Necklaces

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Introduction

Necklaces have existed since our ancestors began to walk upright on the earth. Our desire to adorn ourselves has been evident since ancient times with Paleolithic and Neolithic necklaces made from shells, bones, teeth and claws found at sites of archaeological explorations. As our sophistication and knowledge grew so did the variety of materials and the level of detail and design used in jewelry. The Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, virtually all civilizations, had unique methods for designing and making jewelry, moving from simple strung bead arrangements to more elaborate combinations of materials and patterns.

Antiquity

Ancient Egyptians favored a "broad collar" comprised of beads strung in vertical, parallel rows fashioned in a bib-like shape, tied with a cord at the back. Heavy funerary collars were created from metal sheet and chased with talismanic Egyptian motifs. Strings of beads tied in the back with a cord were worn choker style and pectorals designed as large emblematic motifs were inlaid with faience and gemstones.


Gold Repoussé Bula Pendant Necklace c.400-350 B.C.
© Trustees of the British Museum.

The Minoan civilization stamped out gold beads to create many different forms of jewelry. Necklaces and pendants featured beads decorated with complex granulation and repoussé. An Egyptian influence was evident in their choice of pectorals and the motifs that they created and adorned with an expert use of filigree. Large gold disks with repoussé animals were often suspended from the pectorals. The Minoans were also clever chain weavers and, as a result, chains began to be worn as necklaces in their own right without the addition of charms, pendants or other symbolic motifs.


The Etruscans were the ancient world's most accomplished goldsmiths. Fabulous necklaces included the art of chain making further embellished with a myriad of repoussé beads with intricate granulated designs. When discovered centuries later, jewelers tried in vain to emulate the fine work of the unparalleled civilization. The techniques they used for accomplishing such incredible granulated designs frustrated generations of jewelers who strove tirelessly to recreate the magic.


Classical Greek necklaces linked together repoussé motifs sometimes decorated with filigree and granulation and suspending hollow forms such as amphorae, flower buds, beads, flowers and human heads. Medallions with elaborate designs were suspended from chains featuring these incredible repoussé motifs along with swags of chain.


Discussing jewelry from the Hellenistic period under the rule of Alexander the Great, J. Anderson Black explains in A History of Jewelry: Five Thousand Years:

Rather than imposing their old designs on the newly-conquered territories, the Greeks absorbed what was best from the art of each nation and evolved a hybrid. This was undoubted the richest period for jewelry and goldwork in the history of the Aegean world. For one thing gold was more readily available both from deposits in Asia and Egypt, and from looted treasures which could be broken up and the metal re-used.[1]

Their interpretation of Etruscan design adapted the strap necklace but replaced the pendants with more geometric forms abandoning the Etruscan figurative motifs. More gemstones were being used and chains included finials and gold, glass and gemstone beads.


Roman Amethyst, Emerald, Blue Glass and Gold Necklace c.3rd Century.
Victoria & Albert Museum Collection.

Roman jewelry design was of Hellenistic origin until the 2nd century A.D. when Roman jewelers began to use the technique of opus interrasile resulting in an open work pattern in metal. They also took the art of niello and applied it to jewelry. Romans were responsible for adding a good deal of color to jewelry using colored stones polished en cabochon. Chains suspended coins and medallions and included colored stones and segments pierced with the opus interrasile technique.


Early celtic necklaces included torcs of twisted rod or ribbon held in place by a simple clasp. Trade with other parts of the world brought them beads made from faience and amber which they fashioned into necklaces. Similar to a pectoral was the Irish gorget, designed as a broad crescent cut from sheet metal and enhanced by repoussé work and finished with large disk-shaped terminals.


Scandanavian Jewelry c. 6th century featured elaborate and intricate abstract themes which included their use of a technique called "chip cutting" which involved chiseling glimmering facets onto gold surfaces. Combining this with filigree and repoussé resulted in a heretofore unseen style. With the passing of time, simpler geometric designs emerged.

