Guide to Jewelry Chain

Learn all there is to know about chain for jewelry in this comprehensive guide that will help you select, buy and design with chain. Read about the common styles of chain, the units chain is sold in and metal types and finishes.

Last edited: 4/2/2020
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If you’re making necklaces, bracelets, anklets—even earrings—with chain, you know how crucial it is to have plenty of this versatile material in stock. There are many things to consider when selecting the right jewelry chain for your designs. This quick reference will help you understand the language of chain, including how to:

Common Chain Styles

Chain for jewelry comes in a large variety of widths and chain styles. When you are choosing a chain for your design, select a chain that complements your desired look while offering the strength to support the weight of your pendant and other design elements. The list below presents many of the chain styles available and explains the unique characteristics of each type.

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

A


Anchor
Anchor Chain Enlarged
Anchor chain features oval links that are bisected across the center; the links tend to be thick in proportion to their size. This chain is also called mariner, Rambo and marine.

B


Bar & link
Bar & link chain presents small links alternating with bar-style links that may be straight, curved or fancy-shaped.
Bead
Bead Chains Enlarged
Bead chain is characterized by spherical links, often hollow, that are joined by narrow connector wire or bars.
Beading
Beading Chain Enlarged
Beading chain comprises small, elongated links that are closely connected to form a strong chain with a slender rounded profile fine enough to allow beads to be strung onto it.
Beveled-edge
Beveled–edge Chain Enlarged
Beveled-edge chain features links that are cut to create angled edges rather than the usual rounded profile.
Box
Box Chain Enlarged
Box chain has squared-off links that resemble cubes; they are sturdy chains, ideal for pendants. In rounded box chain, the links are created from half-round wire, giving the finished chain a rounder profile. This chain is also known as book, square link, venetian and briolette.
Byzantine
Byzantine Chains Enlarged
Formed by a repeating