Types of Necklaces

A Guide to Differents Lengths and Styles

Close-up of stylish woman wearing necklace
Linzy Slusher/Stocksy United

Necklaces come in varying lengths and styles. Length is the first thing to consider when shopping for necklaces. Which length is the most wearable? Which length will work best for jewelry layering?

No neck is created equal, so there are variations with necklace lengths. For instance, princess necklaces may range between 16 to 18". However, each necklace type looks best when positioned on very specific points of your body. 

Standard Necklace Lengths

  • Collar - 12-14"
  • Choker - 14-16"
  • Princess - 16-18"
  • Matinee - 20-22"
  • Opera - 30-36"
  • Rope - 36" +
Illustration of necklace types
Illustration: The Spruce / Kaley McKean
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    Goldsmithery, gold collar with sardonyx medallion
    DEA/G. DAGLI ORTI/Getty Images

    At one time, the term collar was used to describe all necklaces. In modern times, a collar necklace is not to be confused with a choker necklace. Collar necklaces sit flush against the skin and rest directly above the ​collarbone. Contemporary collar necklaces are thick and look similar to a collar on a shirt, measuring anywhere from 12 to 16-inches. 

    Average length: 14 inches

    Body position: Sits just above the collarbone

    Style tip: Thick contemporary collar necklaces look best when worn without other necklaces and paired with low necklines or off the shoulder tops. 

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    Malachite cameos necklace in gold setting
    DEA/A. DAGLI ORTI/Getty Images

    Choker necklaces are made from a variety of materials. Velvet, gold, and ribbon were common options during the Victorian era

    The choker necklace can either sit very high on the neck or just below the collarbone. The later style dangles more freely and is slightly longer in length.

    Chokers can incorporate other necklace styles on this list by adding a pendant, graduating beads, or even adding festoon-like drops. 

    While necklaces have always been a staple, chokers have gone in and out of fashion for centuries. When necklines on garments were lower, the choker necklace made a great statement. Chokers would even be layered one on top of the next until the entire neck was filled with diamonds, pearls, and other luxurious materials.

    Average length: 16 inches 

    Body position: Sits high on the neck or rests on collarbone

    Style tip: Pair a thin choker that sits high on the neck with a longer opera length necklace for a nice contrast. Chokers look good with v necks and scoop necks. 

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    Diamond and Sapphire Necklace
    James Worrell / Getty Images

    Princess necklaces are defined either by their length or style. The length is longer than a choker but shorter than a matinee necklace. The 18-inch length is thought to be the most universal and flattering length. Any pendant or focal piece will usually rest right below the collar bones.

    Princess style necklaces look much like you might expect. They are encrusted with glistening rhinestones and have fanciful shapes usually with one central drop. 

    Average length: 18 inches

    Body position: Sits just below the collarbone

    Style tip: This necklace style should be reserved for more formal attire. Pair a princess necklace with a v-neck and a blazer for work. 

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    Matinee necklace length
    Gregoria Gregoriou Crowe fine art and creative photography/Getty Images

    Matinee necklaces are great for jewelry layering because they are longer than princess length and shorter than opera length. These necklaces will fall somewhere between the collarbone and the center of the bust. 

    Average length: 22 inches

    Body position: Sits just above or at the center of the bust

    Style tip: Use this length necklace when you're layering with other jewelry so that the only focal point isn't the center of your bust. These necklaces look best with a high neckline or turtleneck since they tend to draw the eye directly to the bust area. 

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    Long opera length necklace
    Etienne Girardet/Getty Images

    Opera length necklaces are long and versatile. When they are worn as a single strand, the necklace should fall below the bust line. Some longer opera length necklaces may even reach the bellybutton. 

    Average length: 30 inches

    Body position: Sits just below the bust or near the belly button

    Style tip: Since the necklace falls so low, a variety of necklines are suitable. Consider layering a long opera length necklace with a choker necklace and a v neckline to add some contrast. 

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    Lariat necklace
    Photo from Amazon.com

    Lariat necklaces are also known as a rope or Y-necklace. In terms of length, this necklace is longer than opera length.

    Lariat necklaces don't have a clasp. The chain or beads form a long rope that is either tied or pulled through a circular finding like the one pictured here. 

    Average length: 34 inches

    Body position: Sits at or below the belly button, but can be adjusted

    Style tip: Lariat necklaces are very versatile because the long rope can be fashioned in a number of ways. Depending on the exact length, the rope can be wrapped around the neck a few times and worn as a choker. They can also be tied off at any length, making them work for whatever neckline you're wearing.

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    Guide to Necklace Styles

    Necklace styles
    Matthew Ashmore / EyeEm / Getty Images

    Each necklace length can also come in a wide range of styles. These styles can be mixed or worn independently.

    Depending on the occasion, you may opt for a simple pendant style necklace, or you may want to go all out and wear a decked out festoon style necklace. 