Antiquity
c. 4000-3000 BC Ur
c.2600 BC Ur
c. 2613-2494 BC Egypt
Late Prehistoric Beads.jpg
Lapis Beads Ur.jpg
4th dynasty Beads.jpg
Late Prehistoric Beads from Ur (Iraq) c.4000 BC.
© Trustees of the British Museum.
Lapis and Gold Beads, Ur c.2600 BC.
© Trustees of the British Museum.
4th Dynasty Bead Collection c.2613-2494 BC.
© Trustees of the British Museum.
  • Simple bead strands of stone and glazed composite material.
  • Gold beads added to simple bead strands.
  • Gold beads included in more elaborate bead strands.
c. 2323-2150 BC Egypt
c. 2200 BC Minoan/Crete
c. 1991-1783 BC Egypt
Broad Collar.jpg
Mino.jpg
Blue Glazed Pectoral.jpg
Egyptian Broad Collar c.2020 BC.
© Trustees of the British Museum.
Egyptian Blue Glazed Pectoral BC.
© Trustees of the British Museum.
  • Broad Collar Rows of nearly vertical tubular beads with the lowest row suspending drops shaped like leaves or mummiforms.
  • Gold elements: discs, cylinders, bicones and globs.
  • Pectoral – large, often trapezoidal, pendant suspended from a string of beads. This evolved to become the cartouche. Bright colors and bold shapes were common.
'c. 2000-1600 BC Minoan
c. 15th Century BC Minoan/Mycenaen
c. 9th Century BC Greece
Minoan necklace.jpg
Minoan Pendant.jpg
Gold Bead Necklace Cyprus.jpg
Minoan Lapis Lazuli, Carnelian and Gold "Breast" Bead Necklace c.1700-1500 BC.
© Trustees of the British Museum.
Minoan Gold Chain with Repoussé Pendants c.1700-1500 BC.
© Trustees of the British Museum.
Late Cypriot Gold and Glazed Composition Necklace c.1550-1050 BC.
© Trustees of the British Museum.
  • Lotus flowers, lilies, chains and animals made of gold were common themes.
  • Stamped from sheet: rows of beads and designs in gold, some with granulation, (including scrolls, leaves, flowers and fruit) were mass produced.
  • High quality gold jewelry with stone inlay. Casting, repoussé produced beads of many shapes. Heavy embossed collars were made of gold plaques.
c. 8th-7th Century BC Etruscan
Greek Pendant Necklace.jpg
Helenistic Gold Necklace.jpg
Bulla and Bead Necklace.jpg
Greek Necklace with Chain, Beads and Pendants c.8th century BC.
© Trustees of the British Museum.
Helenistic Gold Necklace with Square Pendants. c. 500 BC.
© Trustees of the British Museum.
Bulla, Gold and Plasma Bead Necklace c.5th-2nd Century BC.
© Trustees of the British Museum.
  • Beads of glass or faience with gold, silver or electrum were worn in strands.
  • Embossed pendants with geometric motifs.
  • Pectorals with geometric patterns.
  • Swiveling scarabs were soon replaced with seals carved in rock crystal and amber.
  • Mesh chains with granulated and plain gold beads.
  • Gold strapwork necklaces with looped chains suspending various pendants.
  • Bulla necklaces with large disks decorated with embossed motifs (popular in 7th cen. Again in 4th cen.)
  • Large pendants surmounted by a tubular element for stringing included flowers, anchors, amphorae and mellons.
c. 6th-5th Century BC Greece
Helenistic Strap Necklace.jpg
Bronze Italic.jpg
Etruscan Festoon Necklace.jpg
Helenistic Strap Necklace Suspending a Fringe of Seed Shaped Pendants. c.300BC.
© Trustees of the British Museum.
Bronze Italic Pendant c.700-900 BC.
© Trustees of the British Museum.
Etruscan Woven Necklace with Festoon Suspended Pendants and Scarabs
c.500 BC.
© Trustees of the British Museum.
  • Strap Necklace: many fine chains linked together suspending a fringe of pendants.
  • Gold was scarce so many jewels were made in silver and bronze. All styles: earrings, bracelets, rings, necklaces etc.
  • Festoons linking numerous elements to form a necklace.
  • Long linked chains with animal head terminals, sometimes with glass beads.
c. 300 BC Italy
c. 4th-1st Century BC Helenistic
c. 4th-1st Century BC Celtic
Gold Lion Terminal Necklace Greek.jpg
Helenistic gem and gold necklace.jpg
Ipswich torc.jpg
Italian Chain with Lion Head Terminals and Hook and Eye Clasp c.300 BC.
© Trustees of the British Museum.
Emerald, Garnet and Gold Helenistic Necklace c.200 BC.
Victoria & Albert Museum Collection.
Gold Alloy Torc with Loop Terminals and Twist Design c.75 BC.
© Trustees of the British Museum.
  • The use of a clasp composed of a ring and a hook began to replace ribbon or string for tying a necklace onto the neck.
  • Use of color in jewelry became increasingly important to the Greeks.
  • Gemstones or colored glass were added to gold necklaces.
  • Necklaces were worn close around the neck and tied at the back with a ribbon.
  • Often multiple necklaces were worn together.
  • Torcs designed as an open ring with decorative terminals or twisted ring with loop terminals.
c. 1st - 3rd Century AD Roman
Emerald Bead Necklace.jpg
Medusa Gold Necklace.jpg
Hercules knot necklace.jpg
Roman Emerald and Gold Necklace c.2nd-3rd Century.
© Trustees of the British Museum.
Medusa Gold Necklace c.200 AD.
© Trustees of the British Museum.
Hercules Knot Emerald and Gold Necklace
c. 2nd-3rd Century.
© Trustees of the British Museum.
  • Link chains with stone beads.
  • Hook and eye clasp.
  • Wheel motif pendants and finials.
  • Colored gem cabochons in wide bezels, with pearls and gold links.



