Cartilage Piercings & Jewelry Guide

With so many desirable ways to pierce your ears just about anywhere, the sky’s the limit when it comes to your personal preference in choosing which cartilage piercing to get. And when it comes to piercing beyond the earlobe, the bar, so to speak, is raised even higher. Cartilage piercings have become very popular among working professionals and have been widely expressive in casual settings far and wide. Ear parties are becoming super-trendy since they allow you to create your own style by mixing and matching all different types of earrings.  From helix to daith and rook piercings, whatever type of cartilage earring, or bling you wear, will show off your very own personalized flair.

Here's a simple guide to help you learn about the different types of ear piercings and the jewelry for them.

You're Getting Your Cartilage Pierced. Here's what you need to know:

  • Most cartilage piercings are pierced with straight barbell or captive preferably made of 14k gold, 18k gold, or high quality titanium.
  • The standard size for a cartilage piercing is 16 Gauge (16G).  But sometimes 18G is used as well. 
  • Make sure to follow a daily cleansing routine for you new cartilage piercing.
  • Don't change out your cartilage jewelry until it has completely healed.
  • Always know the size of your piercing's size

Types of Cartilage Piercings: 

Helix Cartilage Piercing

Helix Piercing

Also known as the rim, the helix piercing is where the upper ear cartilage is accessed so that an earring can be placed. In most instances, a piercer will puncture the ear using a free-hand method when creating a helix piercing.

Hardware: The most well known jewelries to be used for this type of piercing are hoops such as seamless rings or captives (CBRs) or cartilage studs.  The standard size is typically 18 gauge, however some consider a 16g to be more ideal. And since cartilage does not stretch easily, many find it better to start off with a larger gauge in case other earrings of interest are not offered in a lower gauge, your helix is still capable of accommodating a smaller fit.

Placement: Ideal for this piercing, helix earrings are typically found just beyond the highest point of the rim away from the forward helix yet can range throughout this portion of the ear depending on preference.
Healing: Depending on the attention of care by the individual, helix piercings usually take anywhere from 6 months to a year to heal.

Tragus cartilage piercing


Another of the highly desired piercings is that of the tragus, a portion of cartilage, which protrudes directly in front of the ear canal. The puncture itself, which is usually not very painful due to the limited number of nerve endings in the tragus, is usually made with a small gauge hollow piercing needle.

Hardware: The post style type of jewelry, like a straight barbell with a disc backing or flat-back is typically used, but also suitable are small diameter captive bead rings (CBR) or other small-gauged piercing jewelry such as a small barbell or studs. We have a great selection of gold tragus earrings to choose from when you're ready to change out your jewelry.

Placement: Generally done at the center-point of the tragus, the type of low-gauge needle a piercer will use may either be straight or curved for the piercing process, depending on their preferred technique.

Healing: Tragus piercings can take anywhere from 4 weeks to 6 months to heal, depending on care.

Industrial barbell piercing

Industrial Piercing / Scaffold

Perhaps more commonly known in the States as an industrial piercing, a scaffold piercing is the combination of any two piercings made with a hollow piercing needle to connect a single straight piece of jewelry.

Hardware: A 14 Gauge 1" industrial barbell is commonly used as industrial piercing jewelry, however a 16G is sometimes considered. It’s not unusual for captive bead rings, (CBRs) to be used in the process, and then exchanged for a barbell after healing is complete. CBRs used for scaffold piercings will often result in faster healing, but achieving an accurate alignment of the piercings is difficult when using this technique.

Placement: A scaffold piercing refers to a double perforation of the upper ear cartilage, (or helix) specifically. Positioning may vary depending on preference, but the most desired placement spans from the forward-helix, closer towards the head, then down the back section of the helix. The barbell is first inserted from behind the ear and goes diagonally towards the front of the upper cartilage and through the second piercing. The barbell is then secured using a screw-on bead fastened directly behind the second hole.

Healing: A standard time-frame for healing from a scaffold piercing procedure is 6 months to 1 year depending on the individual and the level of care maintained.

Snug cartilage piercing

Snug Piercing

Known as a snug (or anti-helix) piercing, this unique procedure encompasses the ear’s inner cartilage. A rather shallow opening when compared to other ear piercing locations, a snug piercing truly lives up to its namesake.

Hardware: Because of location and the depth of the procedure, only micro-jewelry earrings such as curved barbells can be used for this piercing style.

Placement: Nestled near the lower-mid portion of the ear’s outer rim, snug ear piercings pass through the medial and lateral areas of the anti-helix, producing a snug fit.

Healing: The healing process for this procedure ranges from 8-16 weeks.

Daith piercing

Daith Piercing

The daith piercing (pronounced “day-th”), involves the perforation of the crus of the helix using a curved needle so not to puncture nor damage the surrounding portions of cartilage. A receiving tube may be used to assist in the procedure to ensure the needle is caught on the other side.

Hardware: More often than not, small gauge jewelry such as captive bead ring (CBR) is used for easy and less painful insertion. Clickers rings are also an excellent choice for daith piercing jewelry

Placement: Dubbed the ear’s innermost cartilage fold, the crus of the helix is prime (and the only) location for the daith piercing procedure.

