There are SO many types of necklaces out there! Today we’re going to define and take a look at examples of thirty-five different styles of necklaces. Once you realize how many styles are out there, it’s great to know the differences and see which styles look best for different outfits and different occasions. We’ve broken this list up into two categories: necklaces characterized by length and necklaces characterized by style.
For every style we define, we’ll give you an example from Amazon that you can check out. Let’s get started!
Let’s Start With Length
Many of the styles that we’ll talk about later in this post will refer back to this section when discussing their length. We’ve got six categories of necklace length:
Collar: 12" – 14”
Did you know that not every necklace that wraps flush to your neck is a choker? Even shorter in length than a choker, a collar necklace is typically no longer than 14” and rests just above the collarbone. True to its name, most collar necklaces are thick in width, resembling the collar of a shirt. Collar necklaces will always draw the attention to the head and neckline, making this style ideal for off-the-shoulder outfits, and can also work with turtlenecks or V-necks.
Choker: 14" – 16”
Every 90’s kid remembers the choker! Chokers may sit high on the neck like a collar or may drape just below the collarbone. Chokers are generally less ornate in design than collars, and much thinner in width. Chokers can complement virtually any neckline. They draw attention to the neck, but since they can hang a couple of inches lower than a collar, the style is far more versatile.
Princess: 16" – 18”
Princess necklaces fall a few inches below the base of the neck. Pendants on this length necklace will rest high on the sternum. This length is popular for designs like small pendants and pearl necklaces. Princess necklaces are not garish or overwhelming, and they too can complement any outfit. Princess length is the most common these days for everyday wear. It’s hard to go wrong with this length.
Matinee: 20" – 24”
Matinee necklaces reach around the center of the bust and are typically defined by a singular, simple chain. This length layers beautifully with additional necklaces like a princess or a choker. Alone, this length pairs well with high necklines on minimally embellished clothing, letting the length and simplicity of design stand out. If you add a matinee to highly ornate clothing, it’s likely to get lost visually. It will stand out better if paired with shorter necklaces, however. So if your outfit is more embellished, consider adding a strand or two!
Opera: 30" – 36”
Opera necklaces tend to fall just below the bust line, around the base of the sternum. This length directs attention to the torso rather than the neck or head. Like the matinee, the great length of the opera necklace pairs best with minimal other adornments. Opera necklaces are most often worn in formal settings, such as against a long black dress.
Rope: 36” or longer
The longest necklace lengths are referred to as rope necklaces. Measuring 36’ or longer, rope necklaces fall approximately to the waistline or further. It’s common to wear these necklaces with the same styles as the opera. Many also choose to double up their rope necklaces, creating a double strand princess-length necklace. While a rope necklace hanging at its full length will look better with formal wear, doubling it up can make it a bit more casual and allow you to pair it with more outfit options.
Styles and Types of Necklaces
First, we’re going to look at several varieties of a classic style, the chain necklace. Chains are one of the most popular types of necklaces out there. Chances are if you enjoy wearing necklaces, you probably have a chain or two in your jewelry box. Chain necklaces vary across the board in length, material, and overall style. They may be worn alone or adorned with charms or pendants. Adorned or not, chain necklaces are extremely versatile and can be a simple way to dress up any outfit! Let’s dive in.
Link chains are defined by long oval-shaped links, just shy of rectangular in shape. This shape creates a unique but simple texture. This is style is one of the most basic, lending itself well to pendants or wearing alone. Link chains are common for choker-length chains, adding a chill vibe to casual outfits.
As the name implies, box links are, well, box-shaped. These petite squares are strung together creating a smooth design. Box chains are quite durable, the links are difficult to break and even if one does, the chain can be repaired easily with or without the faulty link. Box chains, however, do not lend themselves well to charms or pendants. The style is thicker and chunkier than most other styles of chains, so if you’re looking for a sleek chain, perhaps consider another style.
The links of a rope chain are created with a graceful, woven design that resembles a rope. The pattern twists slightly in order to truly mimic an actual rope. The resulting texture is quite elegant and looks lovely alone or with a pendant attached. Rope chains are extremely durable and one of the heaviest varieties of chains.
