How Big Should a Cartilage Earring Be?

When you’ve decided to get your cartilage pierced, you will have to pick an earring to use for the piercing. The first question your piercer may ask is what size earring you want. It’s best to be prepared and know the answer—as you’ll have this initial earring in for at least two months.

When you are wondering how big a cartilage earring should be, you’re in the right place. The standard size of a cartilage earring is 18 gauge. You’ll need a length of over 5/16” to accommodate for swelling as you heal.

There are other options when it comes to your first cartilage earring—and it’s important to make sure you make the right decision for you! After all, the piercing earring is in your ear for at least two months.

Types of Cartilage Piercings

When you go to get your cartilage pierced, you may be excited that you have many options for jewelry. However, piercings are typically done with standard jewelry. Don’t worry, you’ll have years to switch up the earring afterward!


You can choose a barbell for your cartilage piercing. When you’re choosing one, the gauge essentially means how thick the barbell is. The thicker the barbell is, the lower the size will be. So, if you go with the standard 18 gauge, you are getting one that is 1 mm.

You can also get 16 or 14, depending on what style you are going for and the area of the piercing. Keep in mind, the jewelry you purchase from then on should match the gauge of your initial piercing.

Depending on the location of your piercing, you may want different lengths. For example, an industrial cartilage piercing would be much longer than a helix piercing. But, as we mentioned before, it should be long enough to accommodate healing. Your piercer will be able to help you choose the proper length of the barbell.

Captive Bead Ring

Captive bead rings are great for a single piercing, for example on the helix. These are good for the healing process because they are easy to move and clean. The sizing runs very similar to the barbells as well.

You can find captive bead rings at 18, 16, or 14 gauge. There are many different diameter measurements. The smallest a piercer will go would be 5/16”. After initial healing, you can get a smaller size if you desire before it fully heals. The swelling just needs to go down a bit.


While your ultimate goal for your cartilage piercing may be to wear a stud in your piercing, you can’t get it pierced straightaway with one. The reason is that cartilage heals differently than the earlobe—it needs more time to heal and for the swelling to reduce. For this reason, all the jewelry is at least 5/16” and offers enough wiggle room for swelling, cleaning, and proper healing.

Once your piercing is healed, you have endless options for your new piercing! But, for the first couple of months, you’ll have to focus on care and healing before focusing on expressing your style with your piercing.

Cartilage Healing Process

We’ve talked about healing a lot for the cartilage piercings. If this makes you nervous, don’t let it! The cartilage piercing hurts slightly more than a regular earlobe piercing but is not bad. The piercing is typically done with a needle, and pierces have gotten so good at it that you may not notice it going in!

Okay, you will notice it—but it’s not a painful process. The healing does take a bit longer because it is cartilage.

What Is Cartilage?

Cartilage is somewhere between bone and flesh. Your ear lobes are just flesh. A bone is hard and obviously doesn’t flex at all. The cartilage on your ear will bend, but it’s firmer than the flesh itself.

The most popular cartilage piercing is the helix—this is the upper, outer edge of your ear. However, the possibilities of cartilage piercings are abundant! You can pierce any cartilage on your ear, and even on your nose.

How Long Does It Take to Heal?

Cartilage can take up to a year to heal fully. But you’ll be able to change out your earring much sooner than that! It’s crucial to follow your piercers care instructions as you are in your healing stages. The sooner it heals, the sooner you can sleep on your side again with no issues!

When getting your cartilage pierced, one of the most important choices you will make is how big the earring should be. Remember, you are stuck with your first piece of jewelry for at least 2 months. It also influences the earrings you buy after your piercing is healed. However, with this article and your piercer’s expertise, the decision should be easy to make!

Carl A. Jones, GIA GG

Carl A. Jones is a GIA Graduate Gemologist with over 20 years of experience in the diamond industry. He is an independent jewelry appraiser. He specializes in determining the value of diamonds and advising consumers on how to buy quality diamond jewelry.

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