Help clueless boyfriend select necklace length (and pearl size) for tall girlfriend

Oct 29, 2020
Title gives you the general gist of it: my absolutely stunning girlfriend of nearly a decade is on the tall side (a bit over 6') and I would like to give her a good quality pearl necklace for Christmas this year. I was pretty clueless when it comes to pearls, so have spent a week or so obsessively researching here and elsewhere. I've educated myself fairly well on the different categories/types of pearl, terminology, grading scales, relative price ranges etc. and think I am at this point a fairly informed shopper, at least for a 'novice'. I've nailed down mostly what I think I'm looking for (single strand, akoya AAA) which I think should work in my budget (ideally <$1k). However one thing I've had trouble with is figuring out what length to get. Most of the guides out there that cover length pre-suppose a more typical female height of 5'4"-5'6" or so, and I'm not sure how much length it would take to compensate for my gal's additional height so that the pearls would lie appropriately on her neck/shoulders. Also, I'm not sure if the pearl size itself should be "up-sized" as well to look proper? I'll go into some details below regarding her height/build, job, personal style etc. as best I can (I'm a kinda typical guy, and an engineer, so while I try to pay attention to details, 'style' and 'fashion' don't exactly come naturally to me and aren't my strong suit).

Girlfriend is a little over 6' tall. Body type is more Kate Upton than Kate Moss (sexier than either in my opinion). We are both entering middle age (late 30s/early 40s). Longer hair (to middle/lower shoulders) that she wears mostly down. Her profession is interior design, she is currently undergoing licensure and starting her own firm, so needs to present a certain image in the workplace. Also, she comes from a wealthier background, and has great taste, so in general has a discerning eye for quality. Her personal fashion sense favors loose/flowy clothes with a boho touch (though she will show off her curves with some more figure hugging items sometimes). She has lovely shoulders/neck and will often wear somewhat wider/lower necklines (though still modest) or a halter style neck. We live in a pretty warm locale, so not a whole lot of occasion to wear turtlenecks and the like.

Knowing her, I suspect she would not be as enthused about getting freshwater pearls (she likely would see that as the "budget" option), and I can afford to get her nicer things, so I was looking at the Akoya pearls. Based on what I've read, the general style of necklace I have in mind (something like a "princess" or shorter "matinee" length) would end up being in the 20" or so length for a woman of average height. I was also thinking the 7.0-7.5mm size seemed appropriate but am open to advice there if I have missed the boat. As I said previously, my budget is ~$1k (please let me know if I'm wildly off-base there) though I am frugal by nature, so of course lower price is always nice :)

Sorry for the long post, but I wanted to give any info that might be helpful. And thank you in advance for any help you provide!
Welcome to our Community Rocket Scientist.
Very interesting post BTW! Totally out of my area of expertise I might add, but I am sure many of our Pearl Lovers will be able to show you in the right direction.
Welcome! I’d suggest you consider an Akoya strand of AAA quality, in either 18 or 20 in in length and 8-9mm for pearl size. Will recommend checking with Pearl Paradise, they have a great selection. Wishing you good luck!
Welcome to the forum,
I would suggest you measure one of her favourite necklaces, as this would give you a good guide on a length she is comfortable wearing/styling.
Personally, a length around 18” provides good versatility in wear.

And then on the pearls themselves, the size your considering is a nice versatile size for Akoya’s, and with your budget you should find some nice quality options.

Would love to see a photo of what you purchase
Based on what you said about her style, I'd consider something more like what Kojima Pearl sells:

Frankly I think 7-7.5mm is a bit on the small side for a woman of your GF's stature and age. However, there is a price jump in pearls around the 8mm size, and a AAA 8-9mm akoya necklace would cost considerably more than the roughly $1K you are aiming for.

