Piercing History

Human beings, all human beings throughout history have never been happy to leave alone the bodies they were born with.

Whether we are applying make up, painting our nails, restricting our waists with corsets, making piercings, stretching piercings, tattooing or scarifying the skin, filing teeth, dieting or deliberately fattening ourselves, growing or shaving off body hair, tanning or bleaching the skin, tottering about in high heels or squeezing ourselves into tight jeans, we are all in some way concerned with some form of body modification.

Body modification is certainly unique to humans and, in one form or another, has been practised for as long as 30’000 years by our species’ earliest ancestors.

Aboriginal Australians practised penile sub-incision and elongating of the labia. The pre-Egyptian, Nubian civilization elongated their skulls and used a simple technique to make tattoos. Later, ancient Egyptians practised ear piercing while ancient South American cultures, like the Mayans and Aztecs, ritually pierced their tongues for blood offerings.

Native North American tribes, and the Inuit of what is now Canada, used lip piercings and wore bone jewellery, which has now been reinvented as the labret stud. They also used ear piercing as a status symbol, where even the act of piercing the ear was a celebrated ritual that was undertaken at great cost to the piercee; so showing how wealthy the piercee was.

The people of the pacific islands have practised the piercing of ears, noses, genitals and lobe stretching for generations. The men of Borneo, for example, would pierce the Ampalang, as did the men in the early history of the Filipino people, while the women of Borneo (and central Africa) practised piercing and stretching of the labia in an effort to attract a suitable husband. The discovery of jewelry dating back to the bronze ages in Europe and the British Isles shows that the peoples of that time probably pierced and stretched their lobes with heavy bronze jewelry.

The ‘Kama Sutra’, which was probably written in India as long as 1500 years ago, describes the practice of male genital piercing as a sexual aid. The gladiators of ancient Rome and the athletes of ancient Greece pierced the scrotum and the foreskin for the practical purpose of keeping their genitals out of their way while performing in sport and combat. But this practice was also used in ancient Rome, ancient Greece and also in South East Asia (where the horizontal Palang piercing was used) to prevent slaves, and convicts, from engaging in sexual activity.

During Europe’s Middle Ages (from around 1000-1300AD), it may have been a combination of poor economy and strict religious dogma, which created a cultural atmosphere that suppressed the individuals freedom to experiment and practice body modification. Those times were also troubled by plague, and so people may have been more wary of physical defects, such as marks on the skin or of sores and perforations on the body. But the following renaissance had Europeans leaving their shores in larger ships to explore further and seek new resources and goods to trade back home. It was from this time that Europe was re-introduced to tattooing and body modifications.

Elizabethan sailors encountered tribes-people, who would pierce their ears, which they believed would help to improve their eyesight; an appealing proposition to seafarers whose eyesight was all-important. Sailors and Explorers would also report and record examples of intricate Polynesian tattoos, now remembered by many descendants of those seafarers on their own skin.

The French began piercing the “Guiche” after seeing it done by the natives of Samoa as a rite of passage. Later, French Legionnaires took up the practice of piercing the “Hafada” which is the crease on the side of the scrotum; a practise influenced by their encounters with the people of the Middle East.

Though it is possible that the Prince Albert was so named after the actual Prince Regent, its introduction may be more closely related to the expansion of the British Empire into India and its practise there. It was originally referred to as a ‘dressing-ring’ and was used to hook the penis inside the trousers so they would not create an ‘unsightly’ bulge.

The Victorian age, however, was notorious for its sexual perceptions, which were well documented as being repressive and repulsed by any sexual thought and act. Pornography, fetishism, homosexuality and Sado-masochism were, however, prolific, though always on the ‘hush-hush’. Any reference to body modification always carried the stigma of being primitive, while the Victorians considered themselves to be the very embodiment of the word ‘civilization’. The sexual undertones in body piercing were an example of its ‘heathen’ and ‘Godless’ origins and so it became an abhorrent act that no ‘normal’ or ‘decent’ person would consider.

The firmly conservative nature of many European Nations, since then, had confined the act of body modification to those ‘undesirable sub-cultures’. It wasn’t until the late 1950’s to the 1960’s, when many social sexual-perceptions were being challenged, and explored, that the opportunity to reintroduce body modification was possible. In fact, it was the members of those ‘undesirable’ sub-cultures that had fanned at the flame of body piercing and not the criminal, uncivilized slice of society’s pie.

Inspired by their involvement in the Gay and Sado-Masochist scenes in the U.S, Jim Ward, Fakir Musafar and Doug Malloy and Mr. Sebastian in the UK are names most frequently connected to the Body Piercing renaissance. It was their ingenuity (as well as the unique tastes of their clientele) that pushed them to re-explore the boundaries. Where jewellery could be placed; how to do it in the most hygienic way available, and who developed the simplest and most serviceable jewellery to make those piercings last longer, and experience less complications. Though others have played significant roles in developing and expanding the practice, as well as the philosophy of Body piercing

In the late 70’s and early 80’s, the British Punk sub-culture used piercing as another means of shocking the social order of the time, but it was almost always with a very D.I.Y approach, using safety pins. By the eighties, this act, performed by primitive man, by fledgling civilizations and mighty empires, was being kept alive in the growing cities of the developed world, not by the criminals and socially outcast, but by bank managers, lawyers, businessmen, musicians, students and fishermen.

