Jewellery Making Methods
Ok, so what exactly IS chain maille ?
If you are thinking of medieval knights or even the TV series of Merlin then you are right – chainmail (or maille) is a type of armour consisting of small metal rings linked together in a pattern to form a mesh fabric. The use of chainmail in jewellery dates as far back as to the Etruscans of Early Italy (c1000 BC). It was then reinvented by the Gauls (c500 BC) and adopted by the Roman Republic (c500-200 BC). Chainmaille reached its height in both Europe and Japan during the Middle Ages, around c1300 AD. Use of chain maille in battle then slowly died out as gunpowder took over from arrows. By the time of Henry VIII in the mid 1500’s it was mainly a means to show off wealth and the skill of the metal workers.
There are hundreds of different chain maille weaves and many thousands of variations on them. I have chosen my favourites for Magpie Annie and describe them below.
Byzantine chain has a rope-like texture and an intriguing design with a square cross section. The chains are supple and flexible with a lovely draping feel. The chain is a 4 in 1 chain meaning that each link passes through four others. Like many chain mallie patterns, Byzantine has several other names, including Etruscan, Birdcage, Fool’s Dilemma and Idiot’s Delight but Byzantine is the most common name.
2 Box Chain
Box chain is similar to Byzantine with a square cross section and several similaritiies in the method used to make it. It is generally slightly stiffer than Byzantine and lends itself particularly well to chunkier bracelets & cuffs. It looks equally good in a single colour or in two or more colours.
3 European 4 in1
This is the classic chain maille pattern seen in armour over the centuries. It is known as “4in1” as each link passes through four others. A denser variation also available on request is 6in1 – the clue is in the name! This weave can be used to make narrow or wider cuffs, in lots of different sized rings and with an almost infinite array of patterns. (including the Union Flag) Beads can also be added to the edges for more interest. I can even make this pattern with stretchy rubber o-rings which gives a cuff which stretches over the hand, needing no clasp or catch.
This beautiful pattern makes a round section, slinky chain which just begs to be coiled around the fingers. It is equally suited to single or multi coloured designs, as you can ess, plus longer lengths can also be curled and twisted to make unique necklaces. Also known as Full Persian or Persian 6in1.
An example of a variation of the Byzantine weave, this is a very versatile pattern which can vary from fun & funky when made in large brightly coloured light weight aluminium rings to delicate & elegant in smaller, heavier metals. Beads can be added as highlights too. A real favourite of mine. Shown top & bottom in the photo !
Another example of a variation of the Byzantine weave, this is a very versatile pattern which can vary from fun & funky when made in large brightly coloured light weight aluminium rings to delicate & elegant in smaller, heavier metal. Beads can be added as highlights too. A real favourite of mine.
This is a tricky combination of two weaves, European 4 in 1 with a Persian edging. The beads down the spine give it a unique look and it naturally curls around the wrist. (Which makes it particularly hard to photograph.) The colour combinations of centre rings, edging rings & beads are endless – get your imagination working and see if you can suggest a brand new combination !
8 Japanese 12 in 2
This pattern originates, as the name suggests, from classic Japanese armour patterns. It is also known as Japanese Lace and can be made in many different combinations of ring sizes and colours. Different colours can be used to make repeating patterns, circles or swirls. Numerous geometric patterns including circles, zig zags & hexagons are available. Again, the possibilities are endless…
I must admit that this is my all time favourite pattern, both to make and to wear. Another variation on the Byzantine weave, it also incorporates elements of the Helm weave. Rondo looks stunning in two colours and, with a slinky flat profile, is very comfortable to wear on a daily basis. You’ll often see an example of this weave on my own wrist.
10 Queens Link
This weave is also known as Vertebrae and some other ugly names which don’t do it’s circular simplicity justice. Equally at home in larger chunkier rings or smaller more delicate sizes, a really unusual chain pattern which is unlike anything you’ll find on the High Street !
12 Captive inverted Round
This pattern is a round section design, with a hollow core which can either be left empty or which can be used, as in the photo, to capture beads or crystals. These crystals are entirely free floating within the design but can’t escape – a real brain teaser which has had friends poring over it trying to find the secret !
A little bit of madness ! Multiple rings sizes are used to make tightly wound “beads” of chain maille. These can be used on their own, as in the rainbow necklace pictured, or as beads within a more elaborate design. Single whirligigs also make unusual earrings.
How to describe this eclectic collection ? A real mix of patterns & weaves which, while they may not have their own official names, are nevertheless worthy designs for this site. Use them for inspiration for your own designs or chose them for yourself. Don’t let these “oddballs” be left out of your jewellery box !
This is different craft altogether from the chain maille seen elsewhere on my website. These lovely, tactile, sparkly necklaces are made by threading hundreds of tiny mixed beads onto very fine wire and then crocheting that wire into chains & patterns. The designs are then finished with complementary hand made wire endings and clasps
Peruvian Weave Pendant
Reminiscient of the wire pictures in fashion in the 1970’s, these intricatly woven all wire pendants are certainly different. Frames can be round or oval (as shown), and weaves can then be made in any colour or colour combination you can think of. Single, double or even triple layered weaves are possible. These pendants look stunning when worn against a contrasting coloured high necked blouse, jumper or even an evening dress ! Why not order a bespoke chain to complement it too ?