About Jeweled Necklaces Throughout History

Necklaces have been worn throughout history, by both men and women, and have been used as marks of distinction in many cultures, including the ancient Hebrew culture.

Necklaces, handsome and richly ornamented, were a principal part of the dress, both of men and women, among the ancient Egyptians; and some idea of the number of jewels they wore (remarks Sir G. Wilkinson) may be formed from those borrowed by the Israelites at the time of the Exodus, and by the paintings of Thebes. They consisted of gold or of beads, of various qualities and shapes, disposed according to fancy and enriched with jewels.

Necklaces of gold thickly set with gems were worn by the Greeks and Romans of both sexes. There was a famous necklace of the most costly precious stones upon the statue of Vesta in Rome, to whose vengeance Zosimus attributes the tragic end of Serena, Stilicho's widow, who had despoiled her of it. By the command of Honorius she was strangled.

The necklace taken from the neck of the Hindoo King Jaipal, captured by Mahmud (A.D. 1001) was composed of large pearls, rubies, etc., and was valued at two hundred thousand dinars, or a good deal more than a hundred thousand pounds.

Homer mentions a necklace curiously wrought of gold interwined with amber, which Eurymachus presented to Penelope.

Chaucer, in the "Romaunt of the Rose," says of the necklace, or chevesaile as it was termed in French:--

"About her necke of gentle entaile,

Was set the riche chevesaile,

In which there was full great plenty

Of stones fair and clear to see."

The dress of a lady in 1485, that of Isabella Cheyne, in Blickling Church, Norfolk, shows a necklace formed of pendant jewels exceedingly massive and splendid.

In the reigns of Henry VII. and Henry VIII. the necklace frequently assumed the form of a jewelled collar, with a central pendant. Anna Boleyn wore a simple row of pearls with a large one suspended from the centre. In the reign of Elizabeth it was not uncommon to wear several necklaces, and to allow them to hang to the waist where they were looped to the girdle. A portrait of the Countess of Bedford, in the same reign, exhibits that lady in a most magnificent one of lozenge-shaped groups of jewels hanging round her shoulders, and gathered in a festoon at her breast, from whence it hangs in an elegant loop to the waist. The Earl of Leicester, in the fifteenth year of Elizabeth's reign, presented her with a rich carcanet or collar of gold, enriched with emeralds, rubies, and diamonds. Anne of Denmark, wife of James I., wears several round her neck, as well as a large band of four rows of pearls, descending like a baldrick from the right shoulder to the waist on the left side.

Mary Queen of Scots had a carbuncle appended to her necklace, valued at five hundred crowns.

Amongst the list of monies received by the Earl of Craven as executor to Prince Rupert, we find, "of Mrs. Ellen Gwynne, for the great pearl necklace, pound 4,520."

The great display of these rich ornaments ceased in the next reign, but they were scarcely ever worn in greater profusion than at present.

In the Herz collection of jewellery there was a necklace formed out of splendid rubies and emeralds, of fine colour, and as large as horse-beans.

The Countess of Mount-Charles possesses a necklace and pendant of remarkable beauty, of Italian workmanship, of the sixteenth century. It is composed of gold open-worked medallions, exquisitely enamelled and jewelled, with rubies, etc., representing, in minute and beautifully executed groups of figures, events in the life of our Blessed Lord. This superb specimen of Italian cinque-cento work has been attributed to Benvenuto Cellini, and is at least as good as anything extant known to be by his hand.

CARCANETS, from the French carcan, a necklace set with precious stones, or strung with pearls, are frequently mentioned by our olden dramatists. In "Cynthia's Revels" we read:--

"Give him jewels, bracelets, carcanets."

In the "City Madam":--

"Your carkanets

That did adorn your neck of equal value."

It seems, however, that the word was not confined to a necklace, but applied to the jewels, or wreaths of precious stones, like those worn about the neck, entwined in ladies' hair; thus Randolph sings:--

"I'll clasp thy neck where should be set

A rich and orient carcanet."

CHAINS and COLLARS of gold, probably adorned with precious stones, appear to have been as much used among the Hebrews, for ornament and official distinction, as they are among ourselves at the present day. The earliest mention of them occurs in Gen. xli. 42, where we are told that it formed a part of the investiture of Joseph in Egypt. A later instance occurs in Dan. v. 29, from which we learn that it was part of a dress of honour at Babylon. Ahasueras placed a chain round the neck of Mordecai. The ancient Persians were extremely fond of gold and jewelled ornaments, and conspicuous among the various objects was a chain.