As to how much difference 1mm can make, have a look at this:
[h=1]Comparative pearl sizes-- how much difference does 1mm larger really make?[/h]
I come from a family where most of the women (except for me) are over 6’ tall and I know they have issues with proportions. Something in the 18-24” length would be appropriate and I’d go with the largest size pearl you can afford. I wonder if she might find Tahitian pearls to be a better choice for her personal style than akoyas which are more conservative. They’re also available in a larger size than akoyas which might be a better look given her height.
What a thoughtful gift you've planned!!!! I just wanted to add my two cents as a slightly-under-6-foot, late 30s female. I agree with all the recommendations for 18-20 in. I wear a lot of suit jackets, open collars and u-shaped necklines at work. I find that anything longer than 20 inches tends to annoyingly hit my chest as I move around. With your girlfriend's job demands, she may feel less encumbered with this length. I also use both necklace shorteners (reduces the length 1-2 in) and occasionally lengtheners (adds anywhere from 1-4 inches) to better match strands to my outfits, but lengtheners in particular allow me to buy a shorter necklace with larger pearls for a certain price point (I have a lot 16 inch necklaces!). Lastly, and most importantly, there is a well-known malady described on this forum called "pearl shrinkage syndrome" in which the more pearls one has, the larger the size of pearls one wants :eek:. I hope this helps your search!
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When I was in my early thirties my dear husband bought a strand of 8-9mm akoyas 22inch long strand. I wore them every day for 15 years. I can still pull them out of the safe and wear them and not feel they are to small for my 70 years. I also own 7 mm strands that I won't wear because they are just to small for my taste. That one mm size increase makes a world of difference. A good strand of akoyas will last a lifetime if they are take care of, as mine has.
...That one mm size increase makes a world of difference.

Right! An 8mm pearl is 49% larger by volume than a 7mm pearl! Put another way, it's one and a half times as large.
Size matters.

My first strand was 7-8mm, and I never wear it. It's just too small.
What a thoughtful gift. As others have suggested, I think slightly larger pearls (8mm+) would be best if you can get them within budget. A good strand of akoyas is a big investment, but will last decades. And 18-22 Inches should be a nice length and in proportion.
I also recommend 8-9 mm akoyas, and I love 20-22 inch strands.
I'm late to the party, but wanted to add that perhaps AAA baroque akoyas, if they could be found, might appeal to her artistic side based on her career, and be less expensive than rounds.

This is what I was thinking of that had: Silver-blue akoya

This one has sold, but perhaps one similar could be created in time for Christmas. Good for you, RS, for starting your search with plenty of lead time.
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Thank you all SO much for the responses!! Really appreciate it!

After looking at so many pore pictures, I tend to agree with most that I was aiming a little small as far as pearl size. Especially for someone of her stature I think something at least 8.0+ or 8.5+ would be more suitable. The problem I run into there is budget... any round Akoya pearls in that size are far beyond what I was planning (I don't mind pushing things a little bit if its warranted, but 2x+ is more than I can swing). Pearl Dreams was kind enough to give the folowing suggestion:

Based on what you said about her style, I'd consider something more like what Kojima Pearl sells:

And I must say, they nailed their prediction re. her personal style. Some of those items look very much like what she likes to wear (necklaces with agate, coral, or other colorful natural stones, etc), especially this one:

I am pretty sure its something she would like, and is in the budget. But it doesn't quite have the versatility of a classic white pearl strand (which i feel could be worn in a lot more formal/traditional situations compared to the kojima necklace above), and I was really looking for more of an "impact" luxury type gift than something that might be more of her everyday rotation (if that makes sense). Also, while the Tahitian pearls in that necklace are lovely, some of them look a little too dimpled or irregularly shaped (and not in a pleasing way like many baroques) that I'm worried it might not have quite the same quality feel.

SydK and pattye both suggested Akoya baroques and I think that may be how I go forward, but I have some concerns/questions. The images shown online for baroque akoyas look VERY round, to the point I'm wondering if I'm looking at 'real'/'correct' pictures? To my eye they seem as round as the "round" akoyas. Is this the case, do baroque akoyas really look that nicely round? If so, why the price premium on the "round" akoyas? Lastly, a specific strand that I have my eye on is the one that SydK suggested (namely: The size is impressive (9.0-9.5mm), and the photos look very round, lustrous etc. But I am concerned they are listed as "AA+", not AAA. I know many of these scales are subjective so its hard to define exactly what that means, so does anyone have experience with Pearly Paradise AA+ grade Akoyas? Is the difference from AAA to AA+ something that will be pretty clear to most people? Or is this something only the experienced pearl afficionado or professional jeweler would be able to tell? For comparison, the best option for larger size AAA akoyas I could find were "baroque" pearls from Laguna Pearl ( However this would come with a notable price hike, as well as reduce the pearl size by a full mm (9.0-9.5 vs 8.0-8.5).