Making the right type of jewellery was time consuming and expensive. Industry, however, was changing rapidly and it wasn’t until purpose built and carefully finished jewellery, made of medical standard metals, and could be produced with greater ease, speed and in increased volume, that body piercing would be accessible to more people.

Since then celebrities guided by curiosity and desire to be different from others began to get pierced, so de-sensitizing the numb-minded mass of tabloid magazine readers and the drooling zombies of the T.V-nations, which sparked a much more acceptable kind of curiosity.

n our industrialized society much of this is considered frivolous. People in more so called primitive societies consider that decorating their bodies is of vital importance to signify their status within the tribe or to signify a rite of passage into a new era of their lives, i.e. puberty, warrior, married, elder, or to wear talismans to ward off bad spirits or be used in rituals. In our society whilst we have distinguished ourselves from our 'primitive' fellow humans by extraordinary technological advances, we are still dependant upon body decoration to fulfill ourselves as social animals.

In traditional or tribal societies, body decoration is also used as a symbol of the continuity of a particular way of life.

Different Piercings

Pierced Man

Body Piercing has been like a tradition. It would be practiced by our ancestors for ritual or cultural purposes. Today very few people take it as a belief because the fashion and style industry has boomed so much that everyone wants to look different and nice. People like to pierce their body for various reasons like to show bravery, strength, confidence and a lot more. It is very difficult to find anyone who has not worn a body piercing jewelry. Body piercing jewelry consist of nose rings, nose studs, navel rings and belly rings, tongue rings, ear plugs, earrings, eye brow rings, nipple rings and a lot more.

Pierced Lips

More modest lip or labret piercings are worn by the Nunivak tribes in North America. Lip plugs are worn by African Pokot girls when they are married, this is also practiced amongst Turkama men and women. Amongst some Amazonion tribes lip plugs on men denote their status, elders are valued for their wisdom and have bigger plugs or plates inserted every year. In contemporary society, lip piercings are relatively common piercings, especially amongst youths. Lip piercings can be placed anywhere around the mouth, but the surface of the lip is not typically pierced itself, except for horizontal lip piercings and canine bites

Initial jewellery should be either a labret stud (flat-backed barbell) or a ball closure ring, manufactured from high-grade surgical stainless steel, implant-grade titanium or similar lightweight and inert metal. No matter which type of jewellery is used (Labret Stud or ball closure ring), the jewellery's diameter/length will be intentionally oversized to allow room for initial swelling. After healing, the jewellery can be replaced with a closer-fitting piece. Overall, lip piercings are easy and quick to heal considering proper aftercare.

Pierced Nose

Nose piercing has been known to have originated in the Middle East over four thousand years ago and then the popularity spread to India where many women adorned their noses with expensive gold nose jewelry. The kind of jewelry they wore distinguished their title and rank in their society. Piercing was introduced by the hippie culture in the 1960s and 70s.

Afterwards punks and subsequent youth cultures in the '80s and '90s adopted this sort of piercing. Today, nostril piercing is popular in the U.S., UK, Canada, the Caribbean, Australia and Europe, with piercings being performed on either the left or right nostril. Both men and women have nostril piercings, although they are much more common among women. Some people have multiple nostril piercings, in either or both nostrils.

Nose piercing is very attractive, and can accentuate the face, because the nose is the face's most prominent feature. The styles of body jewelry for nose piercing range in size and design, and everyone is sure to find something that fits their unique personal style. The most common styles used for nose piercing are rings, labrets, and screws which come in solid white gold or titanium or surgical steel. Nostril piercing has in recent decades become popular in the industrialized nations, as have other forms of body piercing. Nostril care is very important because if it gets infected, you can get very sick.

Pierced Nipple

The perforation of the nipple to apply jewelry has been practiced by various people throughout history. Male nipple piercing was reported to be done by the Karankawa Indians; female nipple piercing is practiced by the Kabyle people in Algeria. The earliest accounts of nipple piercing in western culture date back to the 14th century.

During that time a fashion trend arose, which considered very deep cleavage as fashionable. Often even the nipples were exposed in these dresses. Queen Isabeau of Bavaria was the first to pierce her visible nipple for decoration purposes.

Years later, during the Victorian period around 1890, the fashion evolved again. It became popular to apply Anneux De Sein, small diamond rings or gold chains, to the nipples. Before this trend was popularized, it was mainly practiced by the upper class.