    Common Necklace Styles

    • Bib
    • Festoon
    • Graduated
    • Lavaliere
    • Locket
    • Multi Strand
    • Negligee
    • Pendant
    • Rivière
    • Sautoir

    The majority of these styles have origins that date back at least 100 years. These necklaces have withstood the test of time by coming back into fashion more than once. Antique lavalieres are popular to pair with minimal jewelry. Bib necklaces are bohemian and festive. Lockets are timeless and perfect for gift giving. 

    Learning more about these necklaces styles will come in handy when buying fine jewelry. They will be especially helpful if you're shopping for vintage or antique jewelry because many of these styles have been around for centuries.

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    Fabric breastplate with gold and silver trimmings, coral beads, and coins from different countries, Yemen, 19th century
    DEA/A. DAGLI ORTI/Getty Images

    Bib necklaces are usually collar or princess length. They consist of a wide front portion that rests just below the neck. Pearls, beads, or gemstones are often sewn or set into the bib, creating fanciful designs along the circular or triangular frame.  

    Though the bib necklace has ancient origins, modern-day versions are worn as statement pieces, usually with formal wear. 

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    Enamelled gold and precious stones festoon necklace
    DEA/L. DOUGLAS/Getty Images

    Festoon necklaces are defined by their draping elements. This classically vintage style was especially beloved by the Art Nouveau and Victorian eras. Delicate chains are accented with gemstones, pearls, and precious metal.

    For the necklace to sit properly, the main chain should be choker length and rest on the collarbone. This style looks best with off the shoulder formal wear. Other higher necklines could twist and distort the drops. 

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    Bakelite necklaces and plexiglass bracelet, 1930s-1950s, 20th century
    De Agostini/G. Cigolini/Getty Images

    Graduated necklaces are beaded necklaces that have a variation in bead size. Generally, the larger beads are at placed in the center. Each bead gradually gets smaller as they progress toward the bail.

    Pearl necklaces are often graduated and can come in any of the lengths we mentioned previously. Coral, ivory, bakelite, and turquoise are often incorporated into this necklace style. 

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    Edwardian diamond lavalliere
    DEA / A. DAGLI ORTI / Getty Images

    A lavaliere necklace is a feminine pendant necklace that connects a dainty chain to a larger focal piece. That main pendant also has smaller embellishments dangling from it.

    This necklace style was popular during the Art Nouveau, Edwardian, and Art Deco jewelry eras. These delicate pendants look best with light, feminine, and even bohemian fashions. They are usually princess length and will sit right below the collarbone, so any neckline will work well. 

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    Antique locket
    Jenene Chesbrough/Getty Images

    A locket is a small compartment pendant that can hold a small picture or memento. These pendants are personal, sentimental, and are often passed down for generations. Lockets were popular during the Victorian era and were often engraved and filled with a loved one's hair. 

    Lockets look best with opera length chains but usually come standard with an 18" princess chain. Pair a longer locket with a minimal necklace that is choker length. 

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    Multi Strand

    Multi-strand necklace style
    Jasmin Awad/EyeEm/Getty Images

    Multi-strand necklaces are composed of multiple strands connected by a single enclosure. This style is common for pearl necklaces and other beaded strands. 

    A multi-strand pearl necklace will look best in either a choker or collar length. This way, the strands will lay flat and not twist. 

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    Negligee necklace

    A negligee necklace shouldn't be confused with the negligee nightgowns. This style necklace originated in the early 19th century as part of the Edwardian era.

    The main focus of the necklace is two irregular, asymmetrical drops that are connected to the central pendant. These necklaces are generally longer in length.   

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    Pendant by J. Hoffmann, 1906-1907; silver and opal pendant by Koloman Moser called Kolo, 1904; gilded silver, ivory and coral pendant by Oscar Dietrich for E. J. Margold, 1912; enameled gold and silver pendant by Carl Witzman,1908.
    DEA/G. NIMATALLAH/Getty Images

    A pendant necklace can come in many shapes and styles. Pendants are focal points that dangle off a chain of any length. Popular pendant styles include lockets and lavalieres.

    Pendants are easily personalized. Initial pendants make great gifts and are often worn close to the heart. Looking for something simple? Consider a solitaire diamond pendant or birthstone pendant for a necklace that won't overpower your wardrobe. 

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    Oval precious stones, diamonds and gold demi parure consisting of riviere necklace, brooch and earrings
    DEA / L. DOUGLAS / Getty Images

    A rivière is a necklace comprised of one or two rows of precious or semiprecious gemstones. These stones gradually become smaller in size as they reach the back. These are often collar length or princess length. 

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    Lapis lazuli waist necklace with gold and silver elements. Part of parure together with earrings created for Gabriele D'Annunzio, by Mario Buccellati, 1930s.
    DEA/A. DAGLI ORTI/Getty Images

    Sautoir is a fancy term used by the French to describe a long necklace with an ornamental pendant at the bottom. These ornaments often included a fringe or tassel and were opera length or longer. These necklaces became popular during the beginning of the twentieth century as part of the Art Deco movement.

    These necklaces are so long that they've been worn in a number of different ways. You might find them worn as a headpiece, double into two, or even wrapped around an arm and worn as a bracelet.