Rivière Necklace: Everything You Have to Know

If you love diamonds, then a rivière necklace will be right up your alley! This classic necklace design has been around for centuries, and is as popular as ever. Let’s take a look at how to style a rivière necklace and why it’s a great addition to your collection.

What’s a Rivière Necklace?

a white gold riviera tennis necklace on the woman's neck
Classic gold rivière necklace. See it here.

A Rivière necklace is a style of necklace that features a single strand of gemstones, usually diamonds, which are typically of the same general size and cut. Each gemstone is often round or oval-shaped, and they are set individually in a close chain, creating a continuous line or “river” of gems around the neck, which is how it got its name (Rivière is French for river).

a woman wearing a riviere tennis necklace
Super stylish rivière necklace. See it here.
a riviere necklace on a woman's neck
Modern rivière necklace. See it here.

While the design of this necklace style has changed over the decades, the essence remains the same. It’s still a strand of gemstones, with the star of the show being the beauty of the stones. Today, they’re sometimes known as eternity necklaces (much like eternity bracelets).

Symbolism of Rivière Necklaces 

Much like eternity bracelets and rings, the rivière necklace is also full of symbolism. This is why it makes for an excellent gift between couples.

  1. Continuity and Eternity: The unbroken line of gemstones may symbolize eternal love, continuity, or the endless flow of time.
  2. Wealth and Status: Historically, such necklaces were often worn by individuals of high social status due to the value of the gemstones used. Thus, they may symbolize wealth or social standing.
  3. Beauty and Elegance: Given their intrinsic beauty, these necklaces often represent refined elegance and sophistication.
  4. Celebration of Life’s Milestones: Given their value and the significant investment required, these necklaces are often gifted to commemorate important milestones such as anniversaries, graduations, or significant birthdays, representing acknowledgment of achievement or the celebration of life’s significant moments.

History of Rivière Necklaces 

We don’t really know when exactly the rivière necklace was created. But most people pinpoint the origin of this design to a diamond choker gifted by Napoleon to his second wife, Marie Louise. The couple was celebrating the birth of their son in 1811, and Napoleon, ever the romantic, gave her a specially commissioned necklace.

This piece was composed of twenty-eight round cut diamonds of very large proportions. It is now housed as part of the Smithsonian’s permanent collection. This isn’t strictly a rivière necklace, because of the arrangement of the diamonds, but it’s one of the first times in history that a gemstone necklace like this made headlines.

By around 1871, rivière necklaces became a popular trend, when diamonds gained popularity in the West and the Kimberly Mine in South Africa was discovered.  

Evolution of Rivière Necklaces 

1700s: Early Rivière Necklaces

rose gold 2-in-1 riviere necklace with amethyst gemstones
2-in-1 rivière necklace with amethysts. See it here.

Rivière necklaces have been popular since the 1700s, but they have been redesigned over the years. They were typically made with gemstones like diamonds, amethysts, or sapphires, and featured just one type of gemstone for the entire necklace. However, in the mid-18th century, multi-colored necklaces came into vogue. These were known as the harlequin style.  

The settings used for rivière necklaces also changed over time. When they were first created, rivière necklaces featured silver foil-backed collets in their setting. Over time, this changed to silver-topped collets around the 1770s. Another change to the rivières in this period was that the gems were no longer connected by silk threads but with metal links, making them more durable.

Early 1800s: Georgian Rivière Necklaces

riviere necklace old mine cut
Replica of old mine cut diamond riviere necklace. See it here.

Rivière necklaces of the Georgian period were set with paste, topaz, diamonds, or amethyst in a closed-back setting with mostly old mine cushion cuts, rose cuts, or table cuts.

The Georgian designs have become valuable antique collectibles because of the techniques and craftsmanship used to create them. The stones are typically graduated, with the largest stone at the center. However, finding a genuine Georgian necklace is almost impossible.  

Mid-1800s to Early 1900s: Georgian Rivière Necklaces

silver moonstone fringe necklace
Replica of fringe necklace in the Edwardian style. See it here.

The design of the rivière also inspired the creation of fringe necklaces that came about in the Victorian period as well as the Edwardian period. Some were designed to be used as both a necklace and a tiara. This period featured rivières which were mostly studded with amethyst and designed to have detachable pendants and open backs. 

1919-1939: Art Deco Era

riviere necklace 1940s
Riviere necklace from the 1940s. See it here.

In the 1920s, while the design remained mostly the same, the settings for the rivière changed. They used the four claw, or channel settings. With the improvement in diamond cutting technology, the diamonds sported newer cuts. Silver or gold only used when giving an antique look to the piece.

From the 1950s onwards, the most popular diamond cut became the baguette due to its clean and futuristic look. During the 20th century, rivière necklace designers and jewelers began to use platinum as the favored metal to set the gems. This was much more durable and light, without taking away from the star of the show – the diamond! 

Rivières from Royalty to the Silver Screen 

camilla bowles wearing a rivière necklace
Camilla Queen of England wears a rivière necklace. Source.

The rivières of the British Royal family are treasures passed down the generations and worn lovingly by the women in the family. The rivière design was given royal treatment in 1900 when a 100-carat collet set diamond rivière was worn by Queen Mary of England. This necklace was inherited by Princess Margaret, Queen Elizabeth II’s sister. 

In his book, The Queen’s Diamonds, Hugh Roberts has written about the several rivières in Queen Elizabeth II’s collection. Queen Mary, who was her grandmother, owned eight of these necklaces and left two for her inheritance, excluding the one given to her sister. 

Rivière necklaces were also popular gifts between royal couples. Queen Elizabeth of Britain was gifted one by her husband King George VI in 1937 at their coronation. It consisted of 40 old-cut diamonds.

katherine hepburn with riviere necklace

Hollywood fashion also involved diamond rivières which were idolized when worn with strapless gowns. In the 20th Century, these necklaces were rebranded as eternity necklaces. Some of the famous actresses who’ve worn these beauties have been Katherine Hepburn in the movie Holiday (1938); Rita Hayworth in Gilda (1946); Gwyneth Paltrow in A Perfect Murder (1998), and so on.  

Diamond rivières are classics and most of these stars wear them often on the red carpet. Several prominent actresses of recent years, such as Zoe Kravitz, Dakota Johnson, Jennifer Lawrence, Angelina Jolie, and so on, have been spotted with this classic in their modern styles while strutting the red carpet. 

Rivières In Modern Times 

garnet riviere necklace
Riviere necklace with garnets. See it here. 

The design of the rivières of old continues to inspire the jewelry designers of today. They draw on inspiration from the generation of designs from the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries when creating contemporary and modern pieces.  

While different cuts of diamonds keep rotating in and out of fashion, these designers experiment and play around with different unique cuts and combine them to bring out special rivière necklaces or tennis necklaces as they are known sometimes.  

Although they were mostly worn in formal settings in the past, rivières are now even paired with casual clothing including t-shirts and jeans. 

Wrapping Up 

Rivières are known not just for their simplistic beauty and elegance but also for the history and culture that are associated with them. This enduring design of necklaces has now become a classic amongst women of all ages and cultures. The vintage and antique styles of the rivières are timeless and their popularity will likely continue into the future.  


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