The Pearl Necklace

The Pearl Necklace Comes in Many Sizes and Colors

The "classic" piece of pearl jewelry is, of course, the pearl necklace. Akoya pearls are the most traditional type of pearl used in necklaces, but freshwater pearls, Black Tahitian pearls, and large South Sea pearls are also used, often to stunning effect. Akoyas, of course, exhibit the traditional white, silver, or cream colors, while Tahitians and South Sea pearls yield pearl necklaces ranging from bright white to darker tones. Freshwater pearls can be either white or pastel and are more affordable than the saltwater options.

The Pearl Necklace Comes in Many Styles

Pearl necklaces come in a wide variety of styles:
  • Bib: Consists of several strands of pearls of varying lengths.
  • Collar or Dog Collar: Consists of multiple strands of pearls worn high on the neck. Very Exceedingly popular during the Victorian era, and made a small comeback a decade ago, they are 12-13 inches long.
  • Choker: Similar to a collar but is worn lower on the neck and is 14-16 inches long.
  • Princess: The "classic" length for a pearl necklace, lying slightly below the neck. A versatile necklace, which can be worn with many assorted styles of neckline and is 17-19 inches long.
  • Matinee: Traditionally worn for semi-formal occasions, works well with suits and dresses, and is 20-24 inches long.
  • Opera: Worn at formal occasions with evening dresses. The pearls should fall below the bust line. To be worn during the day in less-formal settings, the strand can be doubled over. The Opera necklace is 30-36 inches long.
  • Rope: This is the longest of all pearl necklace styles. It can also be doubled, as well as knotted. Some rope necklaces have multiple clasps, which allow it to be broken down into shorter strands. Rope necklaces are over 36 inches long.
Matching of Size is Key to a Perfect Pearl Necklace

The pearls used in a necklace can all be of the same size; or they can be graduated, with a larger pearl in the center and successively smaller pearls running back on each side to the clasp. Whichever style is chosen, good matching of the pearls is important, both for aesthetic reasons and for the highest value.

Traditional Guidelines for Choosing a Pearl Necklace

The size of the pearls in the necklace, while a matter of personal taste, is also a subject of tradition. Traditionally, certain pearl sizes are considered appropriate for women of various ages; and the size of the pearls is also considered an indicator of the wearer's wealth and social status.

Matching Pearl Necklaces to Age and Stature
  • Smaller pearls (5.5 6.5 millimeters) are appropriate for teenage girls and younger women say, up to the mid-20's.
  • Pearls 6.5 8.0 millimeters; are traditionally worn by women in their mid-20's to mid-30's. They show a woman who, in a sense, has "come of age," but the pearls remain modest and not too showy.
  • Pearls 8.0-9.0 millimeters in size exhibit an aura of status, class, and success. They are traditionally worn by women in their mid-30's to mid-40's. These pearls tend to be more expensive (particularly the larger end of this scale 8.5 9.0 millimeters), and so are associated with financial success.
  • Pearls 9.0-10.0 millimeters are both rare and expensive. They are worn by wealthy women of more mature years.

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