Know Your Antique & Vintage Necklace Styles

An Illustrated Guide to Help You Identify Old Necklaces

TorsadeCinerPantherNecklace.jpg
Ciner Torsade Necklace. - Photo by Jay B. Siegel for ChicAntiques.com

The necklace is one of the oldest forms of jewelry known to man - archaeologists have found samples made of shells that date back to 28,000 BC. And when it comes to names of necklace styles, they are as varied as their lengths.

Learning the lingo - how a lavalier differs from a dog collar, for instance - can help tremendously when shopping for a vintage piece or even a new one, since these terms still apply to styles being worn today.

  • 01 of 11

    Bayadère Necklace Example

    Bayadere Necklace
    Bayadere Necklace. A Brandt and Son Estate and Antique Jewelry on RubyLane.com

    The name Bayadère references a style of braided necklace composed of strings or strands of beads, usually seed pearls, twisted together. The pearls can be matching or multi-colored. There are fewer strands, however, in this style than in the torsade (see below). 

    Though it dates back to the 18th century, the style was especially popular around 1900, when the rope-like main necklace was often augmented with a pendant or tassel at the end. Simple bayadères were also a common gift to bridesmaids at...MORE fashionable Belle Époque weddings at the turn of the 20th century.

  • 02 of 11

    Bib Necklace

    Turquoise Bib Necklace
    Model Heidi Klum arrives at 13th Annual Warner Bros. And InStyle Golden Globe Awards After Party at on January 15, 2012. Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

    This is a type of large, dramatic necklace, circular or triangular in shape. It consists of a web-like mesh of metal, a base encrusted with stones, or multiple strands of stones which dangle at regular or uneven lengths for a fringe-like or cascading effect. 

    An extremely old style - variations have been found in 7th-century Greek and Roman jewelry - it has been revived periodically throughout history to accompany low cut evening gowns. Modern terminology classifies this as a type of...MORE "statement" necklace. Variations of bib necklaces include the fringe necklace or waterfall necklace. 

  • 03 of 11

    Choker Necklace

    Choker Necklace Styles
    Choker Necklace Worn by Lorraine Ashbourne at the 69th Annual Golden Globe Awards on January 15, 2012. Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

    The choker is a short necklace that fits snugly around the base of the neck, and may include a pendant affixed in the center or dangling just above the collar bone. It can be composed entirely of beads or stones, usually of uniform size. It is an extremely old style, dating back to ancient Samaria.

    Other variations include those with a ribbon encrusted with gems (lace was popular in the 18th century, black velvet in the 19th century), or stones set in a metal frame whether of the fine or costume...MORE jewelry variety. Chokers were originally narrow, but the band became increasingly wide in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

  • 04 of 11

    Collar or Collier Necklace

    Collar Necklace Styles
    Brazilian Supermodel Ana Beatriz Barros Wearing a Collar Necklace. Photo by Francois Durand/Getty Images

    The literal translation of collar can apply to anything worn about the neck whether pertaining to clothing, flowers, fur, or jewelry. A collar necklace refers to a specific type of adornment, however, that is worn completely surrounding the neck.

    Collar necklaces can be made of any number of materials including beads and metal components linked together in both fine and costume jewelry styles. Sizes range from half-inch karat gold pieces embellished with gemstones to statement making rhinestone...MORE styles measuring several inches in width.

    The word collier, the French term for collar, is sometimes used to name this style as well. The dog collar necklace is a variation of both the collar and choker necklace styles.

    Half collar necklaces simulate the look of a collar without having the expense and weight of elements completely encircling the neck.

    Continue to 5 of 11 below.
  • 05 of 11

    Dog Collar Necklace

    Dog Collar Necklace
    Actress Kristin Wiig wearing a dog collar necklace to the 18th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in January 2012. Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

    While modern “punk” necklaces of this variety really do resemble leather dog collars adorned with spikes, the one worn here by actress Kristin Wiig features a less literal modern yet feminine design. Antique examples of this type of choker tend to be even more dainty and elegant, but can also make a bold statement.

    This type of necklace originated in the mid-1800s, and Queen Alexandra reportedly wore a dog collar necklace to hide a scar on her neck.

  • 06 of 11

    Festoon Necklace

    FestoonNecklace.jpg
    Edwardian festoon necklace made of sterling silver with paste stones, c. early 1900s. Photo courtesy of The Three Graces (www.georgianjewelry.com)

    The festoon necklace is a commonly misidentified style. A festoon by definition is a garland of flowers, ribbons, or leaves hung in a curve as a decorative element or incorporated as an architectural feature. Thus, a necklace must have swags or drapes of chain, beads, or metal findings as part of the design. Other elements such as dangling drops may be incorporated, but without the swags a necklace does not qualify as a festoon. 