In the late 1970s the practice was revived again by Jim Ward, proprietor of the Gauntlet in West Hollywood. The mainstream popularity of the practice is partly due to celebrities who publicly displayed their piercings or confessed to have one such as Tommy Lee or Lenny Kravitz. Nipple jewellery can be made from gold, white gold, steel or gold-plated steel. Popular varieties include a ring (with or without a bead or pendant threaded through it), a dumbbell and a D-shaped ring with the straight side through the nipple. Nipple rings are usually made of surgical steel, 14K gold, niobium, or titanium. There are many types of nipple rings. Some are curved; some are dangling embedded with gemstones which are very attractive. There are captive bead rings, circular barbells and straight barbells.

Pierced Tongue Pierced Tongue

In the past at the ancient temples of the Aztecs and Mayans, Shamens and High Priests pierced their tongues and then either drawing blood from it or passing rough cords, designed to inflict pain, through the hole as part of a ritual to communicate with their gods.

Today this is not the reason for which people want to pierce their tongues. Today is a trend to get the tongue pierced. Most of the people find tongue piercing very appealing and nice and interesting. One finds it very extraordinary and stylish and trendy to have his or her tongue pierced.

Tongue Ring is used for pierced tongues. Tongue piercing is done with straight barbell. Tongue Ring can be of a variety of lengths depending on the thickness of your tongue. The typical size for a tongue ring is 14g 5/8".Tongue Rings are usually of different material, they are either of steel or UV.

Pierced Belly

It was originated by the Egyptians. In ancient times only the Pharos and their Royal families were permitted to pierce their navels. Now belly Navel Piercing is one of the most common means of piercing after the ear. The shape of the navel differs in all the people. Not all navels can be successfully pierced. A navel with a distinct ridge or lip is most likely to be pierced. Some Belly Rings come with gemstones embedded on the rings which look very attractive on all occasions. There are dangling and curved belly rings.

Belly Rings not only some in silver and steel. There are belly rings made of UV material and they look very trendy. Most kinds of ring or bar jewelry can be worn in a navel piercing, although they are most often pierced with a barbell, which is worn until the piercing has fully healed. A wide variety of decorative jewelry is available for navel - simple navel barbells, navel barbells with dangling pendants and navel barbells with attached belly chains. There has been a special standard established for navel barbells, also called bananabells, or bananabars because of their curved shape.

The standard bananabell is 1.6 mm (1/16") thick and 9.5 mm (3/8") or 11.1 mm (7/16") long. Or to make it even more simple 14 Gauge. The ball sizes are 5 mm at the top and 8 mm at the bottom of the shaft. Although navel bananabells are different from full rings - like CBR (captive bead rings) that also can be worn in navel - there is tendency by the Internet body jewellery retailers and wholesalers to refer to them as belly button rings.

Pierced Ear Plug

Ear piercing is one of the oldest known forms of body modification, with artistic and written references from cultures around the world dating back to early history. Ear lobe and ear rim piercings can be found in most tribal cultures, ear lobe stretching can be found amongst the people of Northern India, Burma, ancient Egyptian culture (the mask of Tuttenkharmun has a stretched ear lobe) and African tribes in and around what is now Kenya. Ivory ear plugs are worn by African Samburu warriors whereas the Masai and Pokot peoples wear many rings in stretched ear lobes; this was also common practice with some of the plains tribes in North America.

The African Dogon, Kudi and Lobi peoples perform ear, nose and lip piercings on girls to enable them to wear ornaments as women that will enhance their features, to show tribal identity and to protect them from bad sprits, believed to enter the body through these orifices. Nose piercing is also widespread in parts of India. This practice was popular amongst the Mughals and indicates whether a woman is single or married.

Pierced Ear

In various Western cultures, piercing the left vs. the right ear alone has sometimes been popularly perceived to be associated with a particular sexual orientation (or with an active vs. passive role in a homosexual relationship). However, due to the lack of uniformity, such generalizations are essentially meaningless.

Multiple piercings in one or both ears first emerged in mainstream America in the 1970s. Initially, the trend was for women to wear a second set of earrings in the earlobes, or for men to double-pierce a single earlobe. Asymmetric styles with more and more piercings became popular, eventually leading to the cartilage piercing trend.

A variety of specialized cartilage piercings have since become popular. These include the tragus piercing, antitragus piercing, rook piercing, industrial piercing, helix piercing, orbital piercing, daith piercing, and conch piercing. In addition, earlobe stretching, while common in primitive cultures for thousands of years, began to appear in Western society in the 1990s, and is now a fairly common sight. However, these forms of ear piercing are still infrequent compared to standard ear piercing.

Pierced Eyebrow

Eyebrow piercings are of contemporary origin, like most surface piercings. They are relatively common piercings, although not socially accepted in a way similar to navel and nose piercings. Barbells, curved barbells and captive bead rings are the common jewellery types worn in eyebrow piercings.

Each of these jewellery types put varying degrees of pressure on the piercing, which can cause irritation or piercing migration over time, especially in fresh piercings. Unlike many other piercings, surface bars or other appropriate jewellery is not always used in the initial piercing, and the use of more commonly available body piercing jewellery often creates an unnecessarily large risk of migration or rejection in eyebrow piercings.