Plastic earring backs (sometimes called rubber earring backs) are normally made from a soft flexible silicone rubber. They are freely available online from sites such as earringbacks.com and from High Street outlets such as Claire’s Accessories. Many of the cheaper earrings on the market use plastic backs as standard, and they are also favoured by many people who make earrings as a hobby. The main selling point is they are very cheap, both to buy and to produce. There are a variety of different designs of plastic back on the market.
The use of plastic/rubber earring backs falls into two categories.
The first is earring backs for hook through earrings also known as fish hook or shepherd hook. Plastic or rubber earring backs are very suited to this style of earring. This style of earring often gets dislodged from the earlobe by clothing the swishing of hair or just general movement, so simply slipping one of these backs onto the earring wire prevents the earring from coming out of the ear completely.
There are a variety of different designs on the market. The tube design is the simplest of all as it is literally just a small length of tube, and is perfect for use with this type of earring. It is really not recommended that the tube type backs are used with post or stud earrings as they are not terribly effective.
The second category for plastic/rubber earring backs is for use with stud or post type earrings. For these types of earring there are various shapes and sizes of back to choose from, and are sometimes described as caps, flowers, clutch backs and ear nuts. There is also another type of back which is a traditional bullet type metal centre surrounded by a plastic disc. All of these can be bought as packs of a single type or as a variety pack of different designs. They can be purchased in clear or white plastic, and as well as silicone and rubber, some manufacturers use polypropylene.
It is usually the case that replacement plastic backs are purchased when the back which came with the earring has been lost. Although these generally fit all studs, unfortunately the replacements are often not as good a fit as the original as there are many slight variations in the size of a post. Hence there is an increased chance that the earring or back will be lost again. It cannot be stressed enough that as with all earring backs, care must be taken in choosing the correct fitting back for your earring.
There are some people who have a hyper-sensitivity to plastic backs, and so a careful choice of materials might be required in this instance. It might also be preferable to purchase a gold or silver butterfly back instead.
Plastic, rubber and silicone backs are just one solution available as replacements for some earrings. However if earrings are particularly valuable or precious then a different solution would be advisable as these are not particularly secure. Backs such as LOX are a locking earring back, designed to grip the post of an earring so that it cannot be lost. These are more expensive than plastic backs but only need to be purchased once.