Healing: Estimated time for healing, depending on care and the individual is 4 months to 1 year.

Anti-tragus cartilage piercing


A simple puncture of the inner ear cartilage, an anti-tragus piercing is similar to the tragus piercing and fits similar types of jewelry.

Hardware: Small gauge studs, barbells and captive bead rings (CBRs) are the ideal post style types of jewelry used for the anti-tragus piercing.

Placement: Placed within the anti-tragus, this portion of cartilage opposite the ear canal proves to be a unique alternative for when the tragus piercing seems too trendy. 

Healing: Anti-tragus piercings can take anywhere from 6 to 12 months to heal, depending on care.

Ear lobe piercing


Undeniably, the most common portion of the ear to be pierced, the lobe is considered both the largest and softest part of the ear. Due its size, the lobe is capable of accommodating as many as three or four piercings.

Hardware: Because of its fleshy real estate, lobe piercings can house just about any type of jewelry. The best type of jewelry for your ear piercing are gold earrings, as many people with metal allergies can tolerate nickel-free 14k gold in their piercings.

Placement: As stated with ‘hardware,’ the size and space of the lobe allows for a multitude of placements.

Healing: With the most soft-tissue found anywhere on the ear, the earlobe also takes the least amount of time (approximately 1 to 2 months) to heal.

Conch Piercing

Conch Piercing

Better known for its two types of earrings: the inner conch piercing and the outer conch piercing, the puncturing of these areas within the ear offers two similar, yet distinctive styles.

Hardware: A variety of jewelry can be worn here including the barbell, CBRs and studs.

Placement - Done at the center of the ear’s cartilage, the inner conch piercing is the cup-shaped portion adjacent to the ear canal. When piercing either conch, a 14g barbell is recommended (mainly, the inner portion), but a 16g would still yield a healthy piercing. Found at the outer cartilage, the outer conch piercing mirrors that of the inner, yet its area is thinner and more flat. The outer conch piercing is sometimes mistaken with the helix piercing, done on the more curled portion of cartilage.

Healing: The healing period can be extensive, but the primary time range is roughly 6 months, and to fully heal: 12 to 18 months.

Rook Piercing

Rook Piercing

Widely considered one of the more painful piercings because of the varying layers of cartilage the needle must puncture, the rook piercing is also known to be an extremely difficult procedure.

Hardware: Piercers will often use a 14g or 16g needle with a CBR or curved barbell for the rook piercing, though one your piercing is healed, there are tons of great gold jewelry for rook piercings.

Placement: A perforation made in the anti-helix of the ear, it is difficult to accurately pinpoint marked entrance/exit placement, yet more often than not it is done successfully and with minimal error.

Healing: Though the healing period may be extensive, the primary time range is roughly 6 months, while to fully heal: 12 to 18 months.

Transverse-lobe ear piercing

Transverse Lobe

A 90-degree piercing of the earlobe using a 14g needle that often travels as horizontal of a course as possible, the transverse lobe piercing is truly one of the more unusual styles worn.

Hardware: Barbells, curved for attached lobes and straight for detached lobes are ideal as well as captive bead rings (CBRs) for this types of piercings.

Placement: Lining the transverse plane and perpendicular to the coronal plane, a horizontal transverse lobe piercing travels from the lateral edge to the medial edge of the earlobe. With an attached earlobe, the piercing exits on the inferior edge, rather than the medial edge. Other variations of the transverse lobe include the vertical and diagonal lobe piercings.

Healing: On average, the healing process for transverse lobe piercings can take anywhere from 2 to 10 months.

Forward helix piercing

Forward Helix

Quite similar to the helix (or rim), the forward helix piercing is when the frontal portion of the upper ear cartilage is accessed so that an earring can be placed. In most instances, a piercer will puncture the ear using a free-hand method when creating a forward helix piercing. It's also quite common to forward helix ear party, or a triple forward helix, which is comprised of 3 line up forward helix piercings.

Hardware: The body jewelry pieces best known to be used for this type of piercing are CBRs or small helix studs.  The standard size is typically 18g. 

Placement: Mainly done within the area of the helix closest to the head, the forward helix is any piercing between the apex of the helix and where the helix joins the head.

Healing: Depending on the attention of care by the individual, forward helix piercings may take anywhere from 6 months to a year to heal.


Dermal Punch

Often used for biopsy in the medical field, the piercing version of a dermal punch is a round, extremely sharp blade used to make a perfectly cylindrical piercing within the ear’s cartilage where flesh is actually removed.

Hardware: When performing a punch, taper or piercing method of cartilage, a 14g right down to a 0g plug can be fitted once the procedure is complete.

Placement: Dermal punches can be performed in various areas of the ears’ cartilage, but should NEVER be used on earlobes as it will remove tissue and hamper future stretching with lobe plugs.    

Healing: Although seemingly more like mutilation in nature, dermal punches will often take less time to heal than their pierced counterparts, and will depend on the location and size of the punch.

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