Necklaces are one of the most common types of jewelry, worn around the world. It’s difficult to pinpoint where exactly necklaces originated, as it can be found in pretty much every culture around the globe. The act of adorning one’s neck with metals, gemstones, and other materials is as old as humanity itself. Let’s take a look at the fascinating history of necklaces and why this piece of jewelry is so appealing to us humans.
Where Did Necklaces Originate?
Since ancient times, jewelry was used by both males and females for centuries, either as a decoration, a status symbol or as a fashion choice. Sometimes, it was worn as an amulet against evil spirits, or diseases or to bring good fortune.
These early accessories were usually made out of materials gathered from hunting, such as claws, teeth, horns, and bones. Many organic items, including bones, feathers, plants, teeth, and shells, were used to create the first necklaces in human history. Other early necklaces, like the torc, an old Celtic neckpiece used in Ireland and Scotland between 1800 and 1500 BC, were crafted from twisted metal.
The earliest piece of jewelry discovered so far is a necklace that dates as far back as 25,000 years ago. This ancient necklace that was made out of fishbones was found inside a cave in Monaco.
Jewelry production began in Ancient Egypt between 3,000 and 5,000 years ago. The Ancient Egyptians wore necklaces in a variety of designs. For celebratory, religious, and burial occasions, they would frequently wear a collar composed of costly materials. To these cultures, necklaces served as more than just accessories.
The brightness, scarcity, and usability of gold were treasured by the Egyptians. In addition, the African deserts provided the Egyptians with an abundance of gold, and they later received additional gold as tribute from conquered kingdoms. As a result, jewelry soon became a symbol of authority in Egypt. The wealthy class continued to wear it when they passed away and was buried alongside them.
The majority of jewelry produced in Greece was crafted from gold, silver, ivory, jewels, bronze, and clay. After Alexander’s conquests, they later embraced Asian designs. At first, influenced by European styles, the arrival of Roman control in Greece in 27 BC brought about notable modifications.
Italy and Byzantine
In the past, the Italians used raw gold to make clasps, necklaces, earrings, and bracelets. There were also big pendants often filled with fragrances to ensure that the wearer smelled nice. The Byzantine Empire, seen as the eastern successor to the Romans, carried on the Roman heritage even though religious symbols were the dominant designs. The Byzantine populace favored jewelry made of pale gold with numerous gem inlays. Wealthy women tended to wear a variety of jewelry types, whereas men mostly wore signet rings.
While there is no consensus, there are others who hold the popular belief that the longest-running jewelry-making tradition is in India. The inhabitants of the Indus Valley produced their earrings and necklaces out of gold, beads, and other metals around 1,500 BC. Women favored headbands, chokers, brooches, and earrings and wore clay and shell bracelets that were typically painted black. Clay was gradually replaced by glass and metal.
In the West, necklaces were once considered a symbol of riches, power, and status in several societies. However, the Gothic era, which lasted between 1150 and 1450 CE, was one of the only eras in history when necklaces weren’t as popular in the West. During this period, there were some records of necklaces made of diamonds, pearls, and rubies.
As a result, brooches were being replaced by necklaces as the most popular piece of jewelry throughout the early renaissance eras during the Middle Ages. Necklaces with gemstone settings or those fashioned from thick gold chains with pendants are two examples of jewelry that reflected a symbol of affluence.
During the Middle Ages, necklaces became popular when necklines shrank. Between the 14th and 17th centuries, the wealthy frequently wore this type of clothing. As a result, the majority of necklace fashion trends were influenced by American and European styles. Most women wore necklaces when necklines were low, and they opted out of wearing necklaces when necklines were high.
The Symbolic Meaning of Necklaces
On a general note, the design and additions made to a necklace have an impact on its meaning. Something unique about the necklace is the strong symbolism it holds, and its significance is reflected in each of the regions in the world.
What necklaces mean in Africa.
From simple to intricate necklaces, to those used for certain dances, in various marriage rituals, or to beautify the body to catch the attention of the opposite sex, in Africa, necklaces symbolize love, strength, or talent. They could also symbolize status and prestige.
What necklaces mean in Europe.
In Europe, apart from the religious inclination necklaces may have, they often symbolize elegance. If a necklace was given by a romantic partner, it symbolized love, affection, and loyalty.
What necklaces mean in Asia.
The necklace has adopted religious and ritualistic imagery. Certain types of necklaces have become important in Asian society, particularly at ceremonies such as weddings.
For example, the mangal sutra, or ‘auspicious thread’, is tied around the bride’s neck during the wedding ceremony. Much like the western wedding ring symbolism, the mangal sutra represents commitment, and loyalty, and indicates that the woman is now married.
In this way, necklaces in the subcontinent can represent a person’s status, prestige, and wealth.
What necklaces mean in Latin America.
Necklaces with pebbles, seeds, and teeth with Taino warrior emblems are often worn in Latin America. Grandparents or relatives would present their children with necklaces to remind them of their culture, to be proud of their culture, and to remember the point of their origin. Necklaces are a representation of pride in their culture and ancestry. Necklaces can be a reminder of one’s heritage, culture, and position in society.
Fun Facts About Necklaces
1. The first necklace was discovered during the stone age. This was about 25,000 years ago.
2. Necklaces have always been worn by men and women. However, men’s necklaces tend to be larger and heavier, while women’s tend to range, depending on the style.
3. Ancient Necklaces were made from mollusks, shells, bones, teeth, and small stones gathered by hunters.
5. You can find necklaces in a range of materials, including glass, beads, and stone.
6. Pairing the right necklace with the right outfit is important to bring out the perfect look.
7. Necklaces are worn close to the heart because they are designed to attract and strengthen love. However, while the symbolism still exists, people don’t really think about this now.
9. Gold Necklaces preceded diamond necklaces. They date back to 2,500 BC.
Uses of Necklaces
1. It is an essential accessory for special occasions.
Necklaces can easily elevate any outfit and really add some oomph to the overall look. Having said that, the type of necklace you choose depends on the neckline of the outfit. Check out our article on choosing the right necklace for your neckline.
2. It can enhance self-confidence.
When the appropriate item is worn by the right person on the right occasion, jewelry has an undeniable capacity to highlight anyone’s greatest qualities and personality. It’s no wonder that someone once said Jewelry has the power to be this little thing that can make you feel unique. While beauty is who you are, jewelry is the icing on the cake and can truly elevate your appearance and your confidence.
3. It can have sentimental value.
Jewelry has a sentimental significance that is significantly greater than its monetary value. For instance, a necklace can have greater intrinsic value and be something to love forever. If it’s made of precious materials it can turn into heirloom jewelry and be passed down to later generations. In this way, its sentimental worth may also rise.
4. It adds a touch to one’s personality.
The necklace you choose says a lot about you, whether you opt for a small chain or a daring statement piece. People can learn a lot about your sense of style and fashion from one glance at your necklace.
For instance, vivid and striking hues suggest a vibrant personality. Smaller jewelry pieces, on the other hand, speak more to a minimalist attitude and philosophy.
Necklaces are a great way to showcase your unique style and personality. And this has been something that humans have known since time immemorial.
Whether you choose to wear a necklace simply for the beauty of the piece, or for protective, religious, ritualistic, or status reasons, one thing remains true for everyone – a necklace tells others a lot about who you are.