A necklace of ears is a traditional piece of jewelry used to indicate a person's status as a dangerous sociopath. It doesn't actually need to be composed of ears - any reasonably convenient part of a sapient being will do - but ears seem to be iconic.
Broadly, the necklace shows anyone that the wearer meets that he (in most cases) has killed a significant number of people, is proud of the fact, does not fear the consequences and sees nothing wrong with wearing human remains as jewelry. This is as distinct from the bounty hunter who may still collect hands, ears or scalps for the bounty, but will normally tuck them away discreetely in a bag until he needs to show them to someone. The trophy ears may also be significant if they come from a specific race or species - wearing them may be a sign that the wearer considers those from whom they were taken as, essentially, animals and wearing their remains no more contravertial than a shark's tooth necklace or bear fur cloak.
Of course, there are some cultures in which this kind of behaviour is entirely acceptable - a few of them have existed in the real world, but in fiction this is usually a marker for cannibal tribes, orcs and the less sympathetic sort of barbarian … much like head hunting.
Game and Story Use
- Always good when a PC of a given species has to deal with someone wearing a necklace of his species' ears.
- One of these should probably provide a bonus to intimidation skills (probably at the cost of a penalty to pretty much all other social skills).
- Now imagine a society in which you have to present one of these as a courtship gift…
- It could be worse. In the Bible, David had to present a thousand Philistine foreskins to win King Saul's daughter. Granted, Saul only made that condition because he didn't think the kid could pull it off. Still, it couldn't have been fun gathering them all from the dead Philistines.