Thanks for your interesting question!
Many sources have it that old time sailors believed that if their bodies were recovered after a sailing accident that the person would take the earring as payment for a proper burial. Pierced ears on sailors may have also represented a sailor who had sailed around the world or survived a sinking ship. Traditionally, a sailor who had rounded the Horn was entitled to wear a gold loop earring — in the left ear, the one which had faced the Horn in a typical eastbound passage — and to dine with one foot on the table; a sailor who had also rounded the Cape of Good Hope could place both feet on the table (A Voyage for Madmen, by Peter Nichols; pages 4–5. Harper Collins, 2001).
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