Movies and books about pirates are full of flashy images of pirates in unique and flashy jewelry. Pirates indeed wore earrings but you should also know that their earrings and jewelry were more than just mere fashion statements. Here is a deep look at why pirates wore earrings and other jewelry:
- 1. Pirates wore earrings as a show off for their wealth
- 2. Pirates wore earrings to show open rebellion against unjust laws
- 3. Pirates wore earrings as reminders of their travels and voyages on the high seas and new lands
- 4. Pirates wore earrings for superstitious and religious reasons
- 5. Pirates wore earrings as insurance for their Funeral in case they died at sea
- 6. Pirates wore earrings for safety
- 7. The meaning of pirates wearing earrings
- 8. What jewelry did pirates wear?
Pirates wore earrings as a show off for their wealth
Gold, diamonds, and other luxurious stones have always been associated with opulence. Pirates too wore gold jewelry from their pillages as a statement of their financial well-being. The earrings and other jewelry like necklaces worn by pirate chiefs were a statement to society that hey, look how well we are doing.
Pirates wore earrings to show open rebellion against unjust laws
The rich and influential class across Europe made unjust laws that defined how the common people were to dress and live during the 17th and 18th Centuries led by Britain. These laws were ruthlessly implemented and flouting them attracted hefty monetary fines or long unfair jail terms. Pirates were free-spirited people who did not believe in being confined by such senseless dictates which made them hit back at the unfair systems by dressing extravagantly and appearing in public as a dare to the ruling class and the authorities in towns then to try them. Earrings were the perfect presentation and a statement from them that they are flouting the laws openly and the authorities or the unfair laws cannot stop them from living life on their terms.
Pirates wore earrings as reminders of their travels and voyages on the high seas and new lands
Young sailors were commonly given silver earrings to commemorate their first crossing of the equator. The earrings served as a proud reminder that they had successfully conquered the treacherous waters of the southern tip of South America.
Pirates wore earrings for superstitious and religious reasons
Earrings worn by pirates are deeply rooted in superstition. Earrings were believed to cure bad eyesight and as magical talismans that prevented seasickness. The precious metals that make most earrings were believed to possess magical healing powers that would keep the pirates wearing them in good health at sea and on land. Gold was specifically believed to be the perfect talisman that saved pirates from drowning at sea and a guarantee that the sailors would return safely back to land. Some pirates also believed that their earrings would make God guide and protect them as they went through their daily activities.
Pirates wore earrings as insurance for their Funeral in case they died at sea
Earrings guaranteed that a pirate’s funeral expenses could be paid for by providing either a down payment or full payment towards a pirate’s funeral if he died at sea and was washed ashore or died at the shore. Some pirates went as far as engraving their names and home ports on their earrings to ensure that their bodies could be sent back to their families if they died anywhere far from home and were found. Silver and gold earrings were enough to cater to funeral expenses during the golden age of piracy.
Pirates wore earrings for safety
The loops of pirate earrings served a very important role while the pirates were at sea. They were used to dangle the wax that the pirates used to plug their ears with when firing canons during combats with enemy ships. This protected the pirates from hearing loss even though they could not offer the pirates protection from drowning.
The meaning of pirates wearing earrings
Pirates are often portrayed wearing an eye patch on one eye which has been a source of intrigue for eons. The eye patches are however more of an accessory of necessity than a fashion or identity statement. Eye patches were not only won to cover lost or injured eyes but to deliberately cover a single eye to protect it from light so that they keep the right depth perception in poor light conditions while shuffling from the top deck to the below deck. Low light adjustment is a catalyst for poor eye health and the patches were an ingenious solution to this problem.
But the question is, what did the earrings that the pirates wear symbolize to them?
Symbol of insured proper funeral
A pirate’s earring was a physical insurance policy reminder guaranteeing them that they will have a decent burial fully catered for if they die. The person who finds their body could use the earing to accord them a proper burial. It was a good way of acknowledging their mortality and preparing for it. Historians have unearthed evidence that proves this like engraved names and hometowns found on pirates’ rings.
Symbols of Voyage and Expedition Success and Victory
Crossing the Equator was one of the greatest sailing achievements of a first-time pirate. To mark their success, they were given silver earrings as a reminder that they made it. The earring reminded them that they could conquer whatever hurdles they encountered.
Symbol of adherence to superstition
Pirate earrings reminded them that they had mystical protection from danger as God was watching over them. They also believed that it protected them from hearing loss and improved their eyesight due to the precious metals that made the earrings.
Symbol of revolt
Pirates considered themselves social outcasts and society treated them exactly like that. The earrings they wore were a direct symbolic message to them and the world that they were not gentlemen. It is why they chose to wear earrings as a form of revolt against the laws set to define dressing and how to live during their time.
Symbols of alignment to the pirate’s attitude
Pirates lived and died for money. Their creed, their belief, and their entire life and daily activities were driven by the need to acquire money and protect what they had from thieves like them. Jewelry was the perfect solution as it made it harder for a person to steal what you are wearing compared to a purse you are carrying or a safe you keep at home or travel with.
What jewelry did pirates wear?
Hollywood is rife with images of pirates donned in either expensive or odd jewelry. Human beings generally have an inherent need to improve the natural beauty of nature and jewelry provides the means to do just that. However certain pieces of jewelry have been more than just decorations or additions to the natural aesthetic beauty of the wearers. The jewelry is worn expressly for protection from evil forces and misfortunes. Other pieces of jewelry have been worn by mankind as good luck charms while others as outside symbols of deeper vows and commitments made to a cause or a fellow human-like in marriage.
Earrings have been known to distinguish people in certain cultures and civilizations. Ancient Romans distinguished their Nubian slaves from the free population by giving them earrings. Pirates wore earrings and other jewelry too for various reasons. Below is a look at some of the unique jewelry pirates adorned:
The Pirate Skull Ring
The Pirate Skull Ring was not only the first payment for a pirate’s funeral in case he died on land or at sea and was washed ashore but also a sign of rebellion.
The pirates adopted the pirate skull ring as a sign of rebellion against unfair laws that defined what ordinary people can wear and how they should live which had been passed by the wealthy ruling class in most of Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries led by Britain. The free-spirited pirates could not tolerate the hefty monetary fines and jail time prescribed by these skewed laws and hence wore the skull ring to intentionally poke the system in the eyes.
The pirates also wore the pirate skull ring as a sign of impunity. At the height of piracy during the golden age, many nations put in place strict anti-piracy laws that carried the death penalty with them. Pirates wore the pirate skull ring that identified them from the rest of the people alongside clothes they had plundered and strolled into town to show people, here we are, what will you do about it?
Men’s pirate ring
Male pirates wore necklaces and earrings which clearly distinguished them from ordinary sailors. This is partly since being thieves themselves, they knew that stealing an item from someone’s body was not easy. They also wore rings and necklaces as souvenirs from successful raids. Bartholomew Roberts constantly had his huge diamond-encrusted gold cross which he had pillaged from the Spanish Royal Family in a successful raid.
Most pirates also wore a single gold earring whose significance went beyond just beauty. Earrings were insurance for a proper funeral which was a constant reality that pirates had to live with because of their risky lifestyles.
Most pirates wore long and large earrings for superstitious and religious reasons deeply rooted in the belief that the jewelry would help them to gain god’s protection.
Pirates wore earrings and other jewelry for fashion but the earrings served more purposes than enhancing aesthetic beauty. The earrings were powerful symbols that conveyed deeper meanings and carried deeper messages than just mere dressing artifacts.