How to Wear a Pearl Necklace

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We often forget that a pearl is just a gemstone as the history of pearls has meant that it’s stepped into a league of its own. I’m sure you’ll agree with me that it’s on par with diamonds, cocktail rings, and hoop earrings as a jewelry box must-have.

Of all the ways to wear pearls, nothing has stood the test of time more than the pearl necklace. They don’t ever go out of fashion and most women will own at least one pearl necklace in their lifetime.


A pearl necklace can be a tricky one to wear especially in your everyday wardrobe so let’s debunk the rules for wearing a pearl necklace.

How to Wear a Pearl Necklace

When you hear “pearl necklace” what usually springs to mind is a classic pearl strand. These can look a little traditional but the pearl necklace is more varied than you realize. There are so many ways to rethink the pearl necklace. You can play around with pearl colors, lengths, and styles to find a necklace that’s going to elevate your look.

1. Hitting on the Right Length

Pearl necklace length

If you love the classic strand then you can play around with the length to get the perfect pearl necklace. Different lengths are good for different occasions and for different body types.

A choker necklace or a princess-length necklace looks cool and easygoing with a strappy top or a Bardot top. You can wear this to a formal occasion or with a casual top and jeans.

Freshwater Pearl Choker Necklace
Freshwater pearl choker necklace. See it here.

Matinee (22-24 inches) is a length that treads the border between formal and casual. If you want to wear a pearl necklace to the office this is the right necklace length to wear with a suit or a work dress.

However, if you’re going to throw yourself into the deep end, go for an opera-length necklace. These are normally 30+ inches in length. The secret to wearing an opera-style pearl necklace is to get the length right for your body shape. Particularly when it comes to the bust, ladies.

If you are on the larger side an opera necklace that is too short can make you appear shorter. Go for a 36+ inches in length which will elongate your figure and give the illusion that you’re a bit taller.

For a woman who is more petite in this area, the best opera-length necklace is 30 inches; anything longer will look too long on you. You can also layer the opera length to create a multi-strand necklace which is perfect for daytime wearing. Making one necklace but with two very different looks.

2. Choosing Your Pearl Size and Shape

A pearl’s size is just another way you can style a pearl necklace to suit your outfit and look.

Triple pearl necklace
Three dainty pearls necklace. See it here.
  • Graduated sizes are very cool and when you think of the way that natural pearls are made and cultured these must be very carefully selected for their size and shape. Graduated pearls can elongate the body as the perspective of the pearl necklace looks different from up close and far away.
  • Scaling the size of the pearls is just one way to shake up this classic piece of jewelry but you can also look out for a pearl necklace with one large pearl instead of lots.
  • Chunky pearls are ideal if you’re looking for something more sculptural as they work better as a single stone on a long pendant necklace or as a statement stone on a choker necklace.
Chunky Pearl Statement Necklace
Chunky pearl statement necklace. See it here.
  • Pearls don’t have to be spherical either, they can be oval and organic in shape; these are known as baroque and conch pearls. This natural asymmetry of these pearls links their shape and creation back to the sea.
  • Conch pearls are naturally oval pink pearls with a glossy exterior and shine that runs throughout the stone. The natural creation of these pink pearls makes them very rare and highly coveted.

3. Choosing Your Pearl Color

Pearls come in many shapes and sizes but they come in colors that you might never have dreamed of; including pink, black, and gold.

Tahitian Black Pearl Necklace
Single Tahitian pearl pendant. See it here.

Even white pearls can look very different from one another. Some have yellow or grey hues which means you can pick your pearl necklace to compliment your skin tone and existing jewelry.

  • If you have a warm skin tone then pearls with a yellow, brown, ivory, or champagne hue are your best friend. Often, those that have a warmer skin tone favor yellow gold.
  • If you have a cool skin tone then silver and white gold jewelry are more likely to be your go-to colors. In that case gray, white, metallic, and blue lusters will complement the cool look of silver jewelry; think of anything that looks a little icy.

4. Not Your Grandmother’s Pearls

If you’re still thinking:

That’s all well and good, but pearls are too lady-like and not to my taste, then there are plenty of pearl necklaces that break all the rules. This style of pearl necklace is distinctly different from your everyday strand.

As pearl necklaces have been getting more playful and edgy they incorporate design features such as unusual cuts and embellishments such as spikes and shark teeth.

A mother-of-pearl flat disc is another way of wearing a pearl necklace without wearing a pearl strand. This is a trend that’s gaining popularity every year with more designers working with flat pearls to create striking, and contemporary twists to such a classic gemstone.

