Styles of Earring Backs
Which earring back is best?
Earrings come in many different styles. Here we will explore the more common types of earring backs, highlighting some of the pros and cons of each. Maybe you have a style in mind and don’t know the proper name for it. Maybe you are looking for the perfect gift. Maybe you are having trouble with your current earrings and are looking for alternatives. Or maybe you are simply interested in expanding your general jewelry knowledge. Keep reading; we have your answers.
Friction Backs (Butterfly Backs)
Also called “butterfly backs,” and sometimes “push backs.” These are undoubtedly the most common style of earring back. They work on earrings with posts, using friction to secure the earring in place–hence the name. Often times the post has a notch so that the back actually snaps into place.
Availability – These backs are the go-to for many jewelry wearers.
Security – They are a secure option, ideal for both stud earrings and dangle earrings.
Ease of Use – They are easy to put on and take off.
Budget Friendly – Friction backs are among the more budget friendly styles.
Losing an Earring – The closest thing to a con for this style is that if you are a very active person, it doesn’t take a ton of force to pull the back off with just the wrong tug from just the wrong angle. For this reason those with pets and small children may prefer an even more secure style.
It also may compromise the security if the back does not properly fit the post, or through years of wear.
Screw Backs (Threaded Backs)
Occasionally called “threaded backs.” These are the natural upgrade from the friction back for those looking for a more secure option. The post is threaded and the back screws onto it, making a very secure mechanism that will keep your earring in your ear.
Security – Screw backs are among the most secure styles. Ideal for active people, owners of pets, and parents of small children.
Availability – It is fairly easy to find screw back options.
Budget Friendly – Only slightly more expensive than a friction back.
Hassle – Some people find it’s a hassle to have to screw them on and unscrew to remove them.
Discomfort – Although most people find the threaded post is perfectly comfortable in their ear, those who are more sensitive can find them irritating.
Wearing Out – With frequent wear over many years, it’s possible for the threading to become stripped and the posts and/or backs may need to be replaced.
Security – Yes, it’s both a pro and con. We have heard stories of screw backs working themselves out overtime. It’s not common, but it can happen.
Positive Locking Backs (La Pousette, Protektor, Clutch)
This style has many names. “Positive locking back” is perhaps the most correct name for the style as a category, but they are just as often called La Pousette backs. They also may be known to some of you by specific brand names, for example: “Protektor,” and “Guardian.” This style is a bit more expensive, but is the sweet spot of security and ease of use. As easy to put on and take off as the friction back, and at least as secure as the threaded back, this style is ideal for more valuable jewelry that you do not want any risk of losing.
Security – As mentioned, this option is ideal for valuable jewelry.
Ease of Use – Simple and straightforward operation.
Comfort – Just as comfortable as friction backs.
Cost – They are a bit more expensive that other options.
Rubber backs, or rubber stoppers, are the most inexpensive option. They are reasonably secure, but wear out quickly. They are ideal for children’s jewelry, and temporary use.
Cost Efficient – This style is very inexpensive.
A good option for less valuable jewelry, or children’s wear.
Wear Out – They are only made of rubber, and will get worn out fairly quickly.
Security – Not recommended for use with valuable jewelry.
Ear Wires (Shepherd Hooks)
This style of earring is just a hooked wire, usually without a back at all. You may have heard them called simply “ear wires,” rather than shepherd hooks. Occasionally you will see them with a catch (as shown above in the far right picture). Also, a small rubber backs.
Cost Efficient – An inexpensive option.
Ease of Use – Very easy to put in and take out.
Losing an Earring – The backless style is not as secure as lever backs or other similar styles
Irritant – If used with costume jewelry made of non-precious metals, it may cause irritation to sensitive skin. Gold options found on more valuable jewelry do not typically have this problem.
Lever Backs (European Backs)
Lever backs, sometimes called European backs, have a curved ear wire instead of a straight post, and have a hinged lever piece that closes the back, as the name would imply. These can be thought of as an enhanced and more secure version of the ear wire shown above. This style is not better or worse than the various post styles, it is simply a different aesthetic. Some prefer the look of this style, especially for dangle earrings.
Hassle-Free – You don’t have to worry about losing your backs, because they are attached to your earrings.
Aesthetic – they have an elegant look, ideal for dangles.
Losing an Earring – Similar to the friction backs, a strong tug could potentially pull the earring out, and this style might not be the best option for active wearers, or those with pets or small children.
Omega backs are like a hybrid of a post earring and a clip-on earring. They are of course more secure than clip-on earrings for non-pierced ears, but they are not as secure as locking backs or screw backs. With this style it really comes down to personal preference. Though it is not nearly as popular as other styles, there are still many who find it the most comfortable for them and prefer it to the rest.
Ease of Use – Very easy to put on and take off.
Hassle-Free – Like the lever backs, there’s no risk of losing your backs with this option, as they are attached to the earring.
Comfort – They are a very comfortable option for most people.
Losing an Earring – Once again, active people be warned.
Comfort – I know, I know, how can this be a pro and a con? While some find them very comfortable, others find that they pinch their ears. It just depends how sensitive you are.
Novelty and Unusual Backs
In this category, you have things like the backless post, and the Bella bead. The backless post has a sharp curve in it so that a back is unnecessary. However, they are not very secure. The Bella bead is a novelty back that offers a solution for those who are bothered by their posts poking them.
Novelty – Like any novelty item, their novelty itself is often their main draw.
Hard to Find – These option may not be readily available.
Security – Most novelty options mean compromising security.
We hope you found this article helpful and informative. Feel free to leave a comment below about your experiences with any particular style of earring backs, or with any additional questions you may have. We would also love to hear what is your favorite style of back, and why it’s your favorite.
My 9 year old just recently got her ears pierced and I’m constantly finding her friction back is pushed on to tight. I don’t know how it’s happening but she now has an infection. What type of back can I use to prevent squeezing or over tightening?
Good question, Lisa. If you are open to alternative earring styles an earwire or leverback would definitely solve the problem, but that gives you more of a dangle earring look. If you want a stud style, the screw/threaded backs might be a good option because you can have more control over how tight you make it. Also, the rubber backs may be worth consideration since they can be a bit softer than metallic friction backs.
Hi, I have just purchased a pair of large pearl drop earrings with a shepherds hook, it is 9ct gold but very thin, I tried using a butterfly back but it still fell out of my ear, Could you please suggest a backing for very thin gold wire? I would appreciate you advise! Kind regards, Martina.
Hi Martina, thanks for commenting, and I’m sorry about the issues you’ve been having with your earrings. You have a few options in your situation. The simplest is to use a rubber back with the shepherd hooks. This is very common, and it works well. Alternatively, you could convert them to lever backs which look very similar to shepherd hooks, but since they close in the back they are very secure.
Hi: I am looking to purchase a pair of threaded posts and a pair of screw nuts that are considered a pair
and made out of 14k white gold. Please let me know
Hi Roberta, that’s great; we would be happy to help. I sent you an email with some more information.
I don’t have pierced ears. Can I buy omega back earrings and remove the post and safely/comfortably wear the earrings?
Good question, Judy. We have done that operation a few times for customers. It can work well depending on the quality and style of the omega backs and the design of the earring. The concern is that omega backs are not really designed to be worn this way and so some of them are not strong enough to safely hold the earrings. In this situation, we can sometimes convert the earrings to traditional clip backs. All of that said, yes, it can work, but it’s something to look at on a case-by-case basis.
Extremely helpful! I love your articles!
Thanks! We really appreciate it.
Excellent info, thanks!
You are welcome! I’m glad you liked it. 🙂