The History of the Choker Necklace

If you ever saw the movie Anne of the Thousand Days (1969) starring Genevieve Bujold and Richard Burton or The Other Boleyn Girl(2008) starring Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson you probably gazed fondly upon the choker necklace worn by Anne Boleyn’s character in both movies.
The choker necklace in question boasted a prominent “B” for Boleyn and was made of pearls and ribbon. Anne Boleyn’s “B”-wear may have been our first introduction to the choker necklace, but some of the necks these jewelry pieces graced may surprise you.

The Beginning of Their Popularity


Since the French Revolution (1789-1799), choker necklaces were seen amongst the royals—in many countries, Spain and England included.
Commoners of the 1700s wore ribbon chokers around their necks to pay homage to those who lost their lives to the guillotine. Also during this period, longer ribbons were tied in a choker-style around the neck and made into a fashion “X” for dresses with lower backs.
Black ribbons worn around the necks were often used to identify prostitutes of the time. The French artist Edgar Degas painted pictures of ballerinas wearing choker necklaces. It was also during this time period that Alexandra the Princess of Wales wore many choker necklaces which contained many rows of pearls and velvet to hide a scar on her neck.
Women in Bombay India followed the fashion of Princess Alexandra and soon were seen wearing not just pearls but other gems close to their neck. From royals to commoners, choker necklaces were made from many gems including diamonds, pearls, rubies and sapphires—complemented by lace and velvet—the more expensive from gold. Many of these were custom-made to ensure they fit the neck of the wearer perfectly. By the late 1800s, American women of means wore choker necklaces—often more than one.

Life Magazine “Revives” the Choker


In 1944, Life Magazineshowed actresses of the time wearing chokers or what they called “dog collars.” Rows of pearls, gold, silver and other gemstones were again fashionable and worn tightly around the neck.

Chokers Many Mediums

Since 1944, the choker necklace has been seen in many mediums from Goth jewelry to “imitation” plastic neck tattoo jewelry. Hollywood stars wore them on the Red Carpet at award shows. Chokers became wider, fancier, more gem-packed and some were downright unusual.
Britney Spears and Paris Hilton were caught by Paparazzi wearing chokers with big gems in the center—or those embellished with the unusual and abstract.
History tells us that while many chokers were custom-made for an exact fit, chokers of the 20th Century were 15 to 17 inches in length and these lengths remain popular today.
Over the years at Peter Suchy Jewelers, we have been lucky to carry many vintage and estate choker necklaces in our showroom located at 1137 High Ridge Road in Stamford Connecticut. If you are in the area, we invite you to stop by our showroom and browse some of these vintage chokers.
Or, head on over to our eBay store where you’ll find necklaces made of all sorts of gems and metals in the desired 15-inch to 17-inch lengths.
We hope you’ll like us on Facebook and check out our amazing Pinterest Boards for estate and vintage jewelry inspirations!
Have a jewelry question you’d like us to answer in our blog? Just leave us a comment below!

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