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The Perfect Necklace

necklace.jpg"Know, first, who you are; and then adorn yourself accordingly." —Epictetus

If there were ever a woman who knew who she was and adorned herself accordingly, surely it was Marie Antoinette, Queen of France and unapologetic paragon of fashion excess. Her downfall is commonly traced back to an extravagant diamond necklace she refused to purchase.

A 20th century Antoinette, Elizabeth Taylor—whose movie roles have, over time, been eclipsed by her jewelry—also clearly knew who she was, and she encouraged and embraced the excess of the necklace. She demanded that her jewelers and lovers knew who she was, too, and despite her petite frame, Taylor wore her lavish necklaces like royalty ... and rarely turned one down.

Throughout history, the necklace has captured the imagination of women, their suitors and jewelers alike. Originally designed as a way to carry cash (beads and links were used as currency), the necklace evolved over the centuries into pure decoration, worn to call attention to a woman’s most feminine attributes: the graceful line of her neck, the elegance of her collarbone, the seduction of her décolletage.

Jewelers love the necklace because it allows their imagination and skill free rein to create pieces without concern for size or weight. Rings can only be so large before they become unwieldy, bracelets only so wide before detail is lost in a curve, and earrings only so heavy with jewels before they topple the woman they adorn.

If we are to learn from history, as instructed, then what are the lessons to be learned from Antoinette and Taylor (besides "If you have the means, buy the necklace," and "Choose wealthy lovers," of course)?

Answer: Whatever style you choose, wear it with confidence.

But how to choose your style? Are there any necklace guidelines? Are diamonds acceptable for brunch? Should religious symbols ever be encrusted with anything? Are pendants caught in cleavage sexy, or just uncomfortable for everyone involved? And what can we expect from necklaces in 2009?

Don’t lose your head over it, Marie. We’re here to help.

The Glamour Gal

Style Icons:
Marie Antoinette, Rita Hayworth, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Jennifer Lopez

Favorite Quote: "It’s not the having; it’s the getting."—Elizabeth Taylor

Who Can Wear It: Anyone who can afford it. Do you have a closet dedicated solely to formal evening gowns? Have you attended more than one Inaugural Ball … as an invited guest, not the help? Is your favorite scene in Pretty Woman when Richard Gere opens that box?

Then chances are good that you’ll feel perfectly comfortable in this over-the-top style. These necklaces require an event of the proper magnitude, so if you have more than one in your safe deposit box, you’ll want to load your social calendar with charity balls and dinners. The real trick to pulling this style off is to hold your head high, literally. The classic form can be crafted of gold or platinum, with a multitude of precious gems—diamonds, sapphires, rubies, emeralds or any combination thereof—and generally starts with smaller stones around the sides that gradually grow larger, often ending in a single, magnificent pendant.

Choose simple necklines for the glamour necklace, no overly fussy ruffles or styling that will compete with the real star of the show. If you must wear flashy earrings with it, be sure they’re made specifically to match; otherwise stick to classic studs in a stone found in the necklace.

People will be staring at your chest all night, so pay a little extra attention to it. The skin of the shoulders, neck, chest, and décolletage is delicate, and you should care for it as you do the skin on your face. Exfoliate, moisturize and, if necessary, take advantage of the wealth of dermatologists in Southwest Florida to keep it in tip-top condition to nestle those stunning jewels against.

2009 Update: Diamonds are always in style for the Glamour Gal, but this year look for an increase in "fancy intense" colored diamonds. Forget light canary yellow; these diamonds are almost neon in their brilliance. Fuchsia, violet, scarlet, royal blue and even black diamonds are upstaging their more common white peers as the main stones, though they’re often paired with white diamonds in order to better highlight their intensity. And with blue being the "it" color for early 2009, watch for stunning sapphires to take center stage.

Get The Look:
Congress Jewelers—Sanibel Island, Bonita Springs, Coastland Center, Downtown Naples
Yamron Jewelers—Waterside Shops (Naples), Downtown Naples
De Beers—Waterside Shops

The Classic Lady

Style Icons: Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, Nicole Kidman, Katie Holmes

Favorite Quote: "A woman should dress like a column." —Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

Who Can Wear It: Anyone who’s ever been described as "willowy" or "elegant." Prefer champagne to beer? Delighted with the new high-waisted, wide-legged trousers? Do you know how to pronounce and create
a chignon?

Then the delicate Lady look might be for you. Made of gold, silver, platinum or pearls, the lady’s necklace rarely sports more than one gemstone, and that one in a size decidedly smaller than her head. That doesn’t mean the ladylike necklace has to be diminutive. The key here is quality and a good sense of scale.

A "good sense of scale" in this case means the size of the necklace is appropriate in relation to the size of the woman who’s wearing it, the time of day and occasion, and the outfit it’s worn with. Whatever its size, it should enhance an already elegant dress or blouse (ladies don’t wear ribbed cotton tank tops) and not be the central focus.

A casual boat neck or scoop neck silk tee with a simple gold necklace just skimming the base of the throat is consistently ladylike, as is the quintessential black dress with white pearls, long or short depending upon the neckline. If those pearls happen to be tastefully accented with diamonds, so much the better. And if you want those fussy ruffles the Glamour Gal is barred from, go right ahead. The ruffle continues on into 2009 as the perfect frame for a ladylike updo and delicate necklace.

The Lady skips all but the most elegant pendants. An engraved locket falling mid-chest is ladylike; a bulldog with moveable head and ruby eyes standing on impressive cleavage is not. Religious symbols are always an acceptable and ladylike way to declare your faith, but leave the diamond-encrusted cross or star to your flashier friends. A lady never needs to shout to be heard, and that goes for her necklaces, too.

Feeling ladylike and bold at the same time? Not to worry. You can wear chunkier pieces, but the greater the heft, the more simple the line. A single heavy, open-link chain over a long-lapelled blouse is as ladylike as it gets, while maintaining strong architectural elements. The trick for this look is to keep the other details to a minimum—no loading up with more than one necklace or mixing metals.

The Lady is given special dispensation in Southwest Florida, and can easily get away with a necklace of gold shells, a palm tree pendant or even a platinum sandal during the daytime. Cultured pearls should remain a cool evening look, while their more casual freshwater cousins can be lovely during our warm days.

2009 Update: You are truly Lady Luck this year, as fashions continue to move toward the more feminine. Those ruffles mentioned earlier and soft pleats are used as accents and combine with clean lines along the torso and legs to make for a most ladylike 2009. So break out the single gold or platinum chain, the elegant pendants, the pearls, and be a Lady.

Get The Look:
Tiffany & Co.—Waterside Shops
Cartier—Waterside Shops
Wm. Phelps Custom Jeweler—The Village on Venetian Bay, Naples
José Aragón Jewelers— Downtown Naples
Carlson’s Fine Jewelry—Downtown Naples

The Trendsetter

Style Icons:
Jane Fonda, Twiggy, Gwen Stefani, Sarah Jessica Parker

Favorite Quote: "Attitude is everything." —Diane Von Furstenberg

Who Can Wear It: Those with confidence to spare. Are friends always complimenting, and then trying to emulate, your style (but somehow never quite managing to pull it off as well as you do)? Do you routinely get rid of half of your accessories every year to make room for new ones? Do your daughters and granddaughters love to play dress-up with your cast-offs?

Then accept your Trendsetter crown (tiaras are so 2007). Large, small, precious gems, semi-precious, gold, platinum, silver, pearls, enamel, beading—anything goes as long as it’s fresh and hasn’t trickled down to the 15-year-olds in the mall just yet. You likely don’t need any encouragement to throw your shoulders back and cultivate a knowing smile, but you do need to watch for that fine line between "current" and "cluttered."

Trendy necklaces are supposed to be eye-catching, but then so are trendy clothes, trendy purses, trendy haircuts and trendy shoes. Those with true confidence don’t need to put on every single trendy item to prove they know what’s going on in the world of fashion. If you’re feeling brave enough to wear a bold necklace, then don’t pile on all the other trends at the same time.

The transient nature of trendy necklaces means that you’ll spend less than you would with a finer piece, but, with the emphasis on semi-precious stones this year, you can still expect to covet several in the thousands of dollars. Weigh how many times you think you might wear these pieces before you splurge on too many.

2009 Update: With the Trendsetter it’s really all update, isn’t it?

"Statement" Necklaces: The statement necklace started appearing in 2008, and it’s continuing to show up on runways in 2009. What is it? Think large. Pendants have expanded to salad-plate size, suspended from metal, beaded or natural fiber chains. The bigger the better, and go ahead and wear more than one. Look for interesting semi-precious stones like iolite and garnet studded throughout the supporting necklace as well as being the main feature on the pendant—and exotic animal skin even makes an appearance. Lengths range from mid-chest to mid-hip, but big-busted gals are going to want to be careful about where those massive pendants fall on them in order to avoid an Amazonian breast-plate look.

Tweedy Country: Feeling particularly horsey this year? Wear a hefty rolled metal collar under that tailored silk button-down and tweed blazer. Made of burnished gold or silver, this necklace is as thick as rope and creates a rich but sporty look. Watch for collars with details like precious metal mesh and contrasting metal or semi-precious stone studs.

Mainstream Goth: Yes, the sullen-youth look has made it to the 30-, 40- and 50-year-olds this year, though I predict it’s going to be a tougher sell than some designers believe. Necklaces in this category can be made of anything from gold and silver to brass and bicycle chain. If you’re going to adopt anything at all from this look, go for a "bib" necklace in multiple strands of black beads—snap up onyx this year, designers are loving it—starting at the base of the throat and falling anywhere from the top of the breasts to the waist. Skip the black lipstick, please.

Pearls: The rule this year is The Three "L"s: Large, Layered and Long. Wear quarter-sized pearls, creamy white or colored, draped in multiple strands down to your waist and hips. Watch for multi-colored pieces gathered at the base of the throat and spilling gracefully down your torso.

Eclectic: Mix it up with layered metal. Steal the "pile-it-on" look of the pearls, but use metal chains in several different materials. Steel, copper, gold, silver—anything goes. Pull out your chains of seasons past and put every one of them on. If you want to up the ante, clip on some charms, staggering them unevenly up the sides and then contrast their glittering strength against blouses and sweaters made of soft, touchable fabrics. Avoid the airport and jury duty.

Cascading Crystals: Create a waterfall effect with cascading crystals across your chest. (I’ve always loved alliteration in fashion.) Again, we’re looking at layering to make your statement, so crystals in light, clean colors should be numerous enough to cluster against each other, unless the chain they’re hung on is the main attraction. In that case, scattered crystals will keep the look from becoming too heavy.

Get The Look:
Marissa Collections—Downtown Naples
Nordstrom—Waterside Shops
Saks Fifth Avenue—Waterside Shops
Puddy N Pearl—Cypress Square, Fort Myers; The Collection at Vanderbilt, Naples

The Independent

Style Icons:
You don’t need an icon. You blaze your own trails, thank you very much.

Favorite Quote: "Who dares nothing, need hope for nothing."—Friedrich Von Schiller

Who Can Wear It: If you have to ask, it’s not you.

Did you find yourself further up? If not, you might be that elusive Independent. Don’t despair, the Independent really winds up a winner in the long run, and your necklace rules are quite simple: Wear what makes you happy, what suits your mood, what gets your loved ones to remember you.

You’re going to be happiest with one-of-a-kind or custom pieces in unusual materials and configurations. Independents will especially appreciate the changeable nature of opals and the natural differences in stones like turquoise and coral. Create your own look by visiting one of Southwest Florida’s extraordinary custom jewelers to help you craft a unique and memorable piece that you can wear no matter what the season, no matter what the trend.

2009 Update: The Independent is disdainful of official fashion updates, but often sneaks secret peeks at them anyway. So this year, watch for interesting semi-precious stones gaining popularity such as agate, rhodochrosite and jade. Ancient or historic artifacts crafted into exquisite pendants will suit the Independent’s unique sensibility.

Get The Look:
José Aragón Jewelers—Downtown Naples
Wm. Phelps Custom Jewelers—The Village on Venetian Bay, Naples
Mark Loren Designs—McGregor Boulevard, Fort Myers
Yamron Jewelers—Waterside Shops, Downtown Naples
Four Winds Gallery—Downtown Naples
Christine’s Jewelry by Design—Reflections Parkway, Fort Myers

No matter your own personal style, don’t forget to have a little fun, because that’s what fashion is about, after all. Marie Antoinette had shockingly good fun before that whole unfortunate French Revolution and eventual beheading. You still have a neck, so delight in it while you can. Find your style, make your statement and turn a few heads this year by being your authentic, divinely necklaced self.

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