‘Does the choker have its origins in a slave collar?’ Quite some time I wonder whether this is true or not? A choker is a close-fitting necklace around the neck. And without too much imagination you see in a slave collar the same item. Although the choker and a slave collar have a totally different purpose. When I started my search to find the answer I came upon some remarkable facts.

Nefertite with a choker and a statue of the Zanzibar slave monument (Adam Jones)

Nefertite with a choker and a statue of the Zanzibar slave monument (Adam Jones)

A symbol of protest.

There is a portrait of Anne Boleyn (1507-1536) with a beautiful piece of jewelry around her neck made of pearls and a letter ‘B’ (of Boleyn) pendant. It does not protect her from being beheaded. During the French Revolution in 1798, many people face the guillotine and female French expatriates in England start to wear a red ribbon around their neck. As a protest against the guillotine sentences.

Portrets of Anna Boleyn wearing a choker

Portrets of Anna Boleyn wearing a choker

Much older than the slave collar.

In Ancient Times (around 2500 BC) the Pharaos and the common people in Egypt wear tight bands around their neck. Made of lapis lazuli, pearls, and gold or just a nice red ribbon from the market. People wear them to protect their most vulnerable part of their body, the neck, from evil, bad powers and attacks. Just to make sure it works they hang little amulets or charms representing the gods they need the most on the choker.

There is slavery in Egypt at that time and on murals you see the slaves tied together with ropes. But no separate slave collar.

Prostitutes and royals.

On a painting of Manet, you see a prostitute wearing a ribbon or choker around her neck and that seems a custom piece of jewelry for those ladies. But in the 19th century also royals like Queen Victoria and Princess Alexandra of Wales wear one. The latter because she wants to hide a little scar in her neck and a choker does the trick.

The result is that this type of jewelry becomes fashionable. It’s not only a ribbon around your neck. But it is decorated with diamonds, pearls, golden beads and a lot of gemstones.

Maria Fjodorovna wearing a 'dog-collar' made of pearls

Maria Fjodorovna wearing a ‘dog-collar’ made of pearls

Russian royalty wears a ‘dog-collar’.

In the late 19th century Tsarina Maria and Alexandra Fjodorovna have a so-called ‘dog-collar’ (collier du Chien) in their jewelry collection. For daily wear, these pieces of jewelry are made of fine silver or gold chains with highly decorated clasps. Under those chains are ribbons of silk or velvet. But for the parties, they wear chokers of diamonds, pearls, and gemstones, combined with a necklace that is attached under it. That necklace hangs down on the breast.

Josephine Baker wearing a choker in the 1940s

Josephine Baker wearing a choker in the 1940s

Again popular in the 1990s.

Actually the choker never leaves the fashion world. In the 1950s they are made of lace and velvet. In the 1990s the ‘tattoo’ choker becomes popular, made of plastic and has a ‘netted’ design. And also nowadays the choker stays in fashion and many celebrities love to wear it to their VIP parties.

pink pearl choker necklace in the collection of FlorenceJewelshop

pink pearl choker necklace in the collection of FlorenceJewelshop

Tiffany and Co and a slave collar.

In September 2016 a scandal starts around Tiffany’s and a piece of jewelry exhibited in the Lest We Forget Slavery Museum in Philadelphia. The piece is a silver chain choker with a heart pendant. That particular piece of jewelry, according to the information on the tag is a design of Tiffanys and inspired upon a slave collar. The brass collar that a female slave wears when she works for the mistress of the master.

Tiffany’s denies the accusation and the museum removes the tag. It proves that the design of the choker is still a precarious subject.

Conclusion:

Although the design of the choker looks like a slavery collar the choker or the design is more than 5000 years old. So the slave collar cannot be the origin of the choker. The popularity is steady for a long time although it drops between the 10th and the 16th century. And in this period slavery occurs. The choker stays popular also today. Just make sure that the choker sits perfect and is not too tight. Otherwise, you look choked and that is not what you want. Then it looks too much like a slave collar.

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