Modern Beaded Necklaces from Ancient Designs

I admit it – in addition to being a math geek, I'm also a history geek, particularly when it comes to the history of self-adornment and fashion. For me, knowing the history of a particular custom or fashion makes creating my own beaded necklaces that much more meaningful.

For some reason, I've always been drawn to creating beaded necklaces. They are still my favorite type of jewelry to design. My sketchbooks are just full of necklace designs, and I can't get dressed in the morning without picking out a favorite necklace to throw on over my t-shirt or sweater.

Probably one of the things that pull me towards creating necklaces is that the necklace was probably the very first kind of beaded self-adornment created by humans. Somewhere in time, an early human picked up a seed or a shell with a hole in it, put it on a piece of sinew and tied it around their neck. The beaded necklace was born!

The necklace fell out of fashion during the Middle Ages (about 800 AD and 1200 AD) in Europe, mainly due to the way women and men dressed at the time. Garments were loose-fitting and usually secured at the neck with a large brooch, so there was no room for a strand of beads or a gemstone set in gold. 

Necklaces as jewelry and adornment disappeared almost completely between 1200 and 1400 with the introduction of the wimple, a long piece of linen or silk that passed under the chin and then drawn up over the head, completely covering the neck. (Those European clothing artisans sure knew how to party!)

But thankfully, as the wimple faded from fashion (whew!) necklaces came back as a popular form of jewelry, and goldsmiths and jewelers became wildly creative in their use of precious gemstones in these necklaces. As the necklace developed as an art form, these four styles of necklaces gained popularity and are still used today as inspiration by modern bead artists.


Chokers sit close to the neck or right on the neck. During the late 1800s and early 1900s, a style of choker also known as the "dog collar" was made completely of freshwater pearls and diamonds. Kerrie Slade's Supernova Choker uses brick stitch and netting to create a sparkling vintage-style choker that's fun to wear.

The earliest fringe necklaces appeared in ancient Egypt. It was also a very popular style in Greece during the 3-2nd centuries BC. When Greek and Egyptian revivals were all the rage in jewelry during the late 1800s, opulent versions of the fringe necklace appeared using tiny enameled cabochons and precious gemstones. Lynn Davy's Raindrop Necklace is a perfect example of a fringe necklace made with semi-precious gemstone drop beads.
The first sautoirs appeared in ancient Egypt. These necklaces are characterized by a long rope that hangs down the chest (almost to the belly button!) and supported by a pendant. The name "sautoir" was first used in France in the early 19th century when these necklaces came back into fashion. Scarlett Lanson's The Alchemist's Treasure is a gorgeous example of a sautoir-style necklace studding with sparkling crystal beads and enhanced with lavish crystal fringe.
The earliest rivières or cluster necklaces appeared during the Renaissance in western Europe. These little "streams" consisted of precious gemstones (usually diamonds) that were all mounted in identical settings and strung together to form a long rope of stones. Melody MacDuffee's Crystal Diamond necklace simulates this look by using clusters of beautiful crystal beads. Much more affordable than diamonds!

If you love making beaded necklaces, you can explore all of the wonderful necklace projects available for instant download in the Beading Daily shop! Oh, and did I mention – for a limited time, all of the projects are on sale? Stock up on your favorite beaded necklace projects and get busy beading!

Do you have a favorite style of necklace? Leave a comment here on the blog and tell us what it is! Or better yet, take a picture of your favorite beaded necklace design and post it in the Reader Photo Gallery!

Bead Happy,


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