Whenever I visit a museum I always seem to end up for hours staring at the ancient beaded jewelry trying to remember the patterns and colors. Many times they don't allow you to take pictures, so I will sketch and take notes.
The NYC Metropolitan Museum of Art is one of my favorite places where I can spend hours just looking at the Egyptian jewelry exhibit. I have a tendency to get separated from whomever I'm there with as I won't hear them mention that they are moving on to the next room. It happens (almost) ever time I visit.
My favorite pieces always seem to be the beaded collars. I am amazed by the age of the beads, the colors and the extravagance of the patterns. This particular type of wide beaded collar is called a menat. Typically the strings of beads come together in the back with a heavy counterweight (when worn as a necklace) to keep it in place. The counterweight could also be held in the hand to make a rattling noise like the sistrum, an ancient musical instrument, which literally means 'to shake.' Egyptians believed that the noise drove off evil and would defend them against their enemies.
The sistrum and menat date back to the 6th Dynasty as symbols used (mainly by women) in the cult of Hathor. Often the dead would be buried with a menat as it was the symbol for divine protection. For the living, the menat would be held in the hand of a high priestess' to act as a medium through which the goddess' power was transmitted. Because the queen herself could function as the high priestess of Hathor, royal wives would be seen offering the necklace to their husbands. You see this in King Tut's tomb where his wife and queen, Ankhesenamon, is offering the pharaoh a menat necklace signifying rebirth of the dead.
I have wanted to make a beaded collar like this for quite a long time, but never found the right design. When I stumbled on this pattern I decided to pull out some gorgeous tear drops from Stinky Dog Beads. This collar beaded up quickly and has a nice weight to it. It feels substantial on, and the beads have such a nice sound to them. I didn't include the counterweight in the back, but instead beaded the collar all the way around to button in the back. I think it looks wonderful with a pair of jeans.