Collars began to appear around the late 1870s and became an important item of jewellery for the next 20 years. Usually made of silver, the collars ranged from simple to very ornate designs. The classic collar and locket set also had what was described as a ‘Y’ chain, about two inches long, which hung from the spring clasp and to which a locket was attached. Some came with matching earrings, brooches and bangles. Many of the ‘Y’ chains have disappeared. But not all collars and lockets had a ‘Y’ chain, and not all collars were designed to be worn with a locket.
The lockets and collars were sold separately as well as in sets. The collars came in a wide variety of lengths, with the average being about 17 inches. The longest I have seen so far is 32 inches. They were joined by a pull-back circular catch called a spring ring, and if the collar had the Y-shaped drop, all three pieces would join on that ring.
Whilst silver jewellery was made throughout the Victorian period, it was the discovery of silver in Nevada which was to lead to a growth in silver, together with the ever growing middle classes who had money to spare. The opening up of Japan after 1854 led to an interest in Japanese culture and to the Aesthetic Movement in the 1870s. Silver collars in particular with oval or square shaped lockets became popular for everyday wear. The links on the collars were usually flattened to allow them to sit flat around the neck.
The pollution in England at the end of the 19th century was one reason why silver jewellery began to fall out of favour. The sulfur dioxide in the air tarnished the silver and cleaning became a constant chore.