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Piercing is a form of adornment. Did you know there are nine places to pierce your ears? Some people like the world's most pierced woman go totally overboard.  Others like to push the envelope and pierce unusual parts of their bodies. Or get surgically implanted jewel piercings in their eyes. (Do not click on this past blog post if you are squeamish!)And now, we have see through piercings!

It's an extreme form of body modification. It is an extension of plugs - where pierced ear lobes are deliberately stretched with round discs made from a wide variety of materials. Hers just happens to be transparent and an unusual means of self-expression. She could be a walking ad for her dentist or dental hygiene!

Sometimes the plugs are hollow tubes called flesh tunnels which allows views through the enlarged ear holes (shown below).

While stretched piercings have gotten popular among the younger set in the Western world in recent years,this type of body modification is not new. The practice has existed for thousands of years in different cultures all over the world. The photo below shows an elderly woman from the Karen Thai Hill Tribe whose name translates as the "Big Ear Tribe". (Also check my past post on another hill tribe - The brass neck coils of the Padaung Hill tribe)

The following pictures show the stretched lips and earlobes of  Mursi women from Ethiopia. Their stretching discs are made from clay.

Apparently both sexes of the Maasai tribe in Kenya/Tanzania like stretching large airy holes in their ears. The beaded earrings in the next picture are huge!

Less extreme are the moderately stretched ear lobes of these Maasai women below. Aren't their earrings and neck pieces fabulous? 

When the Spanish conquistadors discovered the Incas in South America, they saw well- to-do men wearing enormous earrings through stretched ear lobes. The Spaniards nicknamed them orejones or "big ears".  Shown here is a photo taken of a Larco Museum (Lima, Peru) sketch of how they used to wear them. And you thought chandeliers earrings are too heavy!

Original Post by THE BEADING GEM
Jewelry Making Tips - Jewelry Business Tips 


  1. This 50-something woman doesn't understand the trend of flesh tunnels or the tribal like adornments in our culture. I do find it interesting and helpful to read about it to try to reach that understanding. So I do appreciate this post and the links you shared and also hope to see other comments here! Enjoy your day!

  2. As they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. As long as there has been jewelry, people adorn themselves in all sorts of ways, some as you can see are uniquely cultural styles.

  3. Another fantastic post BeadingGem. You're posts are always well researched and the subject matter interesting.

    Great resource pics.


  4. Oh my! I'm in pain just looking at the pictures!!

    Hey Pearl! I'm back...or at least trying to make a slow come back into designing. I've missed being able to play with my beads and I'm hoping this tendonitis never comes back!

    Looking forward to catching up a little and more good things to come. Oh yeah, I just announced my grand re-opening/new look's the start of something good!

  5. Wow...very interesting Pearl...I often see stretched ear holes but some of this is a bit much. Having said that I do realize culturally it is a thing of beauty for the Mursi & Maasai women!


  6. Every time I see people with the huge holes in their ears I wonder how they will ever get a good job.

  7. How does the first guy smile, or drink any beverage? Or use a straw?

    All I can say is drinking a slushie or a bubble tea would be extremely challenging.

  8. I don't know if the plugs leak but it sure is disconcerting to watch that person eat or drink. It's like watching somebody eat with their mouth open!

  9. "Every time I see people with the huge holes in their ears I wonder how they will ever get a good job."
    I don't actually have anything "stretched" (or "gauged", as it's more commonly known), but I do currently have 15 body piercings, and I've never had a problem finding a job because of them; I've actually been working for the last five years at a fairly reputable company, and my piercings have never been an issue.

    There are some places that will make you wear retainers in any body piercings or "excessive" ear piercings, but for the most part, I've found that businesses are becoming a lot more lenient where body piercing/art/modification is concerned; because piercings and tattoos are becoming so much more mainstream in society, I think businesses have no choice but to be more lenient, else they'll cut out a large chunk of eligible employees. Just my opinion, of course, but again, I've never had a problem finding jobs due to my piercings, and neither has anyone else I know with gauged and/or "excessive" piercings. :)

    That all being said, I enjoyed this article. I particularly enjoyed the bit of cultural history about other countries that have practiced gauging.

  10. Western society is more tolerant of say ear piercings so long as they are not excessively done. Gauged earlobes too are fine if they aren't too large. The reason why I included the cultural and historical bits is to make the point that ear adornments are really nothing new.

  11. I wonder how quickly this young persons (can't tell the gender) lower front teeth are going to decay and fall out. The lack of saliva in that area is going to create a terrible environment for bacteria to run rampant, and then you will be seeing his/her tongue hanging out....ewww. Plus, this must make for a nightmarish speech impediment and other bad oral habits with the lack of a suctioning ability.

  12. I have no idea if general mouth health is affected by the plug. One has to wonder though.

  13. "People like this" - or like me, for that matter - get a good job by being educated, follwed by a solid background of relevant experience. I'm currently an IT Manager at headquarters, and I have my ears stretched. I have never hd a problem finding a job, while having my ears like this.

    As for the people who choose to do this with their mouth, I'd imagine they would have a harder time getting a job interacting face to face, than a nonpublic job.

    I understand that to many people this is a new "trend", but please. This is America, leave your discrimination at home.

  14. Is this for real, I mean the chin open piercing, it is horrific and gives a distorted image, she has just destroyed her beautiful lips let alone her teeth will rot.

  15. That is the ugliest thing we have ever seen, the girl with the open mouth or teeth showing!!! This is where people take art over the top!

  16. I,ve just googled "open piercings" the only one weird enough to do that with the open piercing on their chin was the girl or guy on the first top pic. I see someone else whom left a comment doesn't,t know the gender either, see how hideous this is! Sick!

  17. The only issue I have is the appropriated "defiant" culture. The more common the tattoos, piercings, body mods, scarification, branding, etc. the more extreme it pushes true defiance to the edges. I've had piercings and visible, non-traditional tattoos and more for over 30 years and the more mainstream these become, the more I regret making these statements of my individually. And yet these fads are still not mainstream enough to get you a real career. I'm educated and talented and have worked in corporate environments, but the "adornments" is a luxury of the rich and an impediment to the aspring. How's that for a little off-topic ranting? 😊 And I'm not only an embittered intruder; I'm also a big fan of the Beading Gem site. I'm just pretending we're chatting in a big room while we work!


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