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A simple necklace made from a string of local organic materials such as shells, teeth, or bone beads is one of the forms of jewelry adopted by early cultures around the world. More precious materials from farther away were also valued for early necklaces, frequently in the form of beads, such as those of Mediterranean red coral found in a Neolithic burial in the Alps (circa 4200-3400 B.C.E.). Other early types of necklace included the torc or torque, an ancient Celtic neckpiece made of twisted metal, and the lunula, a flat, crescent-shaped and engraved variation of the torc found in Bronze Age Ireland and Scotland (circa 1800-1500 B.C.E.).
As with other pieces of jewelry, the necklace has been an important site of decoration for the body but also of communication for the person. As valued material culture, necklaces communicate wealth, power, affiliation, prestige, levels of resources and skill, and elements of identity and position. The durability of jewelry like necklaces made of metal, glass beads, or gemstones provides an opportunity to appreciate and understand the technology, cultural practices, artistry, and aesthetics of other cultures and distant time periods.
Trends for wearing necklaces have for the most part followed the style of necklines in European and American fashionable dress. In other words, as necklines were lowered, more, as well as more elaborate, necklaces were seen. But this does not necessarily mean that necklaces were not worn when necklines were high. For example, a carcanet is a type of wide, bejeweled or enameled gold link necklace that resembles a collar. It was worn by men as a status symbol in the fifteenth through seventeenth centuries, encircling the base of the neck over a man's doublet and under the elaborate lace ruff, or worn with gold chains wrapped around the neck, or hanging over the shoulders down the front of bodices and doublets.