Dark Ages

Beresford Hope Reliquary Cross Pendant In Gold, Silver Gilt and Enamel c.800-900.
Victoria & Albert Museum Collection.

During the Dark Ages the tribes of Europe (Visigoths, Ostrogoths, Franks, Anglo-Saxons and Lombards) employed their highly skilled armorers as jewelers. All the techniques of the earlier civilizations were known to these craftsman but it was their use of inlaid colored gemstones in a cloisonné fashion that set them apart. They rivaled even the Egyptians when creating mosaic stained glass window-style jewels. The jewelry extant from that period survived as a result of being buried with the owner therefore our knowledge is limited, but Celtic style torc necklaces seemed to have prevailed.

Middle Ages

The Byzantine era and Middle Ages present a unique problem for those who study the history of jewelry; the long standing tradition of burying jewelry along with the deceased ended and with it went an invaluable source of information for the historian. We do know that much of the jewelry produced during that period was religious in nature. Opus interrasile, filigree and cloisonné enamel were popular techniques used to enhance the many designs made possible by the abundance of gold available. Intricate pendants, necklaces composed of openwork disks and medallions all mixed with beads and pearls formed the necklaces popular at the time. Niello and enamel replaced colored stone inlay for design accents and color.


The Langdale Rosary Composed of Enameled Gold Beads c.1500.
Victoria & Albert Museum Collection.

The poor economy and style of fashions drove jewelry in England and France out of favor during the 11th and 12th centuries. High collared, layered tunics left little room for decorative jewelry therefore spare, functional jewelry, brooches, buckles and belts, prevailed. During the 13th century it was illegal for commoners to wear gold, silver and gemstones. Royal jewelry from the period included cruciform pendant necklaces, rosaries and elaborately decorated emblematic collars often suspending symbolic medallions. The Gothic era of the 14th and 15th centuries saw England following the French in passing a law forbidding commoners to adorn themselves with precious jewelry. Few necklaces from this era have survived and little information is available regarding their style or use.


Innovation marked the 15th century with technically more sophisticated stone-cutting, en ronde bosse enameling and a sense of jewelry as a fashion item rather than simply an indicator of rank. Necklaces were predominant at the time due to the extreme decolletage being displayed. Secular jewelry included strands of pearls and gemstones, pendants and heavy, highly decorated collars. The more transcendent religious jewelry included elaborate reliquary pendants with incredible detail and intricately constructed locket compartments, cruciform pendants and ornate rosaries worn as necklaces.



c. 15th Century Europe c. 16th Century Europe
Franko Flamischer.jpg
Joos Van Cleeve.jpg
Giuseppe Arcimboldo.jpg
Porträt einer Dame by Franko-flämischer Meister c.1410.
Portrait of Königin Eleonore von Frankreich (1498-1558) by Joos van Cleve c.1530.
Portrait of Erzherzogin Magdalena
(1532-1590), Brustbild
by Giuseppe Arcimboldo c. 1563.
  • Collars of elaborate, entwined openwork and naturalistic designs with jewels and enamels (like those of the late medieval times)
  • Higher necklines pushed necklaces up against the base of the neck.
  • Simple necklaces with beads and pearls suspended pendants.
  • Long ribbons supporting a pendant functioned as necklaces.
  • Necklaces were worn singly or in groups.
  • Deep décolletage in northern Europe kept necklaces popular.
  • Parures that featured necklaces as a central component became essential.
  • Later, high collars and ruffs necessitated long necklaces that could be worn over the clothing.
  • Distribution of engraved printed designs created uniformity of style in the late 16th century.
  • Delicate, openwork motifs with a central gemstone predominated.

Renaissance

Enamel on Gold Salamander Pendant with Baroque Pearl Body c. Late 16th Century.
Victoria & Albert Museum Collection.

The Renaissance period brought about great advances in art and architecture that spilled over to the goldsmith's art. Medallions and pendants produced with this new level of sculptural artistry enhanced by enamel, baroque pearls and carved gemstones were also created with a thematic emphasis on religion. Jewelers began to travel and circulate pattern books making it difficult to definitively pinpoint a particular goldsmith's creations and causing prototypical designs to dominate. Repeated shapes, themes and techniques appear throughout Europe. Delicate chains with and without pendants and chokers of pearls and beads were worn by women and heavier chains set with gemstones were favored by both men and women. Massive chains whose links were weighed individually were worn by men to serve as a way to transport their wealth with the "measured" links being readily available for use as currency. Later in the period the theme for pendants and necklaces shifted away from enseigne medallions and religious iconography to mythological creatures. Women began to display more jewelry than men.


Pearls had long been available in Europe but in the mid-16th century, due in large part to the extensive travel and trade by European explorers, they became available in much larger quantity than ever before. The result was a fashion for pearl necklaces of great length, sometimes wound around the neck several times or swagged and pinned in place across the bodice.