Baroque Pearl Shaker Locket
Baroque pearl shaker necklace. See it here.

Another trendy style is the necklace known as a shaker – made using crushed pearl fragments, the shaker consists of loose stones in a locket. If you didn’t know, pearls are the birthstone for June which makes this design perfect for the June baby that’s been waiting for something different to catch their eye.

The wonderful thing about pearl necklaces is that you can wear them to any occasion as they come in a range of styles and designs.

Matching Your Earrings With a Pearl Necklace

It can be quite awkward to find the right earrings to wear with a pearl necklace. Not everything goes with pearls and your jewelry can look a little messy if you don’t find the right combination. The style of the pearl necklace does not dictate what earrings you can wear but certainly has a large influence.

Unique pearl studs
Try a pair of unique pearl earrings like these ones.

The most obvious place to start is with pearl earrings. Pearl studs and drop earrings are easy pieces to wear on formal occasions. If you want to try something a little different then black pearl studs with rich dark tones can provide a striking contrast to a white pearl necklace.

Black pearls, known as Tahitian pearls, are never truly jet black. They come in purple, green, and blue hues which give real depth and detail to your jewelry. If you like the sound of this, gold and other colored pearl stud earrings will look exotic and unusual as well.

If you’re buying yourself a pair of pearl earrings to match your necklace don’t forget to bring your necklace with you when shopping. This will help you compare the style and the color of pearls to get a good match. Unless you’re buying a set from a jeweler or a synthetic pair, you’re unlikely to get a perfect match.

Pearl dangle earrings
Dangle pearl earrings dress up any outfit. See these here.

However, this is what makes pearls so romantic and favored by vintage lovers. That slight variation from piece to piece tells a story and makes the jewelry look more expensive as the pearls will look genuine.

A simple pairing of pearl earrings and the necklace looks very feminine and sophisticated but perhaps a little too “matchy-match” for some. If the pearl necklace is a strand of pearls you probably want something a little more interesting to keep your jewelry looking modern. If you like the idea of keeping your look simple and sophisticated, diamond stud earrings are considered the little black dress of the jewelry world. A touch of sparkle will contrast the luster of the pearls perfectly.

How to Wear Pearls With a Black Dress

Black dresses in pink background

We have Coco Chanel to thank for the creation of the black dress and pearl combination. This monochromatic contrast of pearly white on black is stylish, romantic, and very classic.

A large opera-style necklace will look best with a simple black dress that does not have a pattern or details such as lace. You can layer an opera necklace to get a multi-strand look or knot the necklace for a nod to a vintage look. Keep your earrings discreet and choose matching studs or another minimalist style to finish off this outfit.

If the black dress has its own details, such as ruffles, or is made from a fabric like brocade then a short or medium-length necklace will be the best choice. A shorter necklace also looks good if your dress is off the shoulder or has strappy sleeves. Take inspiration from the red carpet to see how celebrities mix their pearl necklaces with black dresses.

These are good rules to follow for a formal occasion but what about a casual and day black dress?

V Neck Bodycon Dress
V-neck bodycon dress. See it here.

Use the neckline of a day dress to help you choose a pearl necklace. A crew neckline goes perfectly with a single strand of pearls that is 16-18 inches long. This will neatly follow the neckline of your dress without looking too formal. If you want to wear a V-neck or something that’s with a plunging neckline then a double strand that is 18-20 inches will look ladylike and not too dressed up.

Pearl pendant necklaces, with a single pearl charm, will be an easy choice with any black dress in the day as you can wear this like you would any other pendant necklace.

The bottom line…

Hopefully, you now know that pearls are not just for formal occasions; you can wear them during the day and to work or for any occasion.

Remember the secret to wearing a pearl necklace is to consider the color, luster, and hue of the pearls and pick a necklace length to compliment your outfit and body type.

If you haven’t already, it’s time you invested in a good pearl necklace! It never goes out of style!

Dani Rhys

Dani Rhys has worked as a writer and editor for over 15 years in the jewelry niche. She holds a Masters degree in Linguistics and Education. She has always been interested in expression through fashion and accessories, and her extensive experience in the field has made her a respected voice in jewelry trends and education. As the chief editor of Jewelry Shopping Guide, she not only leads the content strategy but also shares her insights through engaging articles. Her passion for storytelling is reflected in every piece she curates, exploring the intricate relationship between jewelry and personal identity.

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