So in summary (if youve read this far) I'd love any thoughts/opinions on the following:
  • Roundness of baroque akoyas? Do they still look like nice round pearls? or are they as obviously banded/drop-shaped as many of the Tahitian/south seas baroques?
  • AAA vs "AA+" grade akoyas? going down in grade puts much larger pearls firmly in my price range, going with AAA might be doable but would likely require blowing past the budget a fair bit and/or going smaller than I'd like in size
  • Laguna Pearl vs Pearl Paradise? Are there any major differences between these vendors? Is either one best avoided? Mainly looking to avoid any vendors with a known reputation (bad customer service, exaggerated grading/condition, overpriced, etc)
RS, so many good questions! You may not realize that Jeremy Shepherd of Pearl Paradise is the guy that started this forum back in 2004. (I'm not familiar at all with Laguna Pearl.) I've spent many hours in the Pearl Paradise vault admiring their large inventory of fine quality pearls. Akoya pearls don't develop rings like Tahitian and Freshwater pearls can, although they can be drop shape. I recommend you give PP a call and likely they can share specifics about what is in stock, whether a specific necklace can be lengthened and even send comparison photos. I know others will be commenting soon.
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I have a strand of the barogue akoya pearls, from Pearl Paradise. They are super close to being completely round! I find them incredibly good value for money since they are super lustrous and I dare anyone to spot them not being round when I am wearing them.
I think that 9.0-9.5mm baroque akoya strand would be a great gift!

I bought this 9.5-10.0mm strand of baroque akoya pearls from Pearl Paradise-- they are among my favorite pearls! They have thick nacre (which is not necessarily true of baroque akoyas, but PP 's do have thick nacre), fantastic luster and, because the surface is irregular, orient (an irregular surface refracts light better than a perfectly round, smooth surface.)
They are round-ish, not perfectly round. From all the photos I've seen, PP's white baroque akoyas are rounder than their blue ones.
Baroque Akoyas from PP April 2015 special
The same as Pattye: I don't know Laguna Pearl at all, but I have had very good experiences with Pearl Paradise. If you are in the L.A. area, pre-covid you could make an appointment to go in to their showroom and see what they have. Really a fun thing to do! Now though, I don't know. They do have a very large selection. Baroque pearls can run from very strange shapes to are-you-sure-they-aren't-round?
Considering her personal style, I would not go for the white akoyas. They are beautiful but way too traditional for how you describe her. I would go for something that can fit her "business persona" but still follow her freer spirit. That screams Tahitians to me.

Back when I worked in business consultancy, my important meeting necklace was a strand of large circle Tahitians. The texture and colours made it absolutely beautiful and kept it from being stuffy or old fashioned. It also screamed quality and confidence.
...You may not realize that Jeremy Shepherd is the guy that started this forum back in 2004. ... Akoya pearls don't develop rings like Tahitian and Freshwater pearls can, although they can be drop shape. I recommend you give PP a call and likely they can share specifics about what is in stock, whether a specific necklace can be lengthened and even send comparison photos.

Pattye, thanks so much for all the info! I did NOT know that re. the founders of this forum. Also, that helps to know re 'baroque' shaped on akoyas, and I can see that now in some of the pictures I thought might have actuyally been of round pearls. Lastly, I did not realize there was a possibility to lengthen some of these strands, or otherwise 'customize' an order like that at PP. I think I will call and see what they reccomend as far options. If they could possibly lengthen the 18" 9.0-9.5mm strand I linked previously an inch or two that might be just the perfect thing. Again, thanks so much for all the info/advice

Considering her personal style, I would not go for the white akoyas. They are beautiful but way too traditional for how you describe her. I would go for something that can fit her "business persona" but still follow her freer spirit. That screams Tahitians to me.

I know what you mean, and I thought quite a bit along those lines. I settled on a more traditional white strand for a few reasons, which I touched on in a previous post. She does have occasion to wear more formal or traditional styles in social or professional settings. So I like the idea of something that could work in those circumstances as well. Plus theres the wow factor of a traditional strand of big white pearls, right? I really do appreciate the advice though, and with all my research into pearls, I am kinda hooked. I had no idea the variety in size and shape and color etc. I've always thought opals were fascinating and beautiful, so have bought her a few over the years. But I am pretty sure she can expect some big gold south sea earrings or a colorful tahitian bracelet in her future!
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