The necklace is one of the oldest forms of jewelry known to man—archaeologists have found samples made of shells dating back as far as 28,000 B.C. The names of necklace styles are often nearly as varied as their lengths.
Learning the lingo—how a lavalier differs from a dog collar, for instance—can help tremendously when shopping for a vintage piece. They apply to new necklaces as well, since these terms define pieces which continue to inspire design even today.
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The name bayadère refers to a style of braided necklace composed of strings or strands of beads, usually seed pearls, twisted together. The pearls can be matching or multi-colored. There are fewer strands, however, in this style than in the torsade.
Though it dates back to the 18th century, the style was especially popular around 1900. During that time, the main rope-like necklace was often augmented with a pendant or tassel at the end. Simple bayadères were also a common gift to bridesmaids at fashionable Belle Époque weddings at the turn of the 20th century.
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The bib necklace is a large, dramatic piece of jewelry that is circular or triangular in shape. It consists of a web-like mesh of metal, a base encrusted with stones, or multiple strands of stones which dangle at regular or uneven lengths for a fringe-like or cascading effect.
Variations of the bib style have been found in 7th-century Greek and Roman jewelry. This extremely old style has been revived periodically throughout history to accompany low cut evening gowns. Modern terminology classifies this as a type of "statement" necklace.
Variations of bib necklaces include the fringe necklace or waterfall necklace.
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The choker is a short necklace fitting snugly around the base of the neck which may include a pendant affixed in the center or dangling just above the collarbone. A very old style, dating back to ancient Samaria, chokers can be composed entirely of beads or stones, usually of uniform size.
Other variations include those with a gem-encrusted ribbon —lace was popular in the 18th century and black velvet in the 19th century. Alternatively, some chokers have stones set in a metal frame, whether of the fine or costume jewelry variety.
Originally quite narrow, choker bands continued to widen throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
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Collar or Collier Necklace
The literal translation of collar can apply to anything worn about the neck, whether pertaining to clothing, flowers, fur, or jewelry. A collar necklace refers to a specific type of adornment completely surrounding the neck. The French word collier—meaning collar—is sometimes used to refer to this style as well.
Collar necklaces can be made of any number of materials including beads and metal components linked together in both fine and costume jewelry styles. Sizes range from half-inch karat gold pieces embellished with gemstones to statement-making rhinestone styles measuring several inches in width.
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- The dog collar necklace is a variation of both the collar and choker necklace styles.
- Half-collar necklaces simulate the look of a collar without having the expense and weight of elements completely encircling the neck.
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Dog Collar Necklace
The dog collar necklace was adopted by the modern “punk” movement and many really do resemble leather dog collars adorned with spikes. However, dog collars can also feature a less literal, modern yet feminine design. Antique examples of this type of choker tend to be even more dainty and elegant but are also capable of making bold statements.
This type of necklace originated in the mid-1800s. It's reported that Queen Alexandra of Denmark (1844–1925) wore a dog collar necklace to hide a scar on her neck.
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The festoon necklace is a commonly misidentified style. A festoon by definition is a garland of flowers, ribbons, or leaves hung in a curve as a decorative element or incorporated as an architectural feature. Thus, a festoon necklace must have swags or drapes of chain, beads, or metal bindings as part of the design. Other elements such as dangling drops may be incorporated, but without the swags, a necklace does not qualify as a festoon.
The festoon necklace became popular during the Georgian period (1714–1830s), carrying over into the Victorian era (1837–1901). Some of the more elaborate fashionable black necklaces (not meant for mourning) made during this period incorporated swags of jet beads. Bohemian garnets and other materials were also used.
Festoon necklaces were popular during the Edwardian era (1901–1910) as well. These featured a return to more delicate chains in the designs or elements reflecting the garland style with ribbons, flowers, and bows.
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The lavalier necklace style features a chain or small link-necklace that is fairly long, terminating in a single large pendant or tassel which often has additional pendants or tassels dangling from it.
Though named for a mistress of Louis XIV, the style is usually associated with turn-of-the-20th-century jewelry. The lightness and delicacy of the lavalier perfectly complemented the frothy, pastel-hued fashions of the Edwardian era. It remained popular into the 1930s although materials and colors became bolder, moving into the Art Deco era.
A variation of the lavalier is the négligée. This term is used when dangling pendants are of unequal length.
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A pendant refers to an object suspended from something else. The name is derived from the French word pendre, which means “to hang.” Thus, when an ornament is allowed to hang freely from a necklace it forms a pendant.
The earliest documented pendants were worn as talismans to protect the wearer or to bring good luck. Most ancient and modern cultures have their own versions of this type of necklace -- religious symbols such as the Christian cross and Jewish Star of David are also commonly found incorporated into pendant necklaces.
A pendant necklace can be made of chain, cord, leather, or ribbon as long it incorporates a hanging feature fashioned of most any material, including metals, gemstones, and glass. These necklaces can vary in size and length from dainty and small to large and ostentatious.Continue to 9 of 11 below.
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The name of this necklace literally translates to “river” from French and refers to the way it flows gracefully around the neck. The rivière is a short (usually 14 to 16 inches) necklace strung simply with a line of faceted gems or rhinestones, often graduating in size, and individually set.
When the style first developed, in the late 17th or early 18th century, the settings were closed-back. Later versions featured open settings so that the effect was a continuous, shining stream around the neck. Some ornate examples have additional gems dangling from the main necklace.
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The sautoir necklace consists of a very long chain or beaded necklace. It often terminates in tassels dangling from each end or sometimes a single, detachable pendant (similar to a lavalier, but much longer and more substantial in width).
The style was developed around the turn of the 19th century as an imitation of military braids or chains. It is frequently looped around the neck and worn scarf-like over one shoulder or down the back.
The style experienced a revival in the early 1900s and continued in popularity through the 1920s with "flapper" necklaces. These were sometimes worn dangling down the back to accentuate a low-cut evening gown.
The House of Chanel is well known for modern renditions of this style. These include long strands of simulated pearls and "chicklet" necklaces featuring unfoiled glass stones linked together in a chain-like fashion.
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Decade after decade, jewelry artisans and designers replicate this style featuring multiple strands of pearls or beads twisted together. The torsade can be made of fine jewelry elements such as genuine pearls, or costume jewelry components such as glass beads.
The term "torsade," meaning 'twist' or 'cable' in French, is an old style -- examples have been found in ancient Egypt. However, today the term is often associated with the thick, short, multi-strand necklaces popular in the 1980s such as those made by Ciner of glass beads.
A torsade can also reference a bracelet style also comprised of multiple strands of beads, pearls, or chains twisted together and fastened around the wrist.