Antique Jewelry - Pectorals
#6570 Wiese scarab necklace.
One form of jewelry that has confused me for years is the Pectoral. Like a stomacher, I can guess from the name that it has something to do with a certain part of our anatomy, but what is it?
I've done some scrambling about in me books and on the net and this is what I have learned.
#6841 Egyptian scarab brooch.
Pectorals: As we can surmise from the name, this was jewelry worn on the chest and dates back to ancient times. Well, they had to hold up or close their garments somehow. If you start searching on the internet for explanations of each term, you will learn that a brooch is merely decorative, while a pin or breastpin was used to fasten clothes. I thought it was just a semantic choice, but here is a functional differentiation. Again, who knew?
It seems that pectorals fall more into the category of brooch, but then, they could be other forms of jewelry. The internet confuses us even more by explaining that pectorals were symbols of importance and power and could even be in the form of armbands. Crosses, crucifixes and other forms of pendants are often referred to as pectorals, especially by priests from bishops down, but also by regular, secular people. Other cultures wore discs suspended around their necks and these are also referred to as pectorals. So, safe to say that pectorals refer in general to 'jewelry worn on the chest', which is exactly what we said in the first place.
#6424. Castellani brooch.
I found 3 main Geographical/Historical eras associated with pectorals.
1. Ancient Egypt. Here, pectorals were often hung around the neck. Often in the form of discs or scarabs. They might hang via chains or ribbons. They were not only used on real,live people, but also as funerary ornaments, on mummies. They could be made of all kinds of materials eg bronze or glass.
#6840 micromosaic with Egyptian pharaohs.
2. Pre-Columbian. Very little is said about these people. Their pectorals were made of beaten gold sheets.
#6918 Religious Micromosaic cross from the Vatican.
3. The early Church through the Middle Ages. During this era, pectorals were often sewn onto garments. Ecclesiastics often wore crosses, called pectorals, but then so did laymen. So what is the difference between a cross you might wear and a pectoral? No answer given thus far.
#6165 Renaissance Cross.
Source: An Illustrated Dictionary of Jewelry by Harold Newman.