The setting of Guy de Maupassant's short story "The Necklace" is the city of Paris in the mid-1880s to the mid-1890s. This time was part of the Belle Époque, the time period in which de Maupassant wrote the story.
The Belle Époque is a period in French history from about 1880 to the outbreak of World War I in 1914 that is considered a period of peace and prosperity, important developments in technology and science, and cultural, literary, and artistic innovations. The Belle Époque is also a time of a wide disparity in the quality of life between the upper classes and nouveaux riches, represented in "The Necklace" by the wealthy Madame Forestier, and the poorer and lower classes, represented by Mathilde Loisel and her civil-servant husband.
The dissatisfied, socially marginalized Mathilde Loisel lives in a shabby, inelegant, walk-up apartment in the disreputable, working-class Pigalle section of Paris on Rue des Martyrs, a steep, narrow street of shops and bars which begins at the church of Notre-Dame-de-Lorette and ends at the top of the hill in the village of Montmartre near the Basilica of Sacré-Cœur.
Mathilde's financial situation is such that when she and her husband are invited to a ball at the Ministry of Education where Monsieur Loisel is employed as a "little clerk," Mathilde must ask to borrow a necklace from her childhood friend, Madame Forestier. The loss of the necklace is central to the plot of "The Necklace."
An early part of the story of "The Necklace" is set in Mathilde's imagination, far away from the reality of her tedious daily life, where she envisions herself living in a luxurious home with "silent antechambers hung with Oriental tapestry," "long reception halls hung with ancient silk," "little coquettish perfumed reception rooms," and a dining room where delicious dishes of "the pink meat of a trout or the wings of a quail" are served "on marvelous plates." In her imagination, Mathilde sees herself envied and charming, a woman "to be sought after."
Nevertheless, de Maupassant imparts a strong sense of verisimilitude to "The Necklace" by setting events in the story in actual locations in Paris, including the Rue des Martyrs, where the Loisel apartment is located, the river Seine that runs through the city, jewelry shops near the Palais Royal where Mathilde and her husband search for a necklace to replace the one she lost, and the Champs-Elysées, where Mathilde meets Madame Forestier ten years after the pivotal and ironic events of the story occur.