A long chain worn encircling the neck sometimes wound in several loops, and extending down upon the breast, and occasionally having a suspended pendant. Although worn in ancient times and the Middle Ages, they were more popular during the Renaissance, when they were worn by men and women in the form of heavy chains of pure gold; occasionally several were worn simultaneously.
Some were worn by men as evidence of membership in orders or guilds, but most were worn decoratively, were massive and heavy, and were often royal gifts. Those worn by women in the 16th century were often embellished with gemstones.
Some of exceptional lengths were raised and fastened in a loop high on the breast, so as to form two loops. Such chains are still popular today.
From: An Illustrated Dictionary of Jewelry, autor: Harold Newman, publishers: Thames and Hudson