BEAD NECKLACES - PENDANTS - COLLARS - LIVERY
COLLARS - CORAL NECKLACES FOR BABIES
have adorned the necks of women with the means and the inclination
to do so since time immemorial. The desire to own and wear beautiful
things has often coupled neatly with the protective properties
of the materials the item was made from. Necklaces were thus worn
to protect and to give status to the wearer. At almost all periods
in history, images of necklaces and artifacts can be found.
Shown at left is a pendant with a gold setting with a blue stone
surrounded by small white stones from the mid-15th century from
the Fishpool Hoarde
An examination of 14th century
paintings and illuminations show that European women appear to
be more likely to have worn beaded necklaces and pendants than
their English counterparts. Brooches and rings continued to be
worn everywhere. It is particularly interesting to note that the
period from the late 13th century to the early 1400's necklaces,
both artifacts and images in artwork, are conspicuous by their
absence, especially in medieval England.
Italian and Spanish women continue to wear beaded necklaces throughout
the entire medieval period.
images of collars and chains of office for men are regularly portrayed,
neck jewellery for women is scarce. The image at right is from
The Nine Worthies tapestry in 1480. It would appear that
it is a representation of the pewter artifact necklaces which
have been excavated from Meols.
That is not to say that necklaces
were never worn, only that they seemed an exception, rather
than the rule, to the current fashion trends in England. Even
household accounts which list rings and expensive gold belt buckles
seem to omit references to necklaces or pendants.
Why this might be can only
be guessed at. We do know that Sumptuary Laws regularly sought
to limit the excesses of dress during these times. We know that
jewelled items with a practical function were worn- brooches as
wedding gifts and for fastening mantles and cloaks, lavish belt
buckles for clothing and jewelled headpieces for women in order
that the hair be restrained in a pretense at modesty. It could
be suggested that during and after the period encompassing the
Black Death, necklaces for women may have been seen as an excessive
item of vanity and pride and therefore heavily discouraged by
One express written reference for this comes from Prague where
a statue of Saint Dorothy dated at 1400 is criticised vehemently
for wearing a necklace which draws attention to the slender, white
Bead necklaces of precious and semiprecious stones have been worn
by women world wide since the earliest times. The red, 13th century
necklace shown at right is from Stormbroek and is made from an
unidentified red stone. The beads are uneven shapes and not evenly
sized making it unlikely to be for devotional use.
image at right is one of the rare tomb effigies of England to
show a women wearing neck jewellery in the 1400s. The effigy is
of Emma Pollard from St Michael's Church in Horwood, England.
It shows what appears to be a combination of a bead and pendant
necklace. It is not possible to tell from the image whether the
pendant is devotional, protective or merely decorative.
necklaces are regularly portrayed in medieval art from the 15th
century onwards. Italian women often wore strings of beads woven
into their hair as a part of their hairdressing along with necklaces
made of pearls and precious stones. It is interesting that in
this country, the veil was abandoned much earlier than other countries
leaving the head open to other forms of ornamentation.
The Italian painting at left
from 1465-1466 by Francesca is the Portrait of Battista Sforza
and it shows an elaborate bead collar with bead necklace. This
type of jewellery was quite popular and wide spread throughout
Italy during this period.
Necklaces with pendants have also been worn for a great deal of
history by both men and women alike. Often pendant necklaces are
devotional, but just as often, they are purely decorative. The
pendant part of the necklace might be as elaborate as gold or
silver linked chain or as simple as braid, leather thonging and
ribbon with the pendant dangling below. The necklace chain might
be short or long.
The English pendant shown
at right dates from 1540 -1560. The stones were carefully selected
for their protective properties. Hessonite garnet, peridot and
sapphire. The setting has no back, allowing the stones to rest
against the wearer's skin for maximum potency. The back also includes
an inscription to protect the wearer against epilepsy and drunkenness.
items of jewellery which have been found are tempting to categorise
as pendants when it is unclear if that is what they actually were.
Many pendant-type jewels were hat ornaments which were pinned
through the loop at the top. Many examples of these can be seen
in contemporary artworks. One example can be seen in the painting
of Mary of Burgundy below on the painting in the collars
The pendants at left has
a large sapphire in a diamond-shaped gold setting known as the
Collars are the neck ornamentation which are set high and at the
very base of the wearer's neck. This particular style of necklace
was extremely popular with the dress known as the Burgundian Gown
and the Houppelande.
The wide "V" neckline
of the first offers a large expense of white skin to display the
wide jewellery collar on, and the high neckline of the houppelande
also offers a perfect fabric backdrop for jewellery.
The detail from the painting of Mary of Burgundy from 1490
by Pacher shows the wide, jewelled collar popular during the late
15th century. It also shows what appears to be a beaded necklace
and a brooch on her hennin.
collars are not a common item of neck jewellery for women over
the bulk of the medieval period. Men commonly wore these and are
often depicted wearing them in the middle ages, but ladies are
depicted only in the 15th century.
A few written references
do mention that women of a certain household may wear a livery
collar to denote their allegiance to a particular person or household.
This is reflected in several 15th century tomb effigies and brass
The effigy at the right is from St Mary's church at Broughton
necklaces for babies
In the same way that amber necklaces are popular today for infants
and toddlers, red coral was a popular choice for medieval babies.
The red coral was believed to have special properties which were
beneficial to the baby.
There are many painters like the one at left which show the baby
Jesus wearing red coral on a string around his neck. The mother
does not wear a necklace herself.
© Rosalie Gilbert
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Rosalie Gilbert unless stated.
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