How to Find the Right Necklace Length

How to Find the Right Necklace Length

Ever put on a necklace and felt something was just off? Maybe it didn't sit right with your outfit or it didn't feel quite right on your neckline. Finding the perfect necklace length can be a bit like Goldilocks' quest—too short, too long, or just right.

As jewelry experts with over 50 years of experience selling fine antique jewelry, we’re frankly a bit obsessed with this intertwining of historical elegance with personal style. Thankfully, you don’t need decades to find the perfect pendant – selecting the ideal necklace length is an art that any jewelry collector can master.

Victorian 14K Yellow Gold Diamond Locket

Understanding Necklace Lengths

First things first, let's break down the basic necklace lengths you'll encounter:

  1. Choker (14-16 inches): Sits tightly around the neck.
  2. Princess (17-19 inches): Hangs around the collarbone.
  3. Matinee (20-24 inches): Falls just above the bust.
  4. Opera (28-26 inches): Dips below the bust or can be doubled for a layered look.

Each length can create a different look and serve different styles, but how do you choose the best one for you?


Victorian 18K Yellow Gold Book Chain & Victorian Etruscan Revival Locket

Matching Necklace Length to Your Neckline

The neckline of your outfit plays a pivotal role in determining the ideal necklace length. Longer chains, like matinee or opera lengths, create a vertical line that elongates the torso and draws the eye down, which can be particularly flattering with blouses or dresses with higher necklines.

To maximize their impact, match these longer necklaces with simpler, streamlined clothing that allows the piece to stand out as a central feature of your ensemble.

Shorter necklaces, like chokers and princess lengths, bring attention to your neck and collarbone. Both styles work best when they are the focal point of your ensemble, so pair them with minimalistic earrings and avoid overly busy patterns to let those shorter necklaces shine.

Victorian Etruscan Revival Cameo Pendant

What Necklace Length Signaled in the Victorian Era

Did you know necklace lengths were more than just a fashion statement back then? They were loaded with social and personal significance.

Chokers and Class
Queen Alexandra, the wife of Edward VII, was known for her love of chokers. She wore them to cover a small scar on her neck, but they quickly became a symbol of aristocratic style. For the Victorian woman, donning a choker was akin to flashing a diamond-studded VIP pass.

Alexandra of Denmark, Source - Wikimedia Commons

Sentimental Lockets
Lockets were incredibly popular during this time, often worn on princess or matinee lengths. These weren't just pretty trinkets; they held photos, hair, or even tiny love letters. Wearing a locket close to the heart was both a fashion statement and a deeply personal gesture.

Mourning Jewelry
Victorians had a unique approach to mourning, and it extended to their jewelry. Black necklaces made of jet or onyx were worn to signify grief. The lengh of these necklaces varied, but they often adhered to the somber tones and modest lengths suitable for mourning attire.

Cameos and Portrait Necklaces
Cameos and portrait necklaces were another Victorian favorite. These pieces often featured detailed profiles carved from shell or stone, set in gold or silver. The lengths varied but were typically shorter, bringing attention to the intricate craftsmanship and the wearer's neckline.

14K Yellow Gold Mini Diamond Locket & 14K Yellow Gold Diamond Bar Necklace

Choosing the right necklace length is both an expression of your personal style and can even be a nod to historical traditions. While the world of fashion can offer some helpful guidelines, it's important to remember that there are no hard and fast rules.

Where you would your pendant to fall and how comfortable you feel in what you're wearing will always be of the utmost importance.

The best way to get a sense of what length is right for you is to try on some jewelry and see what lights up your look!