Chains and collars were evidently favourite decorations in the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth centuries, in our own country. At the marriage of Richard II. with Isabel of France, there was, among other rich presents to the bride, a collar or chain of gold, enriched with jewels worth three thousand pounds of our money. Several kings appear to have had collars of their "livery," as they were termed, which they bestowed as marks of favour or friendship on persons of various ranks and both sexes. Richard II., in addition to his favourite device, a white hart, had a livery collar of broom-pods. Henry of Bolingbroke, on ascending the throne as Henry IV., retained his well-known livery collar of S.S., derived from his father, John of Gaunt. Edward IV. had a collar composed of two of his badges, the sun in its splendour, and the white rose; while a third, the white lion of March, was added as a pendant. Richard III. retained the Yorkist collar, substituting for the lion pendant a boar. Of the portraits of Henry VII., the greater number represent him wearing a broad and rich collar of gold, of irregular outline, thickly studded with jewels. Henry VIII. is represented by Holbein, in the portrait at Lee Priory, wearing a rich jewel appended by a long chain. At the reception of Anne of Cleves, at Paris, we are told that the Earl of South-ampton wore a chain baldrick-wise, at which hung a whistle of gold, set with rich stones of great value, the insignia of his office as Lord Admiral of England. Philip of Spain, on his marriage with Queen Mary, wore a collar of beaten gold, full of diamonds of inestimable value, at which hung the jewel of the Golden Fleece.

The Earl of Leicester presented Queen Elizabeth, in the twenty-third year of her reign, with "a chain of gold, made like a pair of beads, containing 8 long pieces, garnished with small diamonds, and fourscore and one smaller pieces, fully garnished with like diamonds, and hanging thereat a round clock, fully garnished with diamonds, and an appendage of diamonds hanging thereat." This was the third or fourth jewel with a watch presented to the Queen by Leicester.

James I. of Scotland, in the "King's Quhair," describes his first sight of Lady Jane Beaufort, who afterwards was his Queen:--

"Of her array the form if I shall write,

Towards her golden hair and rich attire,

In fretwise couchit with pearlis white

And great balas leaming as the fire,

With mony ane emeraut and fair sapphire...

"About her necke, white as the fire amail,

A goodly chain of small orfevory,

Whereby there hung a ruby, without fail,

Like to ane heart shapen verily,

That as a spark of low, so wantonly

Seemed burning upon her white throat,

Now if there was good party, God it wot."

Gold chains were frequently bequeathed in wills, and many are described as enriched with precious stones. The portraits of our nobility and distinguished personages, for several ages, to the death of James I., gave fine samples of goldsmiths' and jewellers' work.

In former times the GARTERS of the sovereign's order of knighthood were usually enriched with jewels. This is confirmed by the will of the Lord Treasurer Dorset, made in 1607. He distributed his insignia of the Garter among several friends who were knights of the order. The collar was not jewelled, but the image of St. George at the end of it was enriched with precious stones at the pleasure of the knight. The Duke of Buccleugh possesses a "George" pendant of the seventeenth century, enamelled, and richly jewelled with rose diamonds. The Duke of Richmond and Lord de L'Isle and Dudley have also splendid badges of the same order.

Ashmole, in his "History of the Most Noble Order of the Garter," remarks: "Nor ought the collar to be adorned or enriched with precious stones (as the George may be), such being prohibited by the law of the order."

The Garter sent to Gustavus Adolphus, King of Sweden, had the George enriched with, eighty-four large fine diamonds.

Among the splendid jewels in the Castle of Rosenberg, in Denmark, are some badges of the "Armed Hand," a mailed arm in green enamel, enriched with diamonds, a decoration of great beauty, and one which Christian IV. gave only to his special favourites.

Among the jewels of King Charles I. which were sold were, "a George, containing 161 diamonds, pound 71 2s.; a George cut in onyx, with 41 diamonds, pound 37; a small George with a few diamonds, pound 9; a George with 5 rubies and 3 diamonds; also a George cut in a garnet."

Sir Richard Wallace has presented the Earl of Beaconsfield with the very jewels worn by Charles I. as his own badges of the Order of the Garter.

In the possession of J. Rainey, Esq., is a memorial locket of Charles I., carved in peach-stone. After the King's execution, the Knights of the Garter wore a crystal case, mounted in gold, containing a likeness of the King and the insignia of the order, carved in peach-stone. The whole ornament was in the shape of a pearl, to imitate that which the King wore in his left ear.

The only other known specimen was lately in the possession of Lady Charlotte Bathurst.

The George which King Charles had at his martyrdom was curiously engraved in an onyx, set about with twenty-one large table diamonds in the fashion of a garter. On the reverse of the George was the picture of the Queen, set in a case of gold, and surrounded by another garter, adorned with an equal number of diamonds, as was that of Charles II., also set with diamonds.

Amongst the list of monies received by the Earl of Craven, as executor of Prince Rupert, we find, "Of his Grace the Duke of Norfolk, for a diamond George, and an onyx George and a Garter, set with rubies, pound 313."


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