How Many Pearls are in a Necklace?

bride wearing a full strand of white cultured pearls with lace wedding dress and veil

Knowing how many pearls you will need to complete your new Add-A-Pearl cultured pearl necklace will help you plan the amount of pearls you will need to purchase for your loved one each year. These necklaces make excellent gifts for birthdays, graduations, first communions, weddings, engagements, and more.

Cultured pearls are measured in millimeters, so you may feel confused when trying to convert millimeters to inches while planning for necklace lengths, which are measured in inches. To make matters even more complicated, cultured pearls are measured in millimeters to the nearest ½ mm, whereas natural pearls are measured to the nearest 1/10th mm.

Of course, you want to make sure that your pearl necklace gift is perfect, so you're likely planning ahead of time to ensure the best result. But you should also know that pearl necklaces can always be modified and adjusted. A person's tastes and lifestyle can change over time, so their jewelry should be able to change as well.

Luckily, we know that the total number of pearls you'll need to create a pearl necklace can be estimated based on a couple of factors. The factors to consider are the pearl size, the style of your necklace, and the length of pearl necklace you would like to own. Continue reading to learn more about each of these factors and how to navigate them.

Pearl Size

Cultured pearl necklaces are available in a variety of pearl sizes. You can choose to build a pearl necklace using all small-size pearls to create a dainty piece of jewelry, or you might prefer a bold look of larger pearls closer to 8 or 8.5mm in diameter.

Either way, the number of pearls that you'll need to build a pearl necklace will depend on the size of the pearls you elect to use. If you use smaller pearls, you will obviously need many more pearls to complete a necklace than if you opt for larger pearls. As a reference point, the most common size of the pearls on a cultured pearl necklace is 6 or 6.5mm.

Graduated or Uniform Style

Eventually, once you decide to build an Add-A-Pearl necklace, you will want to decide on whether to create a uniform or graduate-style necklace. On a uniform necklace, all the pearls are approximately the same size or within .5mm, from as small as 3mm to as large as 8.5mm.

On a graduated-style necklace, the pearls taper from the largest pearls in the center to the smallest pearls, which are situated near the clasp. On a graduated pearl necklace, you will see less variability in lengths and pearl sizes. Typically, graduated necklaces will be 16 inches and use approximately 85 pearls. Graduated necklaces made up of Japanese Akoya pearls can have at least 3mm or 4mm differentiation from clasp to center.

Whether you choose a uniform or graduated style necklace will depend on your own personal preference and how you imagine the necklace being worn. Graduated pearl necklaces tend to look more "vintage", since the graduated style was highly popular in the 1940s and 50s. Uniform pearl necklaces can tend to look more luxurious, since matching pearls of the same size can be difficult and costly. While graduated necklaces are typically reserved for special occasion wear, uniform necklaces can be worn everyday; however, exceptions to this rule always exist.

Necklace Length

In addition to considering pearl size and necklace style, you should give some thought to the length of necklace you would like to create for your loved one. Typically, a 16 inch necklace is considered the standard length that fits comfortably around most adult necks. Most pearl necklaces, especially Add-A-Pearl necklaces, are very easy to make longer or shorter simply by adding or removing a couple of extra pearls until the desired length is achieved. The average lengths, generally refer to knotted necklaces.

Let’s take a look at the different pearl necklace lengths and the best ways they can be worn.

various lengths of pearl necklaces shown on a neck display

Choker: 14-16 inches

The choker is referred to as the traditional style necklace. Not to be confused with a tighter, high-fitted collar, the choker usually fits comfortably around the base of the neck and looks very elegant. A 16 inch necklace provides the most versatility for wearing a pearl necklace with a variety of necklines and outfits and is the most common length for a traditional pearl necklace typically worn by brides on their wedding day. This length is also ideal for today’s trend of layering and wearing several necklaces all at once.

a choker is considered the traditional style necklace

Princess: 17 – 19 inches

The Princess length is a common length that's easy to wear with high collars, turtlenecks or mock necks. It can also be worn with lower-cut v-necks or scoop necks.

Matinee: 22 – 24 inches

A Matinee necklace hangs long enough that it can easily be worn over a sweater or a high-collar shirt. The Matinee style will hang gracefully over a blouse for work or transition easily with everything from a tank-dress to a little black dress.

Opera: 26-35 inches

The opera length offers versatility to be worn in several ways. Typically, longer pearl necklaces were worn with more formal dress, but more recently the trend of layering different styles of necklaces and mixing costume jewelry with fine jewelry has swung the pendulum back in favor of pearls among fashionistas. Longer necklaces can be styled with several gold chains or pendants in varying lengths to create a trendy vibe.

Rope: 36 inches or longer

This glamorous length can be worn multiple ways. It can be tied in a knot toward the bottom of the necklace for a jazz-age look. It can be clasped on the side or doubled and clasped in front to create a double-strand. If the entire rope of pearls is clasped in two places, it can be separated and worn as a bracelet or necklace. A double win! Some ropes are even worn draped down the back of an open-back dress or gown. Ropes offer many options for those looking for fashion-forward style!

long strand of pearls doubled and clasped on the side

For it’s optimum versatility and the purpose of this blog post, we’ll use the 16 inch cultured pearl necklace example as the standard length. The number of pearls shown is based on a necklace that is strung on silk thread with individual knots between each pearl. Once your necklace is a full strand of pearls, your clasp will add some extra length.

Keep in mind, adjusting your pearl necklace is easy to do. Each person has a different comfort level, and our pearl necklaces are meant to be customized to suit each individual exactly how they like.

Here are the approximate number of pearls needed to build a classic 16 inch necklace based on various pearl sizes. For graduated necklaces please see the suggested plan here. For the purpose of this blog, we are referring to pearl necklaces consisting of white, round cultured pearls.

how many pearls it takes to build a necklace

Depending on the style of clasp you choose. Our classic filigree clasp is approximately ¼’ long.

As always, variations are easy to do! Our expert pearl stringers can accommodate your requests to create a pearl necklace that’s perfect for you. To start building your own Add-A-Pearl cultured pearl necklace, visit this page.


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