The seventeenth century saw the development of technology that would enable gemstones to be faceted. Necklaces were constructed threading precious stones in their settings together with ribbon. This was the germination of the necklace known as the rivière. More elaborate necklaces featured a series of cluster pendants suspended from a chain or cord and tied around the neck. Memento mori jewelry with coffins, skulls, skeletons and other macabre themes made an appearance at this time.


17th Century Europe
Spanish necklace.jpg
Enamel bow necklace.jpg
Italian Pearl Necklace.jpg
Seventeenth Century Spanish Gold, Enamel and Green Glass Necklace.
Victoria & Albert Museum Collection.
Bow Necklace, Enamel, Table-Cut Diamonds, Pearls and Sapphires.
c.1660, Italy.
Victoria & Albert Museum Collection.
Enamel, Table-Cut Crystal and Pearl Necklace. c.1600, Italy.
Victoria & Albert Museum Collection.
Italian necklace.jpg
  • Décolletés return.
  • More widespread use of faceted gemstones becoming the focus of the piece.
  • Linear necklaces with closed collets.
  • Short bow motif neclaces.
  • Most important were pearl necklaces.
Italian Floral Necklace.jpg
Italian Gold, Enamel, Emerald and Pearl Necklace c.1620, Sicily.
Victoria & Albert Museum Collection.
Enamel Floral Necklace, Table-Cut Emeralds and Pearls.
c.1666-1669.
Victoria & Albert Museum Collection.

18th Century

Diamonds were the premier gem of the first half of the eighteenth century. This fascination with diamonds arose from the newly developed ability to facet them thereby more efficiently reflecting and refracting light. Diamonds were more brilliant than ever before. Daytime diamond wear was now permissible, but the more extravagant jewels were still reserved for evening and candle light. Diamonds were set in silver with closed backs until mid-century when open back settings came on the scene. Flowers and bows were the prevalent theme and parures were all the rage with a magnificent necklace as the centerpiece. Cameos were employed in jewelry making at unprecedented levels. They could be found in tiaras, necklaces, brooches, bracelets, rings, virtually every type of jewelry and accessoire imaginable.


During the latter half of the eighteenth century colored stones came back into style. Rivières linked together long lines of individually set stones, sometimes diamonds, but often colored stones. The popularity of the rivière has never been seriously challenged; a classic on into the twenty-first century.


18th Century Europe
Amethyst Necklace 18th cen.jpg
Opaline Paste Necklace.jpg
Portuguese Necklet.jpg
Amethyst, Crystal and Gold Necklace
c.18th Century.
Victoria & Albert Museum Collection.
Opaline Paste and Silver Necklace
c.1760.
Victoria & Albert Museum Collection.
Portuguese White Topaz Necklet
c.1780-1800.
Victoria & Albert Museum Collection.
18thCentury Marcasite Necklace.jpg
  • Deep décolleté, short necklaces worn tightly around the neck.
  • Wide gem-set bands, sometimes with a bow or cross pendant.
  • En Esclavage – openwork band suspending festoons and pedants.
  • Pendants were detachable for versatility.
  • Necklaces were tied in elaborate bows at the back by ribbons run through looped terminals. The use of ribbons made necklace lengths variable/adjustible.
  • Rivière – line of gemstones (usually graduated) in plain collets. Sometimes suspending a large diamond pendant.
  • Daytime necklaces were less precious, nighttime was reserved for diamonds.
  • Silver mounts with closed backs for diamonds and gold mounts for colored gems.
  • Foil lining provided uniform coloring for gemstones.
Enamel, Marcasite and Silver Necklace
c. 1730.
Victoria & Albert Museum Collection.
Late 18th Century Europe
Amethyst Riviere.jpg
  • Gold backings for silver necklaces to prevent tarnish on skin.
  • Open backed collets.
  • Metal spring ring clasps began to replace ribbons for closures.
Amethyst Riviere with Silver Collets and Gold Backings.
Photo Courtesy of Lang Antiques.

19th Century

Berlin Ironwork Necklace c.1820.
Victoria & Albert Museum Collection.

An interesting development c.1804 was the manufacture of Berlin ironwork jewelry. First produced at the Royal Prussian Foundry, black enameled pieces with geometric wire patterns were created. These works quickly morphed into the neo-classical style that was so popular throughout Europe. Necklaces featuring repoussé medallions depicting classical scenes were suspended or interspaced by fine chainwork. Napoleon captured Berlin and confiscated the molds making it extremely difficult to determine the origin of ironwork - French or German? The Germans used the iron jewelry to turn the tables on Napoleon by donating their jewels in exchange for iron jewelry to fund their fight for independence. The public had a love affair with the delicate iron tracery and the the material remained in use throughout a switch to realistic design and a revival of Gothic themes.


Castellani Gold and Carved Carnelian Scarab Necklace.
Victoria & Albert Museum Collection.

