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A Guide to the Four Types of Hoop Earrings

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Raye has many body mods, SFSI training, former CFR-D creds, and a decade-long stint as BellaOnline's body art editor under her belt.

It's possible to wear over a dozen hoop earrings in a single ear.

It's possible to wear over a dozen hoop earrings in a single ear.

Know Your Hoop Earrings

One of the most common styles of earring is the hoop earring. Basically, it's a circle of wire worn through a permanent piercing made in the lower ear lobe. What differentiates the various types of hoop earrings is the mechanism by which they open and close.

Most ear piercings and earrings are very thin, approximately 20g or 18g wire (the bigger the number, the smaller the wire). In the photo below, the earrings at the top of the ear are 18g. With modern body piercing, older, tribal piercing styles have been revived in Western culture, and sometimes you see people with very large-gauge ear piercings, up to a few inches in diameter. The largest sizes in the photo are a 2g and are near the bottom of the ear lobe.

Niobium wire loop hoop earrings

Niobium wire loop hoop earrings

4 Types of Hoop Earrings

  • Wire-Loop Earring
  • Hinged-Hoop Earring
  • Fixed-Bead Earring
  • Captive-Bead Earring

1. Wire-Loop Earring

These earrings are some of the simplest and oldest styles of jewelry. A single wire forms the circular earring, with a tiny loop formed at one end and the other end being slightly bent to make a hook. The hooked end passes through the piercing and catches on the looped end.

This style can be made using a round wire or a ready-made earring wire that has the loop end already fashioned.

How to Put Them On

When wearing this type of earring, you do have to take care of how you open it. Widening the opening to get it into your ear can wind up making a weak spot in the metal wire and result in the earring breaking. Instead of opening the loop horizontally (which makes a big "C" shape), it's best to open the two ends vertically just a tiny bit and then bend the wire back to close the loop.

If you scroll down to the fixed-bead earring picture, you can see how this works, as that style also benefits from being put in and taken out the same way.

Gold hinged-hoop earrings

Gold hinged-hoop earrings

2. Hinged-Hoop Earring

These earrings are often thicker than the ear piercings, with a thin wire for passing through the ear. One end of this thin ear wire is hinged, and the other catches on or fits into the other thick end of the earring. Most often there is a slight hump to the ear wire which allows the lower portion of the earring to dangle more freely.

A lot of fashion earrings are designed in this style, and they can support a lot of weight fairly securely. You can lose this type of earring if it snags on something, as the sideways motion can easily open the hinged wire.

Gold wire fixed-bead earrrings

Gold wire fixed-bead earrrings

3. Fixed-Bead Earring

This style of jewelry is a lot like the wire loop, with a small bead taking the place of the looped end. The free end of the wire goes through the piercing and into the bead, hiding the actual opening mechanism and making the jewelry harder to lose or snag.

How to Put Them On

To insert or remove this type of hoop, the ring must be bent or deformed somewhat, so you most often only see it in earrings or smaller-gauge body jewelry. It's best to move the ends horizontally past each other, not directly away from each other, to open the ring as this deforms the circular shapeless and helps avoid metal fatigue and breaking.

Niobium captive bead earrings, with rectangular hematite beads.

Niobium captive bead earrings, with rectangular hematite beads.

4. Captive-Bead Ring

With this type of hoop, the ring comes nearly all the way around to make a circle with just a small gap. A bead, with two depressions drilled on either side of it, is pinched between the two wire ends (captured) and thus held in place. This style is available from very small (20g) up to size 0 or larger.

Most often you see this type of jewelry worn in non-ear piercings, although they can be nice for small, upper-cartilage piercings, or any earring where you want to wear something very long-term and never change or take it out.

How to Put Them On

To make sure this style of earring opens and closes fully, it's often best to get special tools made for working with them. To open the rings, you want what are called "ring-spreading pliers" that put just enough gentle pressure on the inside of the hoop to release the bead. To make sure the rings close down fully and maintain their round shape, "closing pliers" use scooped ends to put even pressure on the rings as you squeeze them shut.

Why Do Some People Have Elongated Piercings?

Some earring wearers find that over time their ear piercings become elongated. This means that what were once small holes become more like long slits, with the band of tissue between the bottom of the ear piercing and the edge of the ear lobe getting very thin.


The most common cause of this is genetics. What predisposes some people to thinner ear tissue that changes more over time isn't something that can really be addressed. See what the ear piercings of your mom and grandmother look like if you are wondering if you might have this genetic tendency.

Wearing Heavy Earrings

The second most common cause of elongated ear piercings is something that can be monitored, and that's the wearing of heavy earrings. The weight of an earring adds stress to ear wires, and over decades, these thin wires can facilitate the stretching of the piercing downwards. Wearing heavy earrings often or for long periods of time is not recommended. Large-size earrings ("dangles" or "chandeliers") that flap with movement or can get snagged easily can also contribute to ear-piercing elongation.

Can You Fix This?

Due to the nature of ear tissue, the only cure for an elongated piercing is cosmetic surgery on the ear lobe. Any tears or closures require plastic surgery and suturing to make the ear tissue grow together again. And afterwards, the person still has to be careful about heavy earrings, or the same problem will just occur again.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Comments or Questions About Hoop Earrings

Raye (author) from Seattle, WA on March 12, 2012:

kuuipo, either go to a piercing shop in your area, or try your favorite one online.

kuuipo on March 10, 2012:

please tell me where i can by wire hoop loop earrings. thank you