Jewelry Necklaces: Stone Age Origins For Fashion Neckwear

Humans have always sought ways and means to adorn their bodies with jewelry; ever since the first caveman caved in to his woman's request for a shiny rock or a smooth shell on a strip of animal hide to hang around her neck, jewelry necklaces have been probably the most coveted form of artificial beautification. That's unless you count the permanent mudpack that she wore inadvertently on her face. Seriously though, if you look right through human history, you'll find jewelry necklaces in every shape and form imaginable: from simple creations to ornately crafted works of art made from every precious metal ever known to man through the ages. The first known piece of neck jewelry is known to have been worn more than 77,000 years ago in what is now South Africa; it consists of 41 mollusk shells that are inferred to be part of a necklace.

The universality of jewelry necklaces

Jewelry necklaces are not, and have never been, restricted to the fairer sex alone. In fact, that caveman we talked about probably got a matched set so they could go to their first wooly mammoth barbecue coordinated. Men's fashion jewelry probably evolved in parallel to women's, and was primarily meant as an indication of position within the social hierarchy more than anything; kings and emperors were the most elaborately adorned, followed by his court favorites, then the sycophants and so on. When gold was made popular about 4500 years ago, an 'alpha male' within the human social system could be seen sporting up to ten percent or more of his weight in the yellow metal, a large portion of which would adorn his neck.

The bland origin of a grand tradition

The word necklace is thought to have been coined during the end of the 16th Century, with the word 'lace' being used in the sense of a string or cord, similar to 'shoe-lace' - disappointingly unoriginal, to say the most. However, by this time jewelry-making was a highly refined craft, and exquisite designs were born out of this 'renaissance period' for fashion jewelry and gold ornaments.

Choosing jewelry necklaces: Today's dilemma

In modern times, jewelry necklaces are more popular than ever. Platinum, gold silver, copper, steel, other alloys, leather, gems, beads, bone, shells, coral and many more materials are used to make the necklaces of today. Workmanship has mostly taken a backseat to automated manufacturing, but exclusive jewelry is still made by hand, usually to order. To pick from a range of jewelry necklaces is likely to be a laborious task unless you know what you're after – the choices are virtually unlimited and can be daunting; however, there are some basic rules of thumb that will help you to avoid "eeny meeny miny mo-ing" your way through the mountain of available variations.

Tip top tips you really should know about

First, avoid chunky jewelry necklaces when dressing professionally. Unless you're a hip-hop artist with at least a platinum album and a limousine with a swimming pool in it, a gold chain about the thickness of your thumb with a pendant the size of hubcap isn't usually worn to work. Second, budget your purchase so you know how much you have to spend; platinum and diamond jewelry necklaces can leave you sparkling but homeless. Third, color-coordinate your jewelry with your clothes as much as possible unless you're fond of bold, contrasting, daring and loud colors that, in the animal world, either mean "I'm courting you, won't you be mine" or "I'm poisonous so watch out"; subtle choices speak of elegance and refinement. Fourth, don't overdo it – if more of your jewelry is visible than you, then that's a sign.

Don't be reckless with your necklace

Finally, take time to take care of your jewelry necklaces. Sweat and grime can get in between the links; and metals, no matter how pure, tend to get tarnished and faded with time. Warm, soapy water is best for cleaning necklaces. Use a soft-bristle brush (like an extra-soft toothbrush) to rub away the dirt after it's been soaking awhile, then dab dry (don't wipe or rub) with a lint-free cotton cloth – your necklace should look as good as new after this. Regular care will not only make your jewelry necklaces last much longer, it will also keep them looking new for a long time. You also need a good place to store them so they don't get all tangled up. Try a jewelry case designed for necklaces, rather than a regular jewelry box that takes everything including bracelets and rings.