History’s Gems: Egyptian Collar Necklaces

History's Gems

broad collarIn recent years, bib and collar necklaces have become increasingly popular.  They range in style from highly detailed woven seed bead creations to the trendy bubble-style necklace.  These necklaces definitely make a statement and can trace their origins back to the elaborate and beautiful collars worn in ancient Egypt.

Origins

The Egyptian Collar, known as a Wesekh, is probably the most well-known piece of jewelry worn by the ancient Egyptians.  The jewelry style is depicted in temple reliefs, on the walls of burial chambers, on the death masks of the pharaohs and in surviving pieces of art.  The collars covered the wearer from breast to collar bone and were worn by both men and women.  The collars were often made of gold and copper, and featured rows of beads.  The more lavish styles were inlaid with gemstones and intricate metal work.  Due to the high cost of creating these magnificent jewelry pieces, the collar necklace was typically worn by the pharaohs, the royal families, priests and the wealthy.  These collars denoted wealth and prestige in ancient society.  Depending on the exact style of the collar, the necklaces could also signify a variety of societal and religious meanings.

Revival

As the Egyptian civilization waned, so did the use of the elaborate collar necklaces.  But as luck would have it, the popularity of the Egyptian collar has experienced several resurgences over the centuries.  The first Egyptian Revival occurred at the end of the 18th century as a result of Napoleon’s military campaign in Northern Africa.  The British trendsetters, in particular, repopularized Egyptian jewelry after the Battle of the Nile in 1798.  Women all over Europe started to wear jeweled brooches and hair pieces inspired by the Egyptian treasures that the returning soldiers brought home with them.  Egyptian stylings experienced a second revival during the 1920s after King Tut’s tomb was discovered in 1920.  Modern interpretations of ancient Egyptian jewelry surged in popularity all over the world.

Modern Incarnations

While we are not currently experiencing an Egyptian revival, one does not need to look far to see the influence that the collar necklaces have on today’s fashion industry.  There are talented artists that create new versions of the classic Egyptian collars.  In addition to these artifact-inspired pieces, the popular bib-style statement necklaces can attribute their design origins to the ancient Egyptians.

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