Pearls are rarer when they are produced naturally but while cultured pearls are quite affordable, their quality is in no way inferior to that of natural pearls. To an untrained eye, it is very difficult to tell a natural pearl from its cultured cousin. The only way to differentiate is probably to use x-ray where a ‘nucleus’ will be spotted in the cultured variety.
Some of the more common types of pearls used in necklaces are Mikimoto, Akoya, Tahitian and South Sea Pearls. Mikimoto is the highest quality pearls and come in different colors. Akoya pearls often come in white, cream or silver while Tahitian and South Sea pearls have darker colors. Saltwater pearls are more expensive than freshwater pearls.
Choosing pearl necklace lengths
Choosing the right length of pearl necklace depends upon the wearer’s age, neck size and overall body composition. In general, long necklaces tend to elongate the neck and draw attention away from it, as opposed to shorter-length ones which flatter longer necks. Here are the different lengths of pearl necklaces recommended for every woman’s unique need:
Collar – typically 10 to 13 inches long and are quite flexible either for evening wear or casual day wear. These are worn high on the neck, above the base. Another style is the dog collar, which is made of several strands, quite popular in the Victorian era and slowly making a comeback.
Choker – 16 to 18 inches long, chokers surround the base of the neck. A good choice for ladies with long, thin necks because chokers can de-emphasize the throat’s length.
Princess – at 17 to 20 inches long, this is the most popular length, classic enough to match any outfit or neckline.
Matinee – 20 to 24 inches long. These work well worn with dresses, business suits and corporate wear and are a great choice for occasions requiring semi-formal wear.
Opera – 28 to 34 inches long, usually worn during formal events and occasions. Because of its length, this pearl necklace may be doubled to form two strands. When worn as is, it should ideally reach below the bust line.
Rope or sautoir – the longest, starting at 37 inches, worn best with pantsuits. Rope-length pearls don’t have to hang from the wearer’s neck alone. They could be doubled or knotted for more style flexibility. Some even come with multiple clasps, which allow the wearer to use the necklace in shorter lengths.
Short necks will do well wearing pearl strands that sit at least 2″ below the collarbone while thick or heavy necks will look good in graduated chains with lengths beginning at 18″. Long thin necks are flattered by shorter lengths, especially those that sit at the base of neck, following the curve of the throat.
Fleshy necks look better in necklaces that lie below the base, especially if the strand is segmented or comes with a square, rectangular or any pointed pendant. Necks that are wide at the base need necklaces that are at least 1″ below the collarbone or longer strands.
Other pearl necklace styles
Other styles of pearl necklaces are the bib which, as the name implies, covers the base of the neck and the upper part of the chest in several strands of varying lengths. Another option is the graduated necklace which consists of pearls in graduated lengths, usually with the biggest pearl/s in the middle. A popular style is the uniform necklace where pearls of similar size are strung together.
Choosing pearl colors and size
While white, cream, pink or silver pearls generally will look good on anyone, they can best enhance fairer skin. Gold or yellow pearls will look best on darker-toned skin.
Generally, younger women should wear smaller pearls. At this point in their lives, they could show off their youthful necks with smaller-sized chains and pendants. Older women may want to use longer-length pearl necklaces to draw attention away from their necks. They can also wear bigger pearls with wider, double- or triple-strand chains.