There are so many amazing jewelry techniques out there, all requiring different levels of skill, but one technique that is fairly simple creates gorgeous results – Chain Mail. You’ll often see it written as chain maille, as well, from the French word for “mesh” or “net”. Mail was originally developed around 300 BC and consisted of interlocking metal rings used for armor. In its long and useful history, though, chain mail has adapted to many purposes. Now it’s used for shark-resistant wet suits, oyster-shucking gloves, and as jewelry.
Intricately interconnected rings make up mail, and you’ll find creations made of all different kinds of metal, differing in value, weight, color, and shape of ring. There are dozens, maybe hundreds of patterns, as well, so the possibilities are endless. But what’s fascinating is that the technique, overall, is quite simple. A ring with an opening is the basis for all of the designs – what’s called a jump ring. Using two pairs of jewelry pliers, you open and close the ring to add more rings for an overall pattern. So there are only two tricks to the whole process – 1) properly opening and closing jump rings, and 2) getting the rings into the pattern chosen.
My favorite pattern, or weave, is the Byzantine weave. In this weave the rings seem to almost look like knots, and the pattern looks complicated although in truth it’s fairly easy to execute. I’ve made several bracelets and a couple of necklaces in this weave – out of sterling silver and copper – and they’re gorgeous. The sterling necklace is graduated from smaller rings in the back to larger rings in the front, and it’s delectable to wear. It’s a bit heavy because it uses a lot of silver, and for that same reason this weave can be somewhat expensive, simply due to the amount of metal involved and the current cost of silver. However, if you source jump rings in brass, copper, or aluminum, costs are significantly lower.
There are lots of other fantastic weaves out there, ranging from delicate to bold. If you’re seeking new techniques to pump up your creations, check it out – all you need are 2 pairs of pliers and jump rings and you’ll be cranking out chain mail before you know it!
All of these shops offer instructions, tools and materials – and all are also staffed by incredibly helpful staff that can walk you through choices like types of materials, etc. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but I’ve worked with all three of these vendors and been very pleased with their products and service.
The Ring Lord
Urban Maille Chainworks