Regality, Revolution, Rebellion: History Of The Choker Neckpiece

The choker necklace has been ubiquitous in every jewellery chest for several eras. Yet, the rebellious history of this standout ornament has been elusive.

Tanya Savkoor
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My 102-year-old great-grandmother recently handed me down some of the treasured jewellery from her youth, unveiling some pieces that have stood the test of fleeting fashion trends: the choker necklaces. As I found myself captivated by the allure of the pearls and gems wrapped around my neck, I could not help but marvel at the timeless elegance and the rich history it carried within its slender circumference. The choker is a ubiquitous ornament in most South Asian jewellery chests. Traditionally known as channapatna or guluband, it has been a part of Indian fashion for centuries, dating back beyond the Indus Valley Civilisation (3300–1300 BCE). 


The necklace has since seen several forms of evolution and various connotations over generations, from being a symbol of protection to rebellion to honour. It holds a significant place in the realm of fashion and culture, serving as more than just decorative pieces. Let's take a look at the choker's history

Choker Necklaces In India

"In Indian fashion, a choker neckpiece serves as a captivating focal point, accentuating the neckline with cultural richness and timeless elegance," Anushree Pacheriwal, founder of the jewellery brand Tiramisu, told SheThePeople. "It possesses the transformative power to elevate or diminish a look based on its design synergy with the attire."

Indeed, a choker holds the immense power to bring together and complete a look. Even a slim string of gems caressing the neck can accentuate an otherwise simple outfit. Furthermore, the historical significance of the statement jewellery piece adds depth to its intrigue. No wonder it has been a historically omnipresent element in Indian fashion.

sonam kapoor
Sonam Kapoor in Sunita Kapoor jewels | Image: Sunita Kapoor, Amrapali

Archaeologists and fashion historians have seen evidence of the choker necklace way back in the Indus Valley Civilisation when people adorned their necks with terracotta-made ornaments. Later, in the Middle Ages, the choker necklaces became more than just a piece of jewellery but rather a shield against evil spirits and diseases. 


Eras later, in the early 20th century, the blingy choker necklace became a staple in trousseau and regal fashion. Not just queens and princesses, but even men decorated their necks with precious stones and metals. Remember the Maharaja necklace that made headlines in 2022 when social media star Emma Chamberlain wore it to the Met Gala?

emma chamberlain maharaja of patiala
Emma Chamberlain (L) Image: @emmachamberlain Instagram | Maharaja Yadavindra Singh of Patiala (R) Image: Luxury Academy

The royals wore their chokers layered with longer necklaces like the rani haar, making the pair a statement set even in contemporary fashion. The appeal of the choker-rani haar duo exudes sophistication and class even today. In some parts of India like Uttarakhand, the guluband is a symbol of their communal identity. 

Pacheriwal expressed, "The choker in Indian fashion has evolved from a symbol of royal status in ancient times to a versatile accessory in the modern era. Today, chokers blend traditional and contemporary elements, catering to diverse fashion tastes. From formal attire to everyday wear, it continues to play a dynamic role, reflecting the rich cultural heritage and evolving trends.";

tiramisu chokers
Images: @weartiramisu, Instagram

Niharika Jain, fashion stylist and founder of the brand Dumroo, reflected on how the choker went from signifying wealth and royalty to a part of the mainstream fashion space. She expressed how many Indian personalities have showcased the elegance and versatility of the choker by integrating it into their personal style.

Image: @shopdumroo, Instagram

Jain shared, "Historic figures like Jodha Bai are renowned for their elaborate, traditional chokers, which they wore as a symbol of their royal status and refined taste. In contemporary times, Bollywood celebrities and fashion icons like Deepika Padukone, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and more continue to elevate the choker, experimenting with styles that range from minimalist to ornate."

Outside India

Not just in Indian couture, the choker has been acclaimed in European history too. Archaeologists have seen the presence of the choker in the Pharaohs of 2950 BC and Sumerians of 2500 BC. Years down the line, Queen Anne Boleyn of England, who reigned from 1533 to 1536, was seen flaunting delicate pearl chokers layered with longer necklaces. 

Image: Queen Anne Boleyn of England

However, in the 18th century, the choker garnered a dark connotation. During the French Revolution (1789 to 1799), women wore a red ribbon as a choker around their neck in honour of those who were killed at the guillotine. This showed how sartorial choices were not just a decorative choice but a mode of revolt against oppressors. 


In 18th century England, Queen Alexandra, wore flamboyant chokers to hide a scar on her neck, but she unintendedly became a trendsetter. Later, Queen Victoria, who reigned from 1837 to 1901 ditched the gems and gold to experiment with velvet, lace, and pearls. Some historians say that she chose black lace to mourn the loss of her husband, Prince Albert. 

queen chokers
Queen Alexandra, Queen Victoria | Images: Waufen Joias

Following the lineage, even Queen Elizabeth II donned ornate chokers as a fashion statement. As chokers surged in popularity, they seamlessly integrated into the personal style of everyday individuals. By the 1990s, black chokers made of affordable materials like elastic or satin had become a part of every teenager's wardrobe, symbolising rebellion and angst. 

reese choker
Reese Witherspoon in the 1990s | Image: Pinterest

Relying on this badass expression, Lady Diana donned a choker made of pearls and a sapphire pendant with her iconic 'revenge dress' after her divorce from Prince Charles in 1994. The significance of the choker remained intact across all societies, be it the elites or common folk. The choker communicated confidence and a reclamation of one's identity.

Princess Diana's 'Revenge' Look, 1994 | Image: People magazine

Later, celebrities from Gwyneth Paltrow in the 1990s, to Kylie Jenner in the 2010s donned various styles of chokers, showcasing the malleability of the accessory in different styles. Throughout different generations, the choker has remained a powerful piece that not only beautifies a look but also makes a bold statement.

indian fashion fashion history SheThePeople Sartorial Series choker