The fall of Napoleon led to relative poverty in France resulting in a brief period were the style was no jewelry at all. When French jewelers finally went back to work diamonds were out of favor as modestly priced colored stones were preferred. Cannetille parures set with colored stones in realistic floral motifs were all the rage. The archaeological discoveries throughout the world would fuel a European wide style that referenced ancient civilizations along side the fashion for more romantic jewels in the Renaissance and Gothic styles. Necklaces featured micro-mosaic and pietra dura plaques connected by chainwork, whole suites of cameos, beautiful bead and wirework designs and fabulous enameled pendants in the Renaissance style.


Mourning jewelry items included pendants and neckchains carved from Whitby jet, and woven from human hair. Sentimental lockets and medallions proclaiming "Forget Me Not" were suspended from chains. New methods for mass producing fashion jewelry were being developed in England. Electro-plating, faux gemstones, stamping, and other techniques created jewelry at a faster pace and for more consumers than at any time in history. Silver discoveries made this metal more available and affordable and millions of silver jewelry items were produced quickly as a result of the mass production capabilities in England.


A backlash to the over produced poorly stamped jewelry in the latter half of the nineteenth century resulted in a new aesthetic and philosophy seeking to revive the crafts, Art Nouveau. The free flowing "whiplash" designs of Art Nouveau were employed in making incredible pendants and necklaces decorated by a veritable rainbow of colorful enamels, employing various enamel techniques including plique-a-jour and all manner of interesting if not valuable gems. Themes from nature especially flowers, insects and birds as well as fantastic mythological creatures and female figures combined with a multitude of creatures are the signature designs of the period.


19th Century Europe
c. 1795-1815 Europe
French Sautoire.jpg
Nitot Emerald necklace.jpg
French Pietra Dura Necklace.jpg
French Gold Sautoire c.1795.
Victoria & Albert Museum Collection.
Emerald and Diamond Necklace Attributed to Nitot. c.1806.
Victoria & Albert Museum Collection.
French Pietra Dura Necklace en Esclavage. c.1810.
Victoria & Albert Museum Collection.
Italian Micromosaic.jpg
  • Décolleté still the fashion.
  • Lighter, flatter more linear necklaces.
  • Broad use of cameos and intaglios.
  • Rivières were still popular now connected by links instead of ribbon.
  • Clusters of stones with a central motif linked by fine gold chains to matching graduating smaller motifs.
  • Long necklaces draped sash-like over one shoulder diagonally across the body.
  • Semi-precious daywear gems, precious in the evening.
Italian Micromosaic Necklace en Esclavage. c.1810.
Victoria & Albert Museum Collection.
c. 1815-1837 Europe
Turquoise and Pearl Necklace.jpg
Seed Pearl necklace.jpg
Amethyst Cannetille necklace.jpg
Turquoise and Pearl Necklace c.1820.
Victoria & Albert Museum Collection.
Floral Seed Pearl Motif Necklace. c.1820.
Victoria & Albert Museum Collection.
Amethyst and Gilt Cannetille Necklace. c.1800-1850.
Victoria & Albert Museum Collection.
  • Décolleté became a straight across and off the shoulder. For day wear a ruff or collar was added for modesty.
  • Repoussé decorative elements with colored gemstones.
  • Polychrome enamel designs often used instead of gemstones.
  • Parures were a fashion necessity.
c. 1837-1859 Europe -Romantic Period
Turquoise Snake necklace.jpg
Quatrefoil Garnet Necklace.jpg
French Garnet Necklace.jpg
Turquoise Encrusted Snake Necklace. c. 1835-40.
Victoria & Albert Museum Collection.
Quatrefoil Garnet Necklace c.1843
Victoria & Albert Museum Collection.
French Garnet Fringe Pendant Necklace c.1835
Victoria & Albert Museum Collection.
Amethyst and Gold Necklace.jpg
  • Daywear concealed nearly all of a woman’s body.
  • Nighttime straight across décolleté was still in vogue.
  • Large bodice ornaments nearly replaced necklaces altogether.
  • Short necklaces were worn at the base of the neck with naturalistic designs: fruit, flowers and serpents.
Pearl and Turquoise Necklace.jpg
Amethyst and Enamel on Gold Grape Cluster Necklace, c.1850.
Victoria & Albert Museum Collection.
Pearl and Turquoise Necklace c.1860.
Victoria & Albert Museum Collection.
c. 1860-1885 Europe - Grand Period
Turquoise and Pearl Necklace.jpg
Tiger Claw Necklace .jpg
John Brogden Cameo Necklace.jpg
Turquoise and Pearl Necklace c.1860.
Victoria & Albert Museum Collection.
Tiger Claw and Gold Necklace c.1865.
Victoria & Albert Museum Collection.
Cameo Necklace, John Brogden c.1867.
Victoria & Albert Museum Collection.
Japonesque Tiffany Necklace.jpg
Jet necklace.jpg
Hessonite Garnet Necklace .jpg
Tiffany & Co. Japonesque Necklace c. 1880.
© Trustees of the British Museum.
Carved Jet Mourning Necklace c.1870.
Victoria & Albert Museum Collection.
Renaissance Revival Citrine and Hessonite Garnet Diamond and Enamel Necklace.
Photo Courtesy of Lang Antiques.
  • Necklaces were popular again and for evening wear the décolleté was very deep.
  • Souvenier jewelry included mounted hummingbird heads, teeth, animal claws, shells, tortoise shell pique, micromosaics, carved cameos and lava jewelry.
  • Archeological styles, with ancient techniques, were used to design short necklaces, with a chain or a band foundation, suspended numerous pendants all around, usually in a fringe.
  • Renaissance and Gothic revival styles with elements from architecture and sculpture were combined with symbolism and heraldry and decorated with polychrome enamels.
c. 1885-1901 Europe - Fin-de Siècle
Late Victorian Riviere.jpg
Victorian Diamond and Pearl Necklace.jpg
Resille Collars.jpg
Late Victorian Cushion-Cut Diamond Rivière, Converts to Bracelets.
Photo Courtesy of Christie's.
Late Victorian Diamond and Half Pearl Fringe Necklace.
Photo Courtesy of Christie's.
A Pair of Diamond and Platinum Résille Collars by Cartier.
  • Diamonds discovered in South Africa provided ample stones to make magnificent creations with emphasis on intrinsic value over design.
  • Rivières were extremely popular and were made of large fine quality diamonds, mounted in open collets with a gallery. Often convertible to bracelets and other items.
  • The bust, underscored by an uplifting corset, became the focal point of feminine fashion.
  • Covered to the neck in the daytime and displaying a deep décolleté in the evening.
  • Choker: Very wide and snuggly fitted to the individual neck.
    • Résille: necklaces of finely netted meshwork set with diamonds.
    • Collier de Chien: Wide with a plaque on a ribbon or multiple rows of pearls.
    • Continuous lines of articulate plaques.
  • Fringe necklace: At the base of the neck (below the choker) designed as a series of pendants suspended like fringe and usually could double as a tiara with the addition of a framework.
Chaumet Collier de chein.jpg
Chaumet Diamond and Pearl Collier de Chien, c.1905.
Victoria & Albert Museum Collection.

