Types of Necklaces: A Comprehensive Guide to Every Style
Written by Anna Currell
August 31, 2022
There are so many types of necklaces out there; with an abundance of necklace styles, lengths, and materials to choose from, deciphering what’s what is enough to make your head spin! That’s why we put together this complete guide to all the necklace terminology you need to find the perfect necklace style for you.
Ever wonder how to describe the length of necklace you’re looking for? Or maybe you’ve been shopping online and you’re not sure what to make of the product descriptions you’re reading. We’ve got you covered; these are the standard names the jewelry industry typically uses for common necklace lengths:
- Choker: 12-13 inches, fastens tightly around the center of the neck
- Collar: 14-16 inches, rests at the base of the neck
- Princess: 17-18 inches, settles along the line of the collarbone
- Matinee: 20-24 inches, falls beneath collarbone
- Opera: 28-36 inches, falls around the ribcage
- Rope: 36-51 (or longer!), hangs loosely, down to the waist
While most necklaces are made at these lengths, don’t feel trapped by convention. You can always decide to lengthen or shorten a necklace to match your desired measurements.
Aside from length, necklaces can also vary greatly depending on their materials, shapes, and sizes. Let’s get acquainted with some of the most popular necklace styles:
You’re probably familiar with pendant necklaces; they’re a classic for a reason. The pendant hanging from the necklace itself can be virtually anything, and combining the pendant style with different lengths can achieve a number of different looks; they can be dainty at a princess length, much more dramatic at a rope length, or anywhere in between. Get creative with this simple necklace style by engraving your pendant with a custom phrase or design.
A locket is a type of pendant that hinges open to store a photo or a keepsake inside. The size of the locket typically dictates the number of photos or the shape of the trinket it can hold. Lockets can hang from necklaces of any length or even hang from other kinds of jewelry; historically they have been used to keep memories of loved ones near.
Lariat necklaces loop around the neck without a clasp; a lariat is one long piece that can be tossed in a loose knot at the desired length or threaded together through a loop at one of the ends. This drapey style was popularized in the Gatsby era, so feel free to dress up a matinee or opera-length lariat with an elegant outfit.
A torque necklace is made of twisted metal shaped to fit around the neck without moving. The ends of the necklace do not meet, so they often feature ornamental designs or ball finishing at either end. Torque necklaces are unique in that they don’t have a clasp, which gives them an interesting unfinished feel.
Festoon necklaces are an intricate, structural style that often resemble spiderwebs, with many interconnected layers of ornamentation descending the collarbone or chest area. They can be made from chains, beads, or metalwork draped in a decorative pattern, and often have a vintage or antique look to them.
Graduated pearls are the most common kind of graduated necklace; larger pearls are strung toward the center of the necklace, and the pearl size decreases from that center point gradually (hence the name) as each side reaches back toward the nape of the neck. Diamond graduated necklaces are also popular; this classic, simple, and elegant style can dress up a look instantly.
Bibs are large, chunky necklaces that cover the collarbone or chest area, much like their namesake. They’re typically flat to cover a broader surface area, although they can be embellished or embroidered to add a little extra flare. Bibs are great statement pieces, and they can be made of any material including velvet, beads, metal, enamel, or even feathers.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, chain necklaces are often designed as minimalist accessories. Chain necklaces are usually made from a simple strand of metal formed into interesting patterns like the paper clip chain featured below. They’re a simple and excellent addition to any capsule jewelry collection since they pair very well with almost any other item of jewelry.
Trending Ways to Wear Your Favorite Necklace Styles Right Now
Now that you know the terminology for lengths and styles of necklaces, here are some on-trend styling ideas to inspire you.
Layering necklaces can amplify your style and achieve a more interesting look without too much effort. Try finding necklaces a few inches apart in length to create visual separation between them. Another common way to layer necklaces is to mix and match based on metal type, color, or style. That way, you can create a complete look that spreads from your chin to your chest for those days when a single strand just won't do. For instance, two or three gold necklaces in a variety of lengths is a very popular way to show off several minimalist necklaces.
Lots of '90s trends are coming back right now, and the same is true for jewelry. One of the jewelry trends making a comeback now three decades later is wearing your name around your neck. Nameplate necklaces keep you both trendy and unique, since they highlight a special part of your identity. Customize your necklace by using different fonts to spell out your name, or go with an engraved pendant for something a little more subtle.
What’s your sign? That’s right, another fun form of self expression making the fashion rounds lately is showing off your astrological sign. Find a pendant that represents your sun sign and wear it when you want a little solar system boost, or design a whole layered look with a series of necklaces inspired by your astrological chart.
In contrast to the minimalist trend, chunky chain necklaces are taking over the scene these days. Wearing a single chunky chain can achieve an unfussy look that works for all kinds of occasions, or pair thick chains of different lengths to make more of a statement without going overboard on colors and designs.
Now that you’re clued into all the necklace terminology you need, you should be all set to pick out the next necklace for your collection and style it to your heart’s content. Whatever necklace (or necklaces) you choose, remember to keep them in good shape with regular polishing about every six months and untangling as needed.