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 a necklace is helpful for planning the amount of pearls you will need each year. Because cultured pearls are measured in millimeters , it can be confusing to covert millimeters to inches to figure out lengths which we describe in inches. On top of that, cultured pearls are measured in millimeters to the nearest ½ mm whereas natural pearls are measured to the nearest 1/10th mm. So, let us break this down to simplify the process of understanding how many pearls you will need. The total number of pearls needed to create a pearl necklace can be esitmated based on a couple of factors. The factors to consider are the pearl size, style of your necklace such as graduated or uniform and the length of pearl necklace you would like to own. 

Pearl Size

Cultured pearl necklaces are available in varying 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. Either way, the number of pearls needed to build a pearl necklace will depend on the size of the pearls you elect to use. If you use smaller pearls, you wil need many more pearls to complete a necklace than if you opted for larger pearls. The most common size of 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 want to decide on whether to create a uniform where all the pearls are approximately the same size or a graduated style where the pearls taper from the largest pearls in the center down to the smallest pearls near the clasp. With a graduated necklace, there is less variability in lengths and pearl sizes. Typically, graduated necklaces will be 16 inches using approximately 85 pearls. Graduated necklaces made up of Japanese Akoya pearls can have at least 3mm or 4mm differentiation from clasp to center, A uniform necklace refers to necklaces containing pearls of the same size or within .5mm, from as small as 3mm to 8.5mm.

Necklace Length

You should give some thought to the length of necklace you would like to create. Typically, a 16 inch necklace is considered the standard length that fits comfortably around most adults. Most pearl necklaces, especially Add-A-Pearls, are very easy to make longer or shorter simply by adding or removing a couple 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 inch 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 also is 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 easy to wear with high collars, turtlenecks or mock necks. It can also be worn with lower cut V-necks or scoop classic length for pearl.

Matinee: 22 – 24 inches. A Matinee necklace hangs long enough that it can easily be worn over a sweater of 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 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 varying length gold chains or pendants 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 may options for those looking for fashion-forward style!

long strand of pearls doubled and clasped on the side

For it’s optimum versatility , we’ll use 16 inches as the standard length for the purpose of defining the number of pearls needed to fill necklace. 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 always easy to do! Our expert pearl stringers can accommodate your requests to create a pearl necklace that’s perfect for you.


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