Necklace Antiquity – Beads Story

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Archaeological sightings have shown evidences of early adornment such as necklaces made from bones, teeth or skin of animals, bird feathers, corals, seeds or sculpted wood, natural gems and anything that could be seen in our ancestors’ habitat. Now we know why accessories were and will always be a part of our lifestyle – it runs in the blood, literally.

From ancient to the modern times, let’s see how jewellery designs and materials evolved from one generation to another and witness the role of beads in this all-time favourite ornament.

Adam and Eve of Jewellery

Beads – they are considered as the first ornament made by men to be worn around the neck; thus they’re called the “Adam and Eve of Jewellery”. Beads were first used as necklaces and the graves of our ancestors are great proof. Some necklaces are still hanging at the neck of the remains and this proves our desire to adorn ourselves.

Egyptian glass beads were known worldwide as an advanced art in their time. With the help of the Roman intervention, it was even made more attractive. Open your browser and key in “Millefiori glass” and see for yourself how stunning glass beads have become.

Terra cotta beads, on the other hand, conquered the stage during the Anglo-Saxon period. These types are carved and coloured.

Goodbye for Now, Beads

When the demand for necklaces gradually increased, beads could no longer satisfy the wearer with its natural beauty. Goldsmiths found a way and agreed to combine their golden chains to create collars, enamels and other unique jewellery items.

The Etruscan, renowned as the best goldsmiths, boast their skills with their gold chain craft and intricate designs. Jewellers of the succeeding generations tried to imitate their craftsmanship only to find out it’s not even close to possible. Amazing, right? Sometimes I wonder if our ancestors are really more intelligent and advanced than the present generation.

Roman, Celtic and Scandinavian

Evidently, Romans have contributed much to the history of necklaces. They even introduced the open work pattern in metal and embedding coloured stones in ornaments such as amethyst and emerald. Roman artistry has actually a Hellenistic origin.

Necklace beads from faience and amber are the specialty of the Celtic society. They were able to obtain these materials through trading of twisted rods and ribbons.

Scandinavian “chip cutting” became popular through their intricate and elaborate necklace designs.

Necklace throughout History

Gold, diamond and pearls reigned in the Western history as the most used material for necklaces. Diamond symbolises wealth and prestige. Pearls, on the other hand, were the favourite of Elizabeth I of the sixteenth century. By then, long strands of pearls became popular to the women.

After a couple of centuries, short strand ones were introduced and as usual, women embraced this fashion especially for professional and bridal purposes. It is not until eighteenth century when men refrain from wearing necklaces and they became primarily under the women’s purview.

Welcome Back Beads

In 1960s, men included necklaces in their fashion again. It was the time when American pop culture introduced the “hippie” styles where beads are dominant choice for accessories. Gold chains, amulets and charms also made a comeback. And not long after, “hip-hop” style became the trend which used the same fashion accessories.

Planning to purchase a new necklace or make your own? Look for freshwater pearls Perth or bead supplies in Sydney and start creating your masterpiece.