20th Century

Belle Epoque Diamond and Pearl Necklace c.1910.
Christie's.

At the turn of the twentieth century, newly delicate styling was made possible by the use of platinum in combination with diamonds. Evolving alongside Art Nouveau this new aesthetic became known as Edwardian (or Belle Epoque in France). Pendants of incredible detail and airiness suspended from equally fine chains were in vogue. Chokers and colliers de chien were often combined with sautoirs and longchains. Incredible, intricate, garland design necklaces completely encrusted with diamonds glimmered under the electric lights of evening.


As World War I ramped up, Art Nouveau fell out of favor and, at the conclusion of the war, Edwardian was gone as well. Once the dust cleared, a demand for a more ostentatious style of jewelry arose. Combining this new demand with the popular Cubist movement in the arts resulted in the distinctive geometric jewelry we call Art Deco. Necklaces were made of platinum and decorated by round brilliant and emerald-cut diamonds with colored stones providing contrast, often calibré-cut to create delicate outlines. Long sautoirs, infinite strands of pearls and négligées adorned the neck and provided elongated decoration on the new dropped waist straight silhouette.


The retro period saw the return to the use of gold in jewelry. Bold highly polished mechanical links in rose, yellow and green gold made distinctive collars encircling the neck. Post World War II once again saw platinum come into vogue. The rivière was re-styled to include new diamond shapes such as the pear and marquise. These chokers were often set all around with diamonds and suspended diamond or pearl pendants. Pearl necklaces were another favorite during this period and they were most often composed of double strands of graduated pearls. Bead necklaces in all types of gem material were considered appropriate for day wear. Gone was the parure but matching necklace and earring suites had stepped in to take their place.


The design and composition of necklaces may change with fashion and fad but necklaces are never out of style for long. One of the earliest adornments that our ancestors chose to flaunt continues to be one of the most popular today. From collars and chokers to delicate chains and pendants to ropes of beads, virtually all types of necklaces can be found in today's ever changing jewelry wardrobe.

Edwardian and Belle Epoque c. 1900-1915 Europe
Edwardian Pearl Enamel Choker.jpg
Edwardian Diamond Ruby Necklace.jpg
Plaque de cou.jpg
Edwardian Pearl, Enamel and Diamond Bow and Foliate Motif Choker.
Photo Courtesy of Lang Antiques.
Edwardian Diamond and Ruby Lavallière.
Photo Courtesy of Lang Antiques.
Edwardian Diamond and Mulit-Strand Pearl Collier de Chien.
Photo Courtesy of Lang Antiques.
Edwardian Trefoil Negligee.jpg
Edwardian Diamond Necklace.jpg
Edwardian Diamond Lavalier.jpg
Edwardian Diamond Trefoil Négligée.
Photo Courtesy of Lang Antiques.
Belle Epoque Diamond and Pearl Foliate Motif Necklace.
Photo Courtesy of Lang Antiques.
Edwardian Diamond Lavallière
Photo Courtesy of Lang Antiques.

