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Necklaces may very well have been the first form of “jewelry” worn by early humans. During that time, they would have been made from bones, feathers, shells and other natural materials.

Today, necklaces are a staple piece that can be worn with anything from a casual t-shirt at the beach to a custom-made formal gown for a gala event. Bones and feathers have long since been replaced with gold, silver, pewter, palladium, titanium and other metals, and they range from dainty and delicate chains to large, gem-laden pieces worth millions of dollars.

Finding the Right Necklace

When shopping for necklaces, it’s good to know the various lengths and categories so they can be paired properly with clothing and other accessories. First, here are the general classifications for length, from shortest to longest:

-Collar necklaces are 12-14” long and, as the name implies, hug the neck closely. They are often worn together with a longer necklace, and they go well with low necklines and off-the-shoulder tops.

-Chokers, just a couple inches longer than collars, sit high on the neck. They can be worn with just about anything — traditional, casual or modern — and range from thin chains to thick pieces made of leather, fabric, beads, rhinestones, gold, silver, etc. They have long been the choice of women of wealth and privilege and are popular today as part of a bridal ensemble.

-Princess necklaces are 17-20” in length, which means they work well with high neckline tops and dresses as well as v-necks and blazers.

-Matinee necklaces sit between the collarbone and bust, and their length makes them ideal for layering with either shorter or longer necklaces. If worn with a v-neck or low neckline, they will draw the eye to the bust area. So some women prefer to wear matinee length necklaces with turtlenecks and shirts and blouses with higher necklines.

-Opera necklaces are 25-35” in length and fall below the bust line. They can be layered with other necklaces or doubled to create a shorter, multi-layered necklace. Opera length works well with anything from casual to formal and with various types of necklines.

-Lariat necklaces sit below the belly button if worn as a single strand, and because of their length they can be doubled and even tripled. Lariats usually don’t have a clasp; the two ends are simply tied together or pulled through a circular finding to achieve the desired length. They have long been popular with Western wear, but lariat necklaces are quite versatile and can be paired with many different styles.

Popular Styles of Necklaces

Along with length, necklaces can be categorized by style. These styles have ebbed and waned in popularity throughout history, but have never been completely abandoned as old-fashioned or out-of-date. All of these styles can still be worn today.

-Bib necklaces have a broad front section that covers most of the chest area and a thin cord that goes around the back of the neck. They can be made from beads, gemstones, fabric, metals and other colorful baubles. Bib necklaces attract a lot of attention and are most definitely “statement” pieces.

-Bayadere necklaces have a braided form and are generally made from pearls or beads. They were quite popular in the 18th and 19th centuries and create a definite vintage look.

-Festoon necklaces are highly decorative and have swags or drapes of chain, beads or metal bindings. They are bright and colorful and were quite popular during the Gilded Age.

-Pendant necklaces have a single charm that hangs from them. The pendant can be made of metal or precious stones and can range from small and dainty to large and ornate.

-Sautoir necklaces are quite long and are usually made of beads, pearls or chains. The necklace suspends a pendant, tassel or other similar ornaments. They range from simple and understated to very elaborate.