Stone has had enormous impact on us both creatively and technologically. Minerals gave us the first chance to paint our lives with color and story, and take it with us for others to see. It turns out that aside from things which are alive (birds, bugs, plants), colors in nature, and particularly jewel tones, are actually very rare. Most vibrant colors are either the result of environmental light play, such as sunsets or the color of a lagoon, or they are biological - flowers, butterflies, etc. In either of these cases, the color is not permanent. It is location specific, temporary, or sadly, it dies.
These plugs are one of my favorite Southeast Asian styles and this specific pair is one of my prized collection pieces. I love the shape, and the patina these have taken on over the years is exquisite. These plugs are worn by women of the Karen, a collection of ethnic sub-groups (sometimes referred to as "Hill Tribes") from the Golden Triangle region of Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar (Burma).
The ears had immense significance to the Maya. They were believed to be conduits for spiritual energy, and thus ear flares had considerable value and importance in culture. Forms of obsidian, shell, ceramic and stone were worn in ear perforations. Some designs for daily wear are similar to standard solid plugs or thin tunnels of today, but the most prolific reminders of Maya body modification are the large ear flares shown in sculpture and craft.
Ear flares have been part of human expression and body modification throughout time and across cultures. The flare’s physical purpose was to stretch the skin of the earlobe into an elongated circular shape; depending on each culture’s standards, this modification could meet physical standards of beauty, represent traits of character, or reflect a combination of the two. The material used to make the ear flare also played a large role in the owner’s social prestige. In the Mayan world, an ear flare derived from jade, a mineral more precious than gold to the Mayan people, was a display of wealth and power by the elite of the society.
For some time now I have been interested in Prehispanic culture and jewelry, and so called "primitive" lapidary. After completing the first of what has become many personal interpretations and historical reproductions of Mayan stone plugs from traditional jadeite, I was interested in tackling the idea of ear flares that involved multiple pieces.
Uniquely modern shell ear flares from the Gulf coast of Mexico. These pieces are double flared with slightly larger flares on one side (likely the front).
Uniquely colored splotchy green to black jadeite ear flare with a somewhat squared off contour. The edge carving resembles four birds. Biconically drilled holes adorn four points on the face, and I see these as eyes, while the edge contours represent beaks, and the curved incised lines could be wings.
Vibrant, very high quality green aventurine (green quartz variant) hollow ear flares with an irregular, rounded square shape. The color green, attributed to life, the rains, and the growth of maize, was very culturally important to the Maya, and stones such as jade and aventurine exhibiting vibrant green colors were held in high regard.