Belle Epoque:

  • 'S” curve silhouette with prominent bustline an deep décolleté.
  • Diamonds & platinum - Lacy and delicate scalloped necklaces featured:
    • Swags.
    • Garlands.
    • Flowers.
    • Bows & Ribbons.
    • Résille or Draperie de décolleté (Collar that flowed downward from the neck)
  • Often more than one necklace at a time was worn: Collier de chien, Lavallière, Négligée, Scalloped/swag necklaces and Rivières.
Belle Epoque Diamond Necklace.jpg

Edwardian:

  • Sautoirs complimented the new straight shift dress designs c.1910.
    • Ropes or bands of seed pearls with tassels or pendants.
    • Geometric styling.
    • Often with detachable pendants and could be worn short or long or converted to bracelets.
  • Collier de chien:
    • Plaque with pearls or ribbon.
    • Black velvet ribbon with lacy diamond applique.
    • Band of pearls or pale gemstones.
  • Long strands of pearls worn in multiples.
Belle Epoque Floral and Foliate Motif Diamond Necklace.
Photo Courtesy of Lang Antiques.
Art Nouveau and Arts & Crafts c. 1900-1915 Europe
Peridot Necklace.jpg
Horner Necklace.jpg
Pearl Opal Necklace.jpg
Peridot Necklace, Ashbee c.1903.
Victoria & Albert Museum Collection.
Arts & Crafts Enamel and Sterling Silver Necklace, Horner.
Victoria & Albert Museum Collection.
Pearl and Opal Necklace, Knox c.1902.
Victoria & Albert Museum Collection.
Peacock Necklace.jpg
Lalique Plaque.jpg
Gautrait Necklace.jpg
Art Nouveau Enamel Peacock Necklace.
Photo Courtesy of Christie's.
Lalique Enamel and Diamond Thistle Motif Plaque de Cou.
Photo Courtesy of Christie's.
Lucien Gautrait Enamel and Sapphire Feminine Profile and Peacock Pendant Necklace, c.1900.
Photo Courtesy of Christie's.
  • Jewels inspired by nature.
  • Birds, flowers, animals and the feminine form.
  • Design more important that intrinsic value.
  • Central enamel and gem-set plaque on multi-strand pearl choker.
  • Lavallière and en esclavage designs dominated.
  • Materials selected to compliment the design.
    • Horn.
    • Agate.
    • Enamel.
    • Opals, moonstones, pearls and other pale gems preferred.
Art Deco c. 1920-1940
Art Deco Emerald Necklace.jpg
Art Deco Diamond Necklace.jpg
Cartier Art Deco Necklace.jpg
Art Deco French Emerald and Diamond Fringe Necklace, c.1925.
Photo Courtesy of Christie's.
Art Deco Diamond Pendant Necklace, c.1925.
Photo Courtesy of Christie's.
Cartier Art Deco Diamond Necklace, c.1925.
Photo Courtesy of Christie's.
Art Deco Sautoir.jpg
Seed Pearl Diamond Art Deco Necklace.jpg
Mauboussin Multi Sautoir.jpg
CartierArt Deco Pearl and Onyx Sautoir, c.1925.
Photo Courtesy of Christie's.
Art Deco Pearl and Diamond Sautoir .
Photo Courtesy of Lang Antiques.
Mauboussin Tutti Frutti Sautior, c.1927.
Photo Courtesy of Christie's.
Art Deco Ruby Necklace.jpg
Lacloche Aqua Tiara Necklace.jpg
Art Deco Emerald and Diamond Necklace.jpg
Art Deco Burma Ruby and Diamond Necklace, c.1930.
Photo Courtesy of Christie's.
LaCloche Freres Art Deco Aquamarine and Diamond Necklace/Tiara, c.1930
Photo Courtesy of Christie's.
Art Deco Carved Emerald Intaglio and Diamond Necklace, c.1925.
Photo Courtesy of Christie's.
Art Deco Diamond Collar.jpg
Cartier Rock Crystal Necklace.jpg
Cartier Art Deco Leopard Necklace.jpg
Art Deco Diamond Collar, c.1930.
Photo Courtesy of Christie's.
Cartier Art Deco Rock Crystal, Onyx and Diamond Necklace, c.1930.
Photo Courtesy of Christie's.
Cartier Art Deco Star Ruby, Diamond and Enamel Collar, c.1935.
Photo Courtesy of Christie's.

