Since both men and women wore earspools, it is difficult to tell whether a pair such as these of bone and jade, were gender specific. However, the delicate carving and piercing of the serrated bone rim and the lightness of the design, would suggest that this pair belonged to a woman.
Personal adornments were symbolic of status and wealth. Depictions of lords and ladies portray them wearing necklaces, pendants, wrist and ankle bracelets, and elaborate ear ornaments. The amount of jewelry, of jade and other fine materials such as obsidian, coral, shell, and even pearl, worn by an important personage was staggering, in the literal sense. One wonders if it was possible to walk under the burden of such finery.
Earplugs such as these comprised a portion of the ear ornamentation “assembly.” Since the Maya pierced their ears and wore earplugs at a young age, there was a hole in the earlobe of ample size to fit a large flanged spool of jade. However, to hold it in place, it was necessary to place a long tubular bead through the hole in the spool, through which was threaded a string with heavy beads at either end, which worked as a counterbalance, holding the spool in the earlobe. These “balance assemblies” could be quite elaborate with many layers of disks and beautifully carved beads in the shape of flowers or birds.
The earplug was significant and ubiquitous. Even a noble prisoner, with his hair cut off, and his jewelry taken from him, was given replacements made of paper.