    The festoon necklace became popular during the Georgian period and...MORE carried over into the Victorian era, with some more elaborate fashionable (not meant for mourning) black necklaces made during this period incorporating swags of jet beads. Bohemian garnets and other materials were also used.

    Festoon necklaces were popular during the Edwardian era as well, with a return to more delicate chains in the designs or elements reflecting garland style with ribbons, flowers and bows.

  • 07 of 11

    Lavalier Necklace

    Cameo Lavalier Necklace with Diamond Accents
    Cameo Lavalier Necklace with Diamond Accents. - Photo by Jay B. Siegel for ChicAntiques.com

    This necklace style features a chain or small link necklace, fairly long, that terminates in a single large pendant or tassel, which in turn often has additional pendants or tassels dangling from it.

    Though named for a mistress of Louis XIV, the style is usually associated with turn-of-the-20th century jewelry. The lightness and delicacy of the lavalier perfectly complemented the frothy, pastel-hued fashions of the Edwardian era. It remained popular into the 1930s although materials and colors...MORE became bolder moving into the Art Deco era.

    A variation of the lavalier is the négligée. This term is used when danging pendants are of unequal length.

  • 08 of 11

    Pendant Necklace

    Coral Cameo Pendant Set in 14K Gold - Chic Antiques by Pamela Wiggins
    Coral Cameo Pendant. Photo by Jay B. Siegel for ChicAntiques.com

    A pendant refers to an object suspended from something else. The name is derived from the French word pendre, which means “to hang.” Thus, when an ornament is allowed to hang freely from a necklace it forms a pendant.

    Some of the earliest documented pendants were worn to protect the wearer in talisman style or to bring good luck. Most ancient and modern cultures have their version of this type of necklace. Religious symbols such as the Christian cross and Jewish Star of David are also commonly...MORE found incorporated into pendant necklaces.

    A pendant necklace can be made of chain, cord, leather or ribbon, as long it incorporates a hanging feature fashioned of most any material including metals, gemstones, and glass. These necklaces can vary in size and length from dainty and small to large and ostentatious.

    Continue to 9 of 11 below.
  • 09 of 11

    Rivière Necklace

    Riviere.jpg
    Citrine Riviere Necklace. - Photo courtesy of Prices4Antiques.com

    The name of this necklace actually translates to “river” in French and refers to the way it flows gracefully around the neck. The rivière is a short (usually 14-16 inches) necklace strung simply with a line of faceted gems or rhinestones, often graduating in size, and individually set.

    When the style first developed, in the late 17th or early 18th century, the settings were closed-back. Later versions had open settings so that the effect was a continuous, shining stream around the neck. Some...MORE ornate examples have additional gems dangling from the main necklace

  • 10 of 11

    Sautoir Necklace

    Chanel Sautoir Necklace Styles
    Actress Gail O'Grady wearing CHANEL pearl sautoir necklaces at 'The Artist' Special Screening during AFI FEST 2011 on November 8, 2011. Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images for AFI

    This necklace style consists of a very long chain or beaded necklace, often terminating in tassels dangling from each end or sometimes a single, detachable pendant (similar to a lavalier, but much longer and more substantial in width). It was developed around the turn of the 19th century, in imitation of military braids or chains, and is frequently looped around the neck and worn scarf-like over one shoulder or down the back.

    The style experienced a revival in the early 1900s, and continued in...MORE popularity through the 1920s with "flapper" necklaces. These were sometimes worn dangling down the back to accentuate a low-cut evening gown. The House of Chanel is well known for modern renditions of this style including long strands of simulated pearls and "chicklet" necklaces featuring unfoiled glass stones linked together in a chainline fashion. 

  • 11 of 11

    Torsade Necklace

    TorsadeCinerPantherNecklace.jpg
    Ciner Torsade Necklace. - Photo by Jay B. Siegel for ChicAntiques.com

    Decade after decade, jewelry artisans and designers replicate this style featuring multiple strands of pearls or beads twisted together. Can be made of fine jewelry elements, such as genuine pearls, or costume jewelry components like glass beads.

    The term "torsade" means "twist" or "cable" in French. While an old style - examples have been found in ancient Egypt - today the term is often associated with the thick, short, multi-strand necklaces popular in the 1980s like the...MORE example shown here made by Ciner of glass beads.  

    A torsade can also reference a bracelet style also comprised of multiple strands beads, pearls, or chains twisted together and fastened around the wrist.   

    Special thanks to Troy Segal, former contributing writer for About.com, for her assistance with this feature.