1920s

  • Strait shifts, short skirts, masculine hair styles all remained in vogue after the war.
  • Sautoirs with long lines swinging freely – very geometric, and convertible.
    • Egyptian, Oriental and Indian motifs.
    • Bold gemstone combinations, vivid colors with extreme contrasts.
      • Rock Crystal and Black Onyx.
      • Emeralds, Rubies and Sapphires together.
      • New diamond cuts/shapes and calibré-cut gemstone combinations.
Art Deco Aquamarine Pendant.jpg

1930s

  • Shapelier fashions required shorter necklaces.
  • Low backed evening gowns required pendants suspended from the clasp.
  • Graduated “festoon” collars.
  • Monochromatic /diamond only necklaces.
  • c.1935 colored gem cabochons became the focus.
    • Burmese rubies were especially popular due to the fact that they dazzled under electric light.




Art Deco Aquamarine and Diamond Pendant Necklace.
Photo Courtesy of Lang Antiques.
Retro c. 1940s
Retro Scroll Necklace.jpg
Retro Gaspipe Collar.jpg
Retro Scallop Necklace.jpg
Retro Snakelink Necklace with Diamond-Set Scroll Motifs.
Photo Courtesy of Lang Antiques.
Retro Tubogas Gold Collar.
Photo Courtesy of Lang Antiques.
Retro Scroll Motif Gold Necklace.
Photo Courtesy of Lang Antiques.
Retro Fringe Necklace.jpg
Passe-Partout VCA Necklace.jpg
Retro Wave Necklace.jpg
Retro Gold Tubular Fringe Necklace.
Photo Courtesy of Lang Antiques.
Van Cleef & Arpels Passe-Partout Necklace.
Retro Gold Scallop Motif Necklace.
Photo Courtesy of Lang Antiques.
  • Fashion: tailored severe suits and practical dresses.
  • Wartime ban on platinum.
  • Gold use was restricted.
  • Thin, low carat gold jewelry:
    • Gold often supplied by customer.
    • Flexible/convertible snake chain, gas-pipe and hollow designs with applied/removable motifs were very popular.
  • Scarcity of fine gems resulted in the use of:
    • Recycled gems from older jewelry.
    • Synthetic rubies.
    • Large gemstones such as aquamarine, amethyst and topaz.
1950s
Diamond Swag Necklace.jpg
Diamond Foliate Necklace.jpg
Diamond Fringe Necklace.jpg
Diamond Baguette Swag Motif Necklace, c.1955.
Photo Courtesy of Christie's.
Diamond Detachable Foliate Cascade Necklace, c.1955.
Photo Courtesy of Christie's.
Diamond Fringe and Ribbon Motif Necklace, c.1950s.
Photo Courtesy of Christie's.
TiffanyGold Necklace.jpg
VCA Emerald Diamond Necklace.jpg
Gold Fringe Collar.jpg
Tiffany & Co. Gold Necklace, c.1950s.
Photo Courtesy of Lang Antiques.
Van Cleef & Arpels Columbian Emerald and Diamond Necklace and Earrings, c.1950.
Photo Courtesy of Christie's.
Gold Fringe Collar, c.1950s-60s.
Photo Courtesy of Lang Antiques.
  • Prosperous post war period, luxury in vogue again.
  • Feminine “puffed” skirts with narrow waistlines with emphasis on the bust-line.
  • Shorter Necklaces with curving flowing lines often asymmetrical.
  • Platinum, palladium and white gold.
  • Diamonds as the primary gem were sometime punctuated by rubies, emeralds and sapphires.
  • Lavish diamond rivieres supported fringes, festoons and drops.
  • Channel-setting popular with baguettes forming lines and outlines.
  • Gold was woven into textile-like patterns and designs with small diamond accents.
  • Pearl necklaces were back, singly, in pairs and festooned with diamond accents.

Notes

  1. Black p.72.

Sources

  • Bennett, David & Mascetti, Daniela. Understanding Jewellery: Woodbridge, Suffolk, England: Antique Collectors’ Club, 2008.
  • Black, J. Anderson. A History of Jewelry: Five Thousand Years. New York: Park Lane, 1975.
  • Dawes, Ginny Redington Dawes with Collings, Olivia. Georgian Jewellery: 1714-1830: Woodbridge, Suffolk, UK: Antique Collectors’ Club, 2007.
  • Evans, Joan. A History of Jewellery: 1100-1870: Boston, MA, USA: Boston Book and Art, Publisher, 1970.
  • Gere, Charlotte and Rudoe, Judy. Jewellery in the Age of Queen Victoria: A Mirror to the World: London, The British Museum Press, 2010.
  • Mascetti, Daniela and Triossi, Amanda. The Necklace: From Antiquity to the Present. London: Thames & Hudson Ltd, 1997.
  • Romero, Christie. Warmans Jewelry: Radnor PA: Wallace-Homestead Book Company, 1995.
  • Scarisbrick, Diana. Jewellery in Britain: 1066-1837, Wilby, Norwich: Michael Russell, 1994. Pp.168-169.
Lang Antiques
Lang Antiques