Lariats & Tassels, from Ancient Macedonia to Today’s Fashion Icons

Heirloom Finds model and tassel necklace

One of today’s hottest accessory trends owes its origins to the domestication of horses. In jewelry terms, a lariat is a long, open-ended necklace that has no clasp. But historically, a lariat is a lasso used to catch or lead livestock. Like ropes themselves, decorative lariats have been around for millennia. One of the most iconic examples of a lariat is a golden snake dating back to the Macedonian and Ptolemaic period (332–30 B.C.), which is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s collection.

Heirloom Finds Lariat Necklace

Some lariats are thick and coiled, while other are loose and flowing. The latter, with their light, breezy attitude and fluid movement, are ideal for summer. And lariats that incorporate a pendant with delicate beaded or chain fringe echo the tassels we’ve been seeing all over the place this year, from couture to street wear (and even home décor.) The lariats and tassels in our newest collection run the gamut, offering something for everyone.

One of the most recognizable tassels-wearers might be Mad Men’s Joan Holloway, played by Christina Hendricks. In the show’s first few seasons, Joan never appears at the offices of Sterling Cooper without her gold pen pendant. Much later in the series, as Joan engineers her way out of her secretary role, we see Joan at a party decked out in a stunning red satin dress, flaunting layers of topaz-hued rhinestones and gold-tone rope chains with a tasseled pendant—the jewelry of a powerful woman who wants to call the shots. She wears a more understated but equally striking tasseled pendant to work in Season 6.

Joan’s look is very structured and composed, just as Joan’s demeanor is on the show. But long, slender, and funky lariats speak to the casual boho look. Chain lariats with faceted beads evoke more of a Jazz Age scene, as do strands with tassels and crystals. Flappers loved luxe, long lariats with gemstones or rhinestones and frosty white pearls.

Heirloom Finds Tassel Necklace

Contemporary boho style, with its tassels and airy layering, owes a debt to the young, willowy rockers and groupies who frolicked with musicians and celebrities on the Sunset Strip during the late 60s and early 70s. Plundering thrift shops and vintage stores, they resurrected feminine floral dresses from the 30s and 40s and mixed them with lace, velvet, baubles, and layers upon layers of fringe. (For a fun and dishy read, nab Pamela Des Barres’s I’m With The Band: Confessions of a Groupie. It’s surprisingly uplifting, and will fill you in on this time of unbridled L.A. hippy glam.) While more eclectic than flappers of the 20s, the two styles share an affinity with their liberated, live-in-the-moment approach to fashion and passion.

So whether they’re precious metal that’s thousands of years old or brand-spankin’-new fringed leather accented with rustically hewn stones, lariats and tassels personalize any outfit. Some are crisp and elegant; others are relaxed and casual, but there’s at least one that’s just right for you.

Check out our Pinterest board to see these and more tassely looks.

 By Sara Bir

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