail was a piercing in my helix (the gristly part of the rim), which refused to heal – a common problem. After six months I gave up and now, when the mood strikes, I wear a clip-on cuff – as opposite.

Another tricky area is the inner conch, which can take time to heal. You’ll also have to navigate in-ear headphones if you use them – a good piercer should be able to advise. But it can look so pretty… I’m tempted.

Try these


Clockwise from top left: North Star 14k gold diamond studs, £349 (chupi.com); Single 14k gold and sapphire mini hoop, £58 (mejuri.com); Peggy gold vermeil and amethyst hoops, £100 (carouseljewels.com);Camilla and Marc X Otiumberg gold vermeil ear climber, £120 (otiumberg.com); 9k gold twisted rope huggies, £250 (lucydelius.co); Diamond, tsavorite and peridot gold vermeil studs, £325 (dinnyhall.com)

In lead image Lisa wears: Shirt, £250, Mother of Pearl (motherofpearl.co.uk); Trousers, £220, Dai (daiwear.com); Diamond and yellow gold ear cuff, £1,515, Robinson Pelham (robinsonpelham.com); 3 hoops – 14kt gold and diamond drop huggie earrings, £275 each, Monica Vinader (monicavinader.com); Flower diamond stud, £385, Maria Tash (mariatash.com); Evil eye diamond stud, from a selection, Chupi (chupi.com); Ring, Lisa’s own

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