The necklace has been around as an expression of adornment or ‘piece of jewellery’ for a great deal longer than most people would imagine. The first usage of an item recognisably created solely for the purposes of adornment, is believed to date to approximately 40,000 BC. These early ‘necklaces’ were fashioned from easily accessible organic materials, such as wood, shell, bone and stone. As more complicated structures and materials were discovered and the development of knowledge and methods by which to create and craft materials, such as gold and precious gemstones became available, jewellery and adornment item design grew and evolved.
Both men and women wore necklaces, in fact, the first bead necklaces were known as the “Adam and Eve of Jewellery”. Such has been the popularity of bead and later pearl necklaces that there are no fewer than seven different types depending on the length as well as the number of strands and even the size of the beads or pearls.
· A bib necklace, so called as the multiple strands and design array form a bib. The beads or pearls can be graduated or stepped.
· A choker, as its name indicates, sits high on the neck and exhibits its design feature often as an integral part of costume rather than simply an accessory.
· A princess necklace is approx. 10 cm longer than a choker. and has a correspondingly lower drop and feature design placement.
· A matinee necklace adds a further 10 cm in drop length.
· An opera necklace would have an overall design length in the range 75 to 90 cm. This would allow for particular specifications in both design and material selection to be accommodated and maximised in display.
· A sautoir (sometimes knows as a rope necklace) is even longer than an opera necklace.
· A uniform necklace is crafted with beads, pearls or gemstones specified in the same size and sitting in arranged ‘ranks’ or parallel series.
Necklaces have captured the imagination of designers and jewellery lovers the world over. Today, there is an almost unlimited choice of pendants and chokers to accentuate or compliment an outfit or the personality and taste of the wearer. Some credit invention of the ‘pendant’ or a ‘focus adornment’. to the Phoenicians, as their culture is known to have favoured the wearing of gold, utilising structures that would today still be recognised, as ‘chain-like’ in form. Once the ‘chain’ became established it enabled a proliferation of fixtures, adenda and applications such as medals, medallion, gemstone mounts and pendants. Early examples are hollow and are thought to have been used as vessels, carrying objects of symbolic importance upon the person of the wearer. Pendants and lockets would also have been utilised as covert personal receptacles for religious relics, talismans, charms or medicines (possibly poison!).
Pendants have been suspended on many different materials, from simple animal leather laces to exquisite intricate weaves of precious metals. The impact and pure beauty of a simple gold chain mounted with a cut diamond or other gemstone pendant, will never fail to impress but the history behind its creation and the selection of such a piece, is deeply routed in the far beginnings of civilisation.