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Timeless Necklaces - tradition, fashion and stories

Updated on January 5, 2017
Source

Introduction

Necklaces connect civilizations and fashion throughout history.They appeared during the Stone Age to stay. Early ones were made of shells, bones, stones and animal teeth and they are a trend from then to now.

Jewelry making increased with time and technology, with the discovery of new material sources and metal work improvement.

Egyptians, Greeks, Romans continued this industry producing eye-catching necklaces. Upper classes used precious metals and gemstones while other people wore costless materials like clay, bones and shells.

During Middle Ages in Europe, Catholic Church and noblemen financed jewelry production untill the discovery and mastery of new worlds when other rich groups appeared.

The increasingly rich classes (due to colonial ownership and commerce) aimed to show their fortune through jewelry simultaneously with women fashion décolletage. Necklaces were a must!

In the 1920s jewelry took a turn to simplicity and art deco “modernism” creating affordable high quality jewelry. That fashion trend survived till today and gave way to contemporary jewelry that focuses more on the creativity than on the materials preciousness.

Meanwhile, all over the world, other societies (disregarding development) continued their traditional use.

Africans, South and North American communities, Asians and Australians developed their own neck accessories, commonly known as tribal or ethnic jewelry.
Studying jewelry is also a way to understand human societies and behaviors. Technology, resources, religions, believes, fashion are all related with jewelry design and display.

Necklace of the Priestess of Sun. Celtiberian artwork of religious symbolism. 4th century BC Medium	terracotta
Necklace of the Priestess of Sun. Celtiberian artwork of religious symbolism. 4th century BC Medium terracotta | Source
Bronze Age seashell necklace or other adornment, found at Wilerhölzli near Thun, Switzerland, dated to c. 1700 BC. The 450 shells are of Mediterranean origin.
Bronze Age seashell necklace or other adornment, found at Wilerhölzli near Thun, Switzerland, dated to c. 1700 BC. The 450 shells are of Mediterranean origin. | Source
Necklace made of sperm whale teeth, Fiji, c 1895.
Necklace made of sperm whale teeth, Fiji, c 1895. | Source
This necklace may have been part of the jewelry belonging to the Bwami religious and social organization. It is made of elephant ivory and the shape of each piece may refer to leopard’s teeth. Ivory jewelry, like this, is worn as a symbol of status
This necklace may have been part of the jewelry belonging to the Bwami religious and social organization. It is made of elephant ivory and the shape of each piece may refer to leopard’s teeth. Ivory jewelry, like this, is worn as a symbol of status | Source
Necklace made of sea urchin spines, Palau, 1912.
Necklace made of sea urchin spines, Palau, 1912. | Source
Necklace of the Urubu Ka'apor people with Mealy Amazon, Alagoas Curassow, and Scarlet Macaw feathers, and ocelot teeth.
Necklace of the Urubu Ka'apor people with Mealy Amazon, Alagoas Curassow, and Scarlet Macaw feathers, and ocelot teeth. | Source
Necklace, tapir teerh, Yanomami - South American objects in the American Museum of Natural History
Necklace, tapir teerh, Yanomami - South American objects in the American Museum of Natural History | Source

Folk medicine and protection

Traditional uses of necklaces are also related with folk medicines and protection till today.

Metals, amber, turquoise, quartz and Hazelwood beads are claimed to have healing properties when used close to the body.

Amulets, talismans and relics used as neck jewelry are believed to protect and give luck to their owners as the turtle’s hard shell among Native American people used to protection and symbolizing perseverance.

Necklace of snake vertebrae, Europe, 1871-1916 It is thought that this amulet was used to protect against lower back pain.
Necklace of snake vertebrae, Europe, 1871-1916 It is thought that this amulet was used to protect against lower back pain. | Source
A mosquito and a fly in Baltic amber necklace are between 40 and 60 million years old. Please note the mosquito survived the hole, which was drilled to make the neckuulace.
A mosquito and a fly in Baltic amber necklace are between 40 and 60 million years old. Please note the mosquito survived the hole, which was drilled to make the neckuulace. | Source
Necklace of desert tortoise shell, Cahuilla - Oakland Museum of California
Necklace of desert tortoise shell, Cahuilla - Oakland Museum of California | Source

Bizarre Uses

Human trophy collecting is another way to use necklaces mostly to show dominance over the deceased. A Chippewa necklace made from human fingers is on display on the Smithsonian Institution.

Being a well-known practice by ancient Amerindians it is also described among soldiers during any war periods.

One of the most bizarre uses of ethnic neck jewelry are the neck rings worn by women of the Padaung tribe, in Kayah State, Myanmar.

Karen woman from Birmania
Karen woman from Birmania | Source

Matching your hat to your shoe to your bag, or your necklace to your earrings, has a tendency to look dated. Mixing up your accessories adds interest to an outfit, and can make you look much more modern and polished.

— Stacy London

Colour is what gives jewels their worth. They light up and enhance the face. Nothing is more elegant than a black skirt and sweater worn with a sparkling multi-stoned necklace.

— Christian Dior

Some Contemporary Necklace Patterns 

Click thumbnail to view full-size
'Sparling Vortex', First Prize in Dutch Design Contest 2007. By Marc Lange.  Made of titanium, zirconium, yellow and white gold and set with diamonds.The Family Reunion by Nancy WordenNecklace by Svetlana Dergunov
'Sparling Vortex', First Prize in Dutch Design Contest 2007. By Marc Lange.  Made of titanium, zirconium, yellow and white gold and set with diamonds.
'Sparling Vortex', First Prize in Dutch Design Contest 2007. By Marc Lange. Made of titanium, zirconium, yellow and white gold and set with diamonds. | Source
The Family Reunion by Nancy Worden
The Family Reunion by Nancy Worden | Source
Necklace by Svetlana Dergunov
Necklace by Svetlana Dergunov | Source

I can hold a cup of sake on a full moon in Japan, and the reflection of the moon in that little cup can make me feel so enthusiastic about beauty. That one good, magical moment can give me enough to create other things like the teardrop earring or necklace.

— Elsa Peretti

Miscellaneous Stories

Some jewelry creations are also associated with interesting historical facts and legends.

Marie Louise, Duchess of Parma wearing the Napoleon Diamond Necklace and the Marie Louise Diadem
Marie Louise, Duchess of Parma wearing the Napoleon Diamond Necklace and the Marie Louise Diadem | Source
Napoleon Diamond Necklace on display in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C., United States.
Napoleon Diamond Necklace on display in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C., United States. | Source

Napoleon Diamond Necklace

In 1810, Napoleon I of France divorced the Empress Josephine because she didn't give him an heir.

Remarried, he had a son with the Archduchess Marie Louise of Austria and, to celebrate, he offered her an incredibly expensive diamond necklace.

After Napoleon's exile, in 1815, Marie Louise returned to Austria with the necklace. After that, the necklace continued through family inheritance untill it was donated to Smithsonian Institution, in 1962 where it is on display.

Source

The Affair of the Diamond Necklace

One of the most famous diamond necklaces in history was the "The Queen's necklace" commissioned by Louis XV of France for his mistress, Madame du Barry. This necklace was in the origin of a significant affair involving the King's wife, Marie Antoinette. Via wikipedia


Source

Cursed jewelry

The Hope Diamond, one of the most famous jewels in the world, was reported to be insured for $250 million.There are rumors about a curse that led to the death or madness of their ownersThere are other legendary cursed jewels like the Black Orlov, also known as The Eye of Brahma.

I wear a necklace, cause I wanna know when I'm upside down.

— Mitch Hedberg

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