The earliest known necklaces were made of natural shells or stones. These were replaced by fashioned beads. By the mid 18th century, more women wore necklaces as a part of a matching set of jewellery.
Stone Age – Bronze Age
Early necklaces have been discovered in cultures across the world, dating back over 5000 years. A range of natural materials such as bone and shells were worn decoratively around the neck, often as a talisman or good luck charm. During the Bronze Age, a Celtic torc, a neck ring, made of twisted metal with decorative ends, was a popular decoration, as was a flat, crescent-shaped necklace. In Ancient Egypt, Pharaohs wore large pendants showing scenes devoted to the gods, or in the shape of sacred animals such as the scarab beetle.
People wore pendants connected with religion to demonstrate their devotion, such as a cross or crown of thorns in Christianity. Members of royal society would increasingly wear necklaces as part of their daily wear.
Fifteenth – Nineteenth Centuries
Mythology is used in pendants, with the irregular shape of baroque pearls being used to represent the bodies of humans or animals. Cameos depicting mythological or royal scenes and usually carved on gemstones such as onyx and agate, were worn either as a pendant, or as a seal on a ring. In the eighteenth-century a necklace was worn in the evening, whereas a pendant worn during the day. Precious gemstones such as rubies, diamonds, sapphires and emeralds were used in both, and matching sets including earrings, bracelets and brooches were favoured. A locket, a round or oval hinged pendant, made from various metals, was given or worn for sentimental reasons. The metal would be engraved or set with gemstones and worn on a long chain.
Twentieth-century and contemporary use
The necklace is a highly-valued item of jewellery in many cultures. Precious metals and gemstones are worn to exhibit a family’s wealth in some cultures across Central and East Asia, and used for investments amongst some cultures. In Europe, the Art Nouveau and Art Deco movements influenced the style and design of many necklaces and pendants, incorporating geometric designs and the aesthetic appearance of animals such as peacocks and butterflies.