COTTONWOOD, Calif. — Today, an electroplated high-heeled shoe dangles from each ear lobe. Tomorrow, a pair of tiny thermometers may take their place. Or dice with pink rhinestones. Or Santas, stained-glass windows or silver sombreros.
"I hardly ever wear the same pair two days in a row," said earring collector Marguerite Sloan, whose only problem is that she does not have enough ears.
"The last time I counted she had 846 pairs (of earrings)," her husband, Stan, said.
Marguerite Sloan, who claims to be "60 going on 30," had her ears pierced about 25 years ago. But her collection began early in life.
Received as Gifts
"Those were given to me when I was a little kid," she said of two baubles in a velvet-lined revolving display case. "These silver ones--my boss gave them to me 30 years ago when I was a meat wrapper. These seashells came from Port Angeles (Wash.) and these little clocks came from Omaha, Neb."
She has a story for almost every pair.
Ringing a pair of gold bells just to prove "they really tinkle," Sloan recalled the day she almost drove a nurse crazy.
"I wore them to the doctor's office, and after a while, the nurse came up to me and said, 'It was you! I thought I was going nuts.' "
Sloan bought the high heels about 15 years ago. They are her favorite.
They were once fluorescent red, but she had a jeweler turn them gold when the color started rubbing off.
"I like to wear earrings that match my clothes," she said. "I like the large ones. The sparkly, showy kind."
But she is clearly fascinated by each pair of earrings she spread out in a second display on her kitchen table.
Stan Sloan, a retired auto mechanic, indulges his wife in her hobby but does not buy her earrings for birthdays or holidays.
"They're always a surprise when I buy them because it's so hard to find something different," he said.
Sloan modified his wife's jewelry case so each pair of earrings is easily accessible.
Marguerite Sloan fingered two hunks of twisted, pale pink plastic and laughed.
"These look like curled-up bacon," she said.
Sloan has a tip for women with earlobes prone to infection from cheaper jewelry. Just grease the post or wire of the earring with a clear ointment like the stuff used to soothe diaper rash on babies, she said.
Never Thrown Away a Pair
She does not comb antique stores or thrift shops in search of unusual earrings.
"You find them in little towns and stores," she said, swearing she has never thrown away a pair of earrings in her life.
"Some people collect salt shakers and spoons and elephants--and then they can't use them," she said. "Plus they take up too much space. If you're going to collect something, it ought to be something you can use."