Adorning the neck with organic materials, beads, gemstones and precious metals has a long history stretching into pre-historic civilizations. Carvings and paintings from as early as 3000 BC, have been unearthed and show gods and royalty bejewelled with striking neckpieces. Clearly a sign of wealth and prominence in all societies, necklaces have been used as status symbols, ceremonial tokens, protective emblems, symbols of faith, celebratory items and gifts. Ancient Egyptians, wore decorative chokers, collars and neckpieces with bright gemstones and faience details. The ancient Romans favoured colour and added beads of glass alongside twisted gold and precious gemstones. Styles remained quite primitive until technology advanced in the 17th century allowing an array of exotic gemstones to be faceted.
By the Georgian period these advancements contributed to quite elaborate designs featuring precious gemstones, intricate links and fine enamel decoration. The populace became fascinated with the allure of the diamond, thus inventing the rivière diamond necklace. Reserved for society's elite, diamond set necklaces continued to evolve into more decadent designs. The sophisticated construction of necklaces continued well into the Victorian era when memento mori jewellery became fashionable. Jewellers of this period created necklaces which included Whitby jet and dark coloured gemstones with intricate skeletal motifs.
Decorative necklaces formed one element in a set of jewellery known as parures, which often included a matching set of earrings, bracelet and necklace all including the same motifs, settings and gemstones. Many of these parure sets were adorning society’s most fashionable ladies in the 18th and 19th centuries. Creative jewellers also designed alterable neckpieces which could be worn a number of ways, converting into tiaras, brooches, bracelets and pendants. New geometric gemstone shapes in the Art Deco period made way for exciting new settings. Geometrically styled chokers, spray necklaces and mixed gemstone neck pieces were embraced and continue to inspire jewellers today.