The most worn type of jewelry on the planet is the pendant or necklace with a pendant on it. They were probably the first type of bodily adornment worn and there are tons of examples from early man’s fossil records. The earliest types of necklaces (the first custom jewelry pieces !) were probably constructed with ropes made from nearby organic materials. They were then decorated with items such as shells, teeth, or bone. The first things to be put on a necklaces were probably bone beads. Bone jewelry is one of the earliest forms of jewelry adopted by pre-historic people all over the globe. Bone is durable, yet malleable enough to be carved. It is also beautiful when polished and cleaned. Additionally, it was abundantly available when scavenged.
More precious materials that were found further away from where ancient necklaces were found were prized components of early necklaces. These were most frequently in the form of beads as they were the easiest to create with the available technology. Examples of these types of beads are Mediterranean red coral beads that were found in a Neolithic burial cave in the Alps. This was over 6000 years ago. However, other early types of necklaces included the torc or torque, an ancient Celtic neckpiece made of twisted metal, and the lunula, a flat, crescent shaped and engraved variation of the torc found in Ireland and Scotland about 2500 years ago.
Styles and Trends of Custom Jewelry
Necklaces were first created to display current decorative and and religious norms during each period they were made in. Location also mattered too. Each time period exerted influence upon the following societies. So styles were always building upon one another. And this was usually in lock step with the technology used to create the necklaces. Classical styles of the Greeks, Romans and Egyptian were prevalent during the Middle Ages. Around that time, custom jewelry became a more integral element of dress. Pendants replaced pins as the primary form of jewelry in the late Gothic and early Renaissance periods. Pendants set with gemstones hanging from thick gold chains became the fashion of the day. You had to be very wealthy to afford custom jewelry like this. So it was a display of wealth and status for the people wearing custom jewelry really only until recently.
Pendant styles have largely followed the style of fashions and styles of European and American consumers. This means that as time went on, more and more skin began to be shown as morals became more relaxed. This meant that necklines lowered, allowing for larger, more elaborate, and ostentatious jewelry. However, this is not to say that large, ornate pendants were not worn before necklines dropped! For example, a carcanet is a type of wide, bejeweled or enameled gold chain that resembles a large collar. It was worn by men as a status symbol in the fifteenth through seventeenth centuries. It went around the bottom of the neck and over a man’s doublet. There was also an elaborate lace ruff.
The Bottom line
While we don’t see the carcanet ever coming back in style. We do see ancient styles and techniques rearing their heads in current custom jewelry. Contact your local custom jeweler to have a custom pendant made for you!