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Pyramid Studios has strung or restrung quite a few necklaces over the years, from most every kind of bead, shell, stone and especially pearls, both freshwater and those from oysters. We’ve even done a few from local pearls found by local scallop fisherman.

There is a special vocabulary used to describe the length of pearl necklaces.

While most other necklaces are simply referred to by their physical measurement, pearl necklaces are named by how low they hang when worn around the neck.

170px-Portrait_de_Caterina_Sagredo_Barbarigo_par_Rosalba_Carriera wearing a choker


Collar-just as you imagine this sits directly against the throat. Collars measure from 10 to 13 inches and are often made of several strands of pearls. In this 1740 portrait Caterina Sagredo Barbarigo is working a little attitude wearing a single strand pearl collar and pendant pearl earrings. (Actually most of her powerful Venetian family had a bit of attitude-one of her ancestors actually refused the papal crown) Although she’s rockin a single most are usually made up of three or more strands and lie snugly on the middle of the neck. Pearl collars are an ideal complement to boat neck, V-neck, or off-the-shoulder fashions. They are a bold and distinctive fashion and sure to bring notice.


princess_diana-emir_of_qatar_earrings_with_sapphire_and_pearl_choker2Chokers are a bit longer, at 14 to 16”, and rest against the base of the neck but does not hang down at all. This classic and versatile piece is appropriate with everything from casual to formal evening wear, and complements almost any neckline. The perfect length to add subtle elegance to your workday paired with a button-down shirt, yet just as stylish with a cocktail dress.  Not being the type of person to wear this sapphire as the original brooch, Diana later added rows of pearls to the brooch and turned it into a choker which she wore often, most well remembered was the night she danced at The White House with John Travolta in 1985.

Strands come in four lengths:


    • Princess – 17” to 19” which falls to or just below the collar bone  The most common length for pearl necklaces, it is well suited for wear with crew and high necklines. It also complements low, plunging necklines. Because 18 inches is considered the classic length for pearl necklaces. This is an excellent choice if you are not certain which strand length is most appropriate.
      This is Keira Knightley in the film Anna Karenina sporting a variety of  pearl strand lengths.

Anne Hathaway_size

Matinee – 20” to 24” those that fall just above the breasts. This Anne Hathaway photo gives a great overview of the different lengths and how they drape. The 24″ length shown is matinee length.

Opera – 28” to 35” to reach the breastbone or sternum of the wearer. Opera length necklaces are 26 – 36 inches long and offer many attractive options. It can be worn as a single strand with high necklaces or doubled to create a fashionable two-strand choker. It can be knotted at the neckline or above the bust to create a stylish vintage look that is gaining popularity as a contemporary fashion trend. Traditionally, opera length necklaces are worn with evening wear, although using them to accessorize more casual attire has become a fresh, cutting-edge fashion statement.

A pearl ROPE is 37 inches or longer. This luxurious length can be both elegant and sexy. It can be made with several clasps, enabling it to be broken down into different necklace and bracelet combinations, or doubled and even tripled to create a stunning multi-strand pearl choker. This versatile length may also be tied in a knot for a charming modern look reminiscent of the height of 1920s flapper fashion. A very popular way to wear pearls, ropes may also be knotted and slung over the shoulder to accentuate the beauty of a backless dress.

Pearl necklaces can also be classified as uniform or graduated.

6mm Akoya Triple Pearls A QualityIn a uniform strand of pearls, all pearls are classified as the same size, but actually fall in a range.  In classic white, Akoya pearls they will all fall with .5mm of each other. The Akoya pearls to the left are all uniform strands of 6MM.

For South Sea, Polynesian, Cook Island or Freshwater Pearls, which can be cultivated in larger millimeter sizes than the Akoya, normally range are stranded within a full millimeter range. The larger the pearl the less obvious the size differential.


pearls-graduated necklaceA graduated strand of pearls most often has at least 3 mm of differentiation from the ends to the center of the necklace. Popularized in the United States during the 1950s by the GIs bringing strands of cultured Akoya pearls home from Japan, a 3.5 mm, 3 mm to 7 mm graduated strand was much less costly than those of a uniform 7mm. The budget savings went unnoticed but the fashion statement didn’t.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this primer on pearl lengths. Please drop by our shop at 10 State Street in Ellsworth and view our selection of Akoya, Freshwater and Cook Island Pearls. There just may be a necklace in your future.

We are Pyramid Studios in Downtown Ellsworth, Maine.

Our store hours:

Wednesday – 10am – 5:30pm
Thursday – 10am – 5:30pm
Friday – 10am – 5:30pm
Saturday – 10am – 4:00pm
Sun/Mon/Tue – Closed

Our web store is open 24/7 and can be located here: Pyramid Studios.