Snake chain links are wavy, shaped either like an S or a Z. These shapes allow the links to be flush against each other, creating a smooth, woven design. These chains are named for their similar texture and flexibility to that of a snake.
A herringbone is comprised of V-shaped links, pressed together in alternating directions. The resulting texture is similar to a snake chain, but the links are pressed even more tightly together. This style is named for the resemblance to the unique bone structure of the herring fish. Click here to check out this style on Amazon.
Following the snake and the herringbone, the omega chain may be the smoothest of them all. They’re made up of thick, flat links that are crimped together, giving them a fairly rigid structure. Snake, herringbone, and omega chains are your best bets if you’re looking for a smooth (rather than textural) addition to any outfit.
Cable chains are a classic, made up of interlocking oval links of the same size. They are fairly similar to the link chain, but are purely oval-shaped rather than rectangular. Cable links lend themselves well to delicate pendants.
Similar to the cable chain, marine chains are also made up of oval links. However, these oval links each have a horizontal bar across their center, creating a very distinct pattern. It’s named for its similarity to the chains that hold anchors in place. Mariner chains may be flat or the links may be puffed, making them quite thick and boxy.
The Figaro chain is a type of curb chain, meaning the linked are curved where they interlock, so the chain can lie flat. The Figaro specifically is made up of these curved links of varying lengths, usually following a pattern with longer links alternating with the shorter ones. Figaro chains shine in silver and gold, adding both a lovely shape and sleekness to a variety of outfits.
Wheat chains are made up of twisted oval links that are braided together, creating a classy textural look. Like the rope chain, wheat chains are quite sturdy and can be worn alone just as well as with a pendant. Both looks can be made casual or formal.
Bead chains are just as the name suggests – they’re made up of small metal balls strung together. Some are designed with the beads touching each other and some allow spaces between the beads. Bead chains don’t stand up particularly well on their own and are typically worn with some kind of pendant attached. Bead chains are quite commonly paired with dog tags or similar casual styles. They don’t tend to pair well with formal wear.
And onto the rest! The following styles are in leagues of their own, defined by unique characteristics rather than by length alone.
Festoon necklaces are a vintage style, characterized by ornate draping elements. The main chain of a festoon is usually no longer than choker length, so the draped elements rest beneath the collarbones. This style is usually decorated with gemstones and perhaps pearls. A festoon makes a great statement necklace, usually best suited to formal wear. The ornate nature of this style doesn’t lend itself as well to casual, everyday wear.
The term “graduated” in this sense can refer to either the size of beads or gems on a necklace or the lengths of strands, if the necklace has multiple strands. With a singular strand of beads, a graduated necklace is defined by the size of the beads, as they start small at the clasp and grow in size as they approach the other side. There are also necklaces with multiple strands of beads whose lengths increase. Both of these are considered graduated necklaces.
A single strand graduated necklace is usually about princess length, lending itself well to any outfit. A multi-strand graduated necklace could also conceivably work with most styles but will depend on the materials making up the necklace. A beaded graduated necklace will work best with casual wear, while say a pearl graduated necklace will pair better with formal wear.
Many people use “rope” and “lariat” interchangeably regarding necklaces, but this isn’t quite the case. While all lariats are ropes by length, not all ropes are lariats by style. A lariat is defined by a clasp-free necklace that drapes like a scarf – it may be tied in place or have a lasso-like design where one strand is threaded through a filter on the other, as displayed in our example. The threaded strand hangs below the other, creating a Y-shaped look.
An easy benefit of the lariat is that you can alter the length of a lariat simply by pulling the first strand further in or out of the filter, taking the focal point lower or higher on your body, to your preference. You can also double up a lariat to create a matinee or princess length, or wrap it multiple times around the neck to make it choker length.
The lavalier shines in bohemian fashion, characterized by a thin chain that has a larger focal point hanging below it. This focal point is usually a large pendant of sorts, decorated with gemstones and possibly draping elements like a festoon. The chains that hold these elements are typically fairly thin on a lavalier, drawing all the attention to the focal point.
A long necklace is essentially synonymous with a rope necklace, measuring at least 36 inches in length. Many long necklaces are quite thin, designed to make the wearer look slimmer. The delicacy does pose the risk of the necklace getting lost visually, however. It’ll shine best on plain, simple fabrics.
These next two are pretty self-explanatory. A long pendant necklace will reach approximately the waistline or lower, sporting a pendant of any kind. Long pendants are quite versatile and can work well with both casual and formal outfits.
And then there’s the short pendant! Short, in this case, refers to any length that’s a princess or shorter. Princess length is extremely popular for shorter pendant necklaces, on which the pendant rests a few inches below the collarbones.
We all know the locket! A locket is any small pendant that acts as a compartment, which can hold a small photo or other mementos. Lockets have been around for centuries and are often passed down through generations, as they can hold deep sentimental value. You’ll usually find lockets on princess length chains, though opera length can be a popular option too.
And then there’s the pendant. We’ve already mentioned pendants extensively in this post – a pendant is any focal point that hangs off of a necklace. Every locket and charm of whatever design is a pendant. Pendants are easy to personalize and make lovely gifts, perhaps engraved with a monogram or sporting a birthstone.
A plastron necklace makes a heck of a statement! This style is big, heavy, and usually covers the bust. It’s a type of bib necklace, literally meaning it covers your chest as a bib would. Plastrons are usually solid necklaces and can be made of any materials, like silver, wood, or even glass.
This one is pretty self-explanatory – any necklace with a religious symbol featured on it is a religious necklace. These symbols usually come in the form of charms or pendants, such as a crucifix. Religious necklaces are most often simple in design, perhaps using a chain, string, or thread to hold the pendant. Given their purpose, a religious necklace can be worn with any outfit.
A riviere is distinctly classified by having one or two strands of precious gemstones. It’s common for rivieres to be graduated necklaces, with the gemstones growing in size as the distance from the clasp increases. This is a classic style commonly worn with formal attire. Full strands of gems don’t go particularly well with casual outfits.
Sautoir is a French term used to describe an opera (or longer) length necklace sporting an ornamental pendant. These necklaces gained popularity during the Art Deco movement in the 1920s. The pendants are large and ornate, and may also feature a tassel or fringe or sorts. Sautoirs are usually paired with formal wear, but are quite versatile regarding how they are worn – it’s common to see this style doubled up as a princess-length necklace, worn as a headpiece, or worn as a bracelet, wrapped around the arm several times.
A statement necklace is a general term, referring to any bold, large necklace. No subtlety here! Necklaces like festoons and plastrons will usually fall into this category. Statement necklaces act as particularly excellent focal points on plain fabrics, and it’s most common to wear them for more formal occasions. But depending on the style and materials used on a statement necklace, they can absolutely be pulled off with casual outfits too.
A string necklace is any necklace made up of one or multiple strands of strings. The strings can be made of any material, like strings of beads, leather, or linen cord. Plain strings of fabric or linen cord may be worn alone or threaded with additional beads or gems. This style, often using fabrics rather than metals, is usually better suited to casual outfits and outings.
Many use string necklace and thread necklace interchangeably, but the thread necklace is distinguished by material – thread, of course. String necklaces are strings of any material, thread necklaces are an only thread. Threads come in every color, and these necklaces are usually tied at the neckline rather than using a clasp. Thread necklaces are super simple in style and go with just about everything! Thread necklaces may be incredibly thin or woven into thick strands.
Torque necklaces are extremely unique, basically solid metal chokers that rest on the shoulders. Torque necklaces are open on one side, usually the back, coming to a point in the front. Some are rounded in the back and open in the front. This style is definitely better suited to formal wear. These would look quite out of place with a casual outfit.
Twisted necklaces are – surprise! – made up of twisted strands. Chain necklaces and beaded necklaces are common choices to twist. Twisted chains are particularly unique, giving yet another classy layer of texture to these styles. Whatever the material, twisted necklaces are classy but still casual, complementing the great majority of outfits.
There you have it! Knowing which lengths and styles pair best with different outfits can help you pick out the most flattering necklace for any occasion. Now your necklace selection process will be far more informed, and you can go searching with the knowledge of exactly what you’re looking for. Happy shopping!