What is an Egyptian Collar?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

An Egyptian collar is a highly ornamental collar in the style of the collars worn in Egypt during the pharaonic era, from around 3000 BCE to 300 BCE, when the Romans conquered Egypt. Some very fine examples of neckwear from this period in history can be seen in museums dedicated to Egyptian artifacts and in works of art from Ancient Egypt. Modern Egyptian collars are often designed to be worn with costumes, although they can also be worn as jewelry.

Woman shopping
Woman shopping

In Ancient Egypt, the collar was used to dress up simple robes. Egyptian garments were often quite plain, with the wearer relying on the ornate collar to stand out. Historically, collars were made from stamped or tooled leather, embroidered fabric, metals, or beaded materials. They were separate from the garments they were worn over, making them more like modern necklaces than modern collars, although collars were actually frequently kept separate from garments well through the early 20th century.

The distinguishing feature of an Egyptian collar, ancient or modern, is that it is very broad. It also surrounds the whole neck, often covering much of the shoulders, upper chest, and upper back. The design is usually highly symmetrical, with geometric or floral patterns being very common. Egyptian collars can also be quite heavy, since they are often heavily beaded or embroidered.

When archaeologists began unearthing relics from Ancient Egypt, the formal collars of the pharaohs and aristocrats tended to capture attention. Egyptian-style jewelry and garments went briefly into vogue in the 19th century, with Egyptian collars being in especially high demand, and the theme of the Egyptian collar also appeared in 1920s fashion and design. Many Art Deco jewelers worked with the Egyptian collar design, creating very beautiful and distinctive pieces which would not have been that unfamiliar to the Ancient Egyptians.

In the modern era, Egyptian collars are usually designed as jewelry, rather than as garments, and they may include precious stones, beading, metal filigree, and similar ornamentation. Thanks to the size, an Egyptian collar is an ambitious piece of jewelry to wear. Typically, such jewelry is worn on formal occasions, and it tends to look better on people who are tall, with elongated necks which offset the large size of the collar. Because the collar is ornate, it is also a good idea to tone down other jewelry and garments to avoid looking gaudy.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


I assume only royal and wealthy Egyptians wore these types of collars in ancient Egypt? Is there any evidence of neck injuries and pain due to the wearing of these collars--were they exceptionally heavy? Are there jewelry designers who heavily favor this look today?

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