The length of the bead necklaces

Over time official standard lengths for necklaces were developed.

They have official, often romantic names:

Choker About 16" (40 cm)
Princess 18" (45 cm)
Matinee 24" (60 cm)
Opera 32" (80 cm)
Lariat or Rope 47" (120 cm) or longer.

As we see the length of the necklaces can vary from fitting closely around the neck to reaching the hips.

In choosing a necklace, particularly the shorter lengths, it makes a great deal of difference whether the neck is small, medium, or large. To wear a short necklace just around the neck, its length has to vary from 15" (38 cm) till 24" (60 cm)! depending on the measurements of the lady. Your neck size can be accurately ascertained by placing a piece of cord around the base of the throat- it should meet but not be drawn tight- and than measuring the cord by a measuring tape. If necessary, ask for help.

Chokers and short necklaces are often made with extension chains to fit any size neck.
These extension chains are very practical but they have a disadvantage: The chain will elongate only one half of the necklace, so the clasp will not be centered anymore in the neck. This can cause problems with a necklace which is strung in a symmetrical pattern. Furthermore, a part of the necklace will be replaced by chain, which interrupts the continuity of the beads in the neck and makes it less beautiful, especially with a short hair-dress.

If you do prefer a certain type of length, just measure your favorite necklace with a household measurement tape, do not forget the extra length provided by the clasp and its surrounding. Write it down and put the little note in your purse.

A short necklace like Chokers, fitting closely around the throat, takes the form of a circle, a longer necklace like Princess, takes a V form and fits often beautifully an open blouse.

A length of 32" (80 cm) or more is often problematic for the fuller bosom, because the necklace will take its place or between or around the breasts. In a funny way the actress Julie Andrews shows this in the film "Thoroughly modern Millie". This film is situated during the "Roaring Twenties", the time of the Charleston, when the so called flapper bead necklaces of 60" (150 cm) or more of length and a flat bosom, provided by the "Garconne look" (Boyish look) were the trend.


A necklace up to 24" (60 cm) will need a fastener, anything over that length will go over the head without opening it. If a necklace longer than 24" (60 cm) does have a clasp, open it when you want to put it off. Your hair will entangle in it while removing the necklace. This is less a problem when putting it on.

With a fastener a necklace of 32" (80 cm) will go twice around the neck and a length of 48" (120 cm) three times (if desired). Without fastener the latter is only possible twice.

The differences in length of the necklaces are directly related to the different fashion trends.Bare-neck and bare-shoulder costumes, always a fashion in warm climates, made some kind of necklace a decorative necessity. More examples: Around 1900 we see necklaces made of many strands of small pearls closely fitting around the neck, clasped in a single clasp and they were nicknamed dog collars. During the Twenties of the twentieth century there were the very long Charleston necklaces, just mentioned above. There are the short necklaces of the Thirties and Fifties and long necklaces of the Sixties and Seventies again. At the end of the Forties dresses showed bare backs, so long necklaces, especially pearls, were worn on the "wrong" side.

In fact, a necklace with a pendant has two different lengths you have to take into account: the actual length around the neck and the optical length which goes around the neck till the lower point of the pendant. To make it clear: A necklace of lets' say 16" (40 cm) with a pendant of 4" (10 cm) has the optical effect of a necklace of 20" (50 cm) but has to fit around the neck with its 16" (40 cm). The same for a necklace which consists of multiple rows of beads: The inner, shortest, row determines if the necklace fits around the neck, but the outermost row determines the optical effect.

When you wear a necklace we can see of it a third up till its full length, depending the hairdo and clothes. A woman with short or put up hair can show her necklace completely, so a beautiful clasp and/or beautiful beads around it, will have a place of honor. A woman with long hair, wearing a blouse with a V collar or a jacket shows only a third of a short necklace, or even less.
If in these situations you want your necklace really to be seen, it has to be a long one, worn over your clothes.

When you love long necklaces, put them off when coming home. The long necklace easily got stuck behind all kind of things and during dinner can fall into your soup, or will break the plate, or even worse, the plate can break the beads! So while eating use a napkin for protection of the beads or turn the necklace to your back until finished.

However, a short necklace you can wear the whole day long, even during household chores. When you choose a short necklace, take one of uniform beads or a short repeated theme without a center part. This because a short necklace tends to "walk" around your throat due to the movements of its muscles and tendons, so the center part will not be centered any more.

Antique choker necklace, nicknamed Dog Collar, made of glass pearls and gilded copper with crystals embellished clasp, ca.1900, length 13.5'' 34cm. Antique hand knotted glass bead flapper necklace, also called Charleston necklace, 1920's, length 63'' 160cm. Cheerful modern multicolor bead necklace with extension chain, made of glass beads, various metal elements and glass crystals, ca.2010, length 16.5'' 42cm. Vintage handmade necklace with big pendant, made of German wooden beads and silver color chain, 1960's, length necklace 16'' 40cm., pendant h.4.3'' 11cm, w.2'' 5cm.





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Bead Necklace