The main component of a necklace is the band, chain, or cord that wraps around the neck. These are most often rendered in precious metals such as gold, silver, and platinum. Necklaces often have additional attachments suspended or inset into the necklace itself. These attachments typically include pendants, lockets, amulets, crosses, and precious and semi-precious materials such as diamond, pearls, rubies, emeralds, garnets, and sapphires.
Prehistoric peoples often used natural materials such as feathers, bone, shells, and plant materials to create necklaces, but by the Bronze Age metallic jewelry had replaced pre-metallic adornments. Necklaces were first depicted in the statuary and art of the Ancient Near East, and early necklaces made of precious metals with inset stones were created in Europe.
In Ancient Mesopotamia, cylinder seals were often strung and worn as jewelry. In Ancient Babylon, necklaces were made of carnelian, lapis lazuli, agate, and gold, which was also made into gold chains. Ancient Sumerians created necklaces and beads from gold, silver, lapis lazuli and carnelian. In Ancient Egypt, a number of difference necklace types were worn. Upper-class Ancient Egyptians wore collars of organic or semi-precious and precious materials for religious, celebratory, and funerary purposes. These collars were often ornamented with semi-precious, glass, pottery, and hollow beads. Beads made from a variety of precious and semi-precious materials were also commonly strung together to create necklaces. Gold that was fashioned into stylized plant, animal, and insect shapes were common as well. Amulets were also turned into necklaces. In Ancient Crete necklaces were worn by all classes; peasants wore stones on flax thread while the wealthy wore beads of agate, pearl, carnelian, amethyst, and rock crystal. Pendants shaped into birds, animals, and humans were also worn, in addition to paste beads.
In Ancient Greece, delicately made gold necklaces created with repoussé and plaited gold wires were worn. Most often these necklaces were ornamented with blue or green enameled rosettes, animal shapes, or vase-shaped pendants that were often detailed with fringes. It was also common to wear long gold chains with suspended cameos and small containers of perfume. New elements were introduced in the Hellenistic period; colored stones allowed for poly-chromatic pieces, and animal-head finials and spear-like or bud shaped pendants were hung from chains. Ancient Etruscans used granulation to create granulated gold beads which were strung with glass and faience beads to create colorful necklaces. In Ancient Rome necklaces were among the many types of jewelry worn by the Roman elite. Gold and silver necklaces were often ornamented with foreign and semi-precious objects such as amber, pearl, amethyst, sapphire, and diamond. In addition, ropes of pearls, gold plates inset with enamel, and lustrous stones set in gold filigree were often worn. Many large necklaces and the materials that adorned the necklaces were imported from the Near East.
Later in the empire, following barbarian invasions, colorful and gaudy jewelry became popular. In the Byzantine era, ropes of pearls and embossed gold chains were most often worn, but new techniques such as the use of niello allowed for necklaces with brighter, more predominant gemstones . The Early Byzantine Era also saw a shift to distinctly Christian jewelry which displayed the new Christian iconography.