By request, a few ideas about layering necklaces.
1. Remember the Golden Ratio
To simplify, a one third to two-thirds ratio looks pleasing. The bigger, heavier chain is A in the diagram at left, the finer one is B. or, layer all necklaces at slightly differing lengths.
This Anthropologie Treasures Unearthed necklace shows how the ratio applies between the smallest and longest strand. If there's too much space between the first and third necklace, the layers look a bit "lost" and droopy.
2. Match metal colour: gold (or gold-tone) with gold, etc.
Have fun mixing faux and real, but don't mix silver with gold unless it's already part of one necklace. This is one of those odd aesthetic rules, in the same vein as 'black shoes look good with navy pants, but navy shoes don't work with black pants'. It just looks like you don't have what you need.
3. Many necklaces? Simple clothes
Multiple necklaces are a busy look, so if you like to wear prints or bold colour blocks, one necklace is enough unless you want a gypsy or eccentric look.
In the mix
What mood would you like? Wooden beads mixed with a gold chain create a casual, boho vibe; the same gold chain layered with pearls is classic.
Mixing strands of beads, say a strand of turquoise with a strand of deep amethyst, or a tiger-eye strand and a citrine strand, is a refined, elegant look.
Mix pieces of substance with airier ones; too many thick necklaces will kill the charm. Play with mixing beads with other beads, chains of varying weight, or an assortment of chains and pendants.
Start with a two-layer composition. Aim for some sort of harmony, so you don't look like a kid throwing on the contents of your mother's jewelry box. I like pieces with some heft, though you do have to watch out for too much weight on your neck. Assembling many bitsy chains and pendants looks jeune fille no matter how many you layer on.
Pendants with presence
These Year of the Necklace pieces from Anthropologie are about $50 each. They showcase animals from the Chinese zodiac; I'd like the jade, sandstone and glass Monkey.
You might mix the pendant with pearls. The double keshis shown above, from Kojima Pearl, $65, would work well.
Colour connects layers
A colour reference among the layers ties disparate pieces together; shown left, coral beads with a bead and chain pendant.
Finding the missing link
If you're buying for layering, you probably already have some necklaces, so search for the focal piece that ties everything together.
I'd pick this Ben Amun lentil necklace, at 48", it provides a very long, swingy bottom layer, or you can double it for two mid-length layers. The lentil drops are varying sizes, for grace and movement. Gold-plate; $195 from Max and Chloe.
In silver, I would love the Hermes Chain D'Ancre, which at $1,225 is worth every penny; will not date and if I am wrong, you could sell it to me (installment plan, please). I do not long for much, but there's this.
I'd wear it with substantial beads like this Jay King 19" carnelian bead necklace, a mere $70 from HSN, available to the USA.
The best buy is a piece that has enough character to be worn on its own.
That's why I like this Saundra Messinger 29" silver circle necklace with .25" and .5" discs, $470 from Fragments. Photo is a little washed out, and doesn't do it justice, but it's really pretty, fine without being dainty.
I might layer it with Avindy's circle-linked necklace, echoing the spheres, but adding colour with rhodolite and topaz, $390, from Fragments.
To get an entirely different look with the same silver chain: layer with a 20" turquoise and silver-ball necklace, $116 from Ross Simons.
I like layering that's fairly classic and grown-up; the Olsen twin messy nests are not on display here, you can find them in any mall.
Portia's cool costume mixes
Portia Jewelry show a Tropic Bead necklace with three layers of beads; the exuberant mix seems like a steal for $39, with the longest layer at 19".
Portia also sell a brown layered bead necklace, (longest layer 18"), for the same price. Fun mix if you can wear your pieces this short.
Length and body type
Think about where you want the eye to rest. The smaller-busted you are, the lower you can go, if you have a high bust line; see Madonna in the Givenchy necklace that has been knocked off by everybody.
If you have more bust, wear one 16-inch and one 18-inch necklace, or go a bit longer, but stop short of the pieces dangling in the air like climber's ropes over the Matterhorn.
Cynthia Nixon's necklace shows how the opera-length (at longest) to choker (highest) layers raise the eye.
And on Isabella Rossellini, short layers, which look chicest to me, and flatter your neck, especially with short or upswept hair.
Keep the earrings simple; I do like big rings anytime, though.