While the people of ancient Egypt mostly wore plain white linen clothing of simple design, this did not mean that they had no love of adornment. Two of the most notable items of jewelry worn in ancient Egypt were collars and pectorals, both types of heavily jeweled necklaces. Collars were created with beads made of glass, precious stones, gold, and a glazed pottery called faience. These beads were strung on multiple strings of varying length that were then bound to a ring around the neck to make a wide, semi-circular collar that covered the shoulders and chest of the wearer with bright color. Collars were also sometimes made by attaching beads, stones, and precious metals to a semicircle of fabric. The pectoral was usually a large, flat breastplate made of gold or copper, often decorated with symbols and inlaid with precious stones or glass. Pectorals were hung over the chest by a chain around the neck. Both collars and pectorals were worn by men and women alike.
Egyptians who could afford it wore brightly colored jewelry to show their rank and importance in society, as well as their love of beauty. Many items of jewelry served a spiritual purpose as well, by carrying images of the gods that protected the wearer. Collars often had symbols of the gods carved into their large metal clasps or into the beads of the collar itself. Pectorals were frequently adorned with symbolic pictures of gods and goddesses or were made in the shape of sacred symbols, such as winged scarab beetles or disks that represented the sun. Pectorals were considered amulets, or good luck charms, and were sometimes awarded to loyal servants of the ruling pharaoh in return for services performed. Elaborate jeweled collars and pectorals have frequently been found in the ruins of Egyptian tombs.
Balkwill, Richard. Clothes and Crafts in Ancient Egypt. Milwaukee, WI: Gareth Stevens, 2000.
Black, J. Anderson, and Madge Garland. Updated and revised by Frances Kennett. A History of Fashion. New York: William Morrow, 1980.
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