Jewellery chain

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Frontal view of a grey female bust with four gold bands of many fine links, two draped over the shoulders and two plunging from the breast bone sweeping below the breasts and going behind the back. The four converge between the breasts, where each band ends in a head which connects to a centrepiece, a purple gem surrounded by eight smaller sockets, four empty and four with red stones
Gold Body chain for a slight woman or a girl. Frontal view with an Amethyst and four garnets, four other gems are missing (4th or 5th century Romano British, part of the Hoxne hoard)[1]
Byzantine body chain found as part of the Asyut Treasure, Egypt c. 600 AD (British Museum)[2]

Fine metal chains are used in jewellery to encircle parts of the body, namely the neck, wrists and ankles, and they also serve as points to hang decorative charms and pendants. Unlike industrial or chains for other purposes, jewellery chains or body chains are designed for aesthetic purposes.

Material[edit]

Jewellery chains are typically made from precious metals, mainly gold and silver. Platinum, palladium and steel may also be used. These metals are used because they are not very reactive, keep both their intricate shape and their strength, and require only minimal maintenance to keep their shine. Small lever mechanisms called findings serve as fastenings to enable the chain to be undone and redone.

Styles[edit]

Silver 4 by 3 mm trace chain.
This is often the simplest style of chain. The links in a trace chain are typically uniform in breadth and thickness, and can be very delicate, especially in finer widths.
This is similar to the trace, a belcher chain link is wider than its thickness. Generally the links are round, but the shape of the link can vary.
A curb chain is when the links interlock with each other when laid flat. Some more open-link curb chains can only be distinguished from a trace by this method. This style of chain has the greatest variety of widths available, from a few millimetres to over two centimetres.
This chain consists of a twisting chain made of small circular links, where each single link has no less than four others joining into it.
Rolo chain

The links of a rolo chain are usually identical and often round. These links joined in a simple alternating sequence, making this type of chain look pleasantly simple (as opposed to more-complex chains such as the rope chain which may sometimes appear overly complex).

Singapore chain
This may also be called twisted curb, but the links are joined in such a way that, even when the chain is untwisted, there is always a natural curve to it. Usually this chain is sold very fine and has a liquid-like look to it.
Spiga is formed of small figure-eight links which form a 3D chain that feels almost square, and looks as though the wire has been plaited.
Rope chain
Rope chain creates the effect of two twisting strands spiraled together, created by many small links which are not completely joined. One disadvantage of this otherwise strong chain is that, when one link does break, the rest of the chain might follow in succession.
The anchor chain copies the style of the chain that holds large anchors on ships, an oval link with a dividing bar through the middle. The interlinking sections may be of a curb or trace style. Also a version called Maritime where only every other link is an anchor link.
Figaro is not really a style but a very popular variation. A number of standard links (usually three) precede an elongated link all the way through. This variation can be replicated by many of the styles mentioned.
Snake chain is a very tight-linked chain that has a round or square cross-section and has links that create a slight zigzag look.
This chain that has the greatest liquid effect, formed from v-shaped links to lie entirely flat. One side can be engraved for greater aesthetics, and thin strands of herringbone can be twisted or even plaited together.
Also known as Box, briolette is similar to a belcher chain except the links are tighter together and are square in shape, hence the name.
Bead chain is formed of small balls of metal joined by small lengths of wire, not longer than each bead in between. Also has its own 'snap over the first link' fastening. Larger steel versions are more often used to hold ID cards than in jewellery, but finer ones may be found for the purpose.
Wheat chain
Wheat chain is formed of very long, thin teardrop-shape links that all point in the same direction. The join of each link is like a tiny hinge, meaning this style is not as flexible or liquid-like as some others
Part of a chain maille bracelet, in Byzantine weave, made from silver plated copper and green anodised aluminium jump rings
This is an intricate chain that can be made by the hobbyist from jump rings but it is much too complex to easily describe.
A "fancy" chain can be anything; any form of fine metal that can be replicated and joined onto each other to make a chain. Many fancy chains are variations of the standard styles, for example a trace chain formed of heart-shaped links or a curb chain with every other link set with a gemstone.

Gallery[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ British Museum Collection [1]
  2. ^ British Museum Collection [2]