Chain Maille Jewelry – Where to Start?

This weave is called the European 4-in-1.

If you’re interested in making chain maille jewelry, you may be wondering where to start your journey.  Chain maille, which is also spelled chainmaille and chain mail) is the amazing art (and sometimes science) of weaving with metal rings.  Ready to find out more?  Read on!

A Short History

Naturally, I want to share some of the history of this artwork.  And originally, it was anything but artistic!

If you’ve watched the Lord of the Rings movies, you’ve seen chain maille in action.  Remember Frodo’s garment made with Mithril?  Well, that’s what chain maille was initially designed for. Protection in battle.

Two “families” were developed independently for armor.  One is what is known as the European weaves, and the other is the Japanese weaves.  They have very different looks and ways of linking the rings.  Both made effective armor, and both make beautiful jewelry!

Rings and Things – Science of the Weave

It might seem pretty easy — grab some jump rings and start linking away.  And in fact some chain maille jewelry patterns are simple linking.  Simple linking, that is — but with beautiful results.  But for some weaves, something called AR (Aspect Ratio) becomes very important in order to make the maille properly.

Aspect Ratio is the relationship of the wire gauge to the inner diameter of the ring.  It’s important to know that when it comes to maille, rings are measured by their inside diameter (ID).  But if you’re used to jewelry jump rings, those are usually measured by the outside diameter (OD).

I know — it’s all confusing.  Not to worry; I created a little guide for you about translating wire gauge, OD, ID and AR.  Yeah, and that probably doesn’t sound any less intimidating!  Well, read/download the (free) Chain Maille Rings ebook and it does make it much easier.  :)

And Now the Art

The art of the chain maille jewelry patterns is undeniable.  The beauty of linking simple jump rings into sometimes exotic patterns.

To the left are two patterns.  The top is a classic called Celtic Visions.  The bottom is a related weave that I came up with when playing with Celtic Visions — I call my pattern “Celtic Kisses” because of the xoxoxo pattern.

Both are made the same way; the difference comes from the “science” side of the house — differences in AR and wire gauge.

When I originally started working with chain maille, sterling silver was inexpensive so that’s what I mainly used.  These days, I am exploring other materials like enameled copper, anodized aluminum and bright aluminum.  And coming shortly — I will be working with titanium!  I am loving working with the colored rings.

Well, let me go for now and work on another article that will deal more with the ring metals — pros and cons.  Catch you in a bit!

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