Chains are interconnected links in a series used to create flexible necklaces, bracelets and fasteners in a variety of styles. They have been used as jewelry items by themselves but also as a way to suspend all kinds of other ornaments such as pendants, watches, medals, keys and so on. The simplest form of chain consists of circular links that are connected to each other by soldering each new link closed after it has been passed through the former link.
This technique requires soldering of each link while the links are connected, something that with ancient soldering techniques would often lead to the fusing of links causing decreased flexibility. Since flexibility is the strongest point of a chain this technique wasn’t favorable.
One of the oldest chain making techniques is the so-called ‘loop in loop’ method. This method avoids having to solder the links while connected and could, therefore, be used in ancient times. Starting with coiling gold wire around a dowel, loops are made by sawing or cutting along the length of the coil. This creates individual rounded lengths of wires which can then be individually soldered to form rings. The result is a multitude of closed loops. The simplest form of loop-in-loop chains is the single loop in loop chain where each loop is linked to the next by running the loops through each other and then bending them. The next loop is then passed through the opening at the other end, forming a chain.
The loop in loop technique can be expanded to several loops per ‘layer’ creating more complicated chains:
Around the eighth century BC ‘strap chains’ were introduced. These are made up out of several individual chains affixed alongside each other to form a flat band. A later development is that of chain mail: a fabric made up out of connected loops that was used as armor from as early as the 2nd century BC. Loops could be used in combination with plates to create all kinds of decorative designs that have been used as jewelry as well as armor.
Industrialized Chain Making
Over time chain making techniques became more and more complex with all kinds of links used and every possible way of connecting them. The industrial revolution saw the invention of chain making machines which made it possible to create chains like the snake chain.
A wide variety of chains have been produced, often with specific purposes. Below you’ll find a collection of chain names with links to a short description; simply click on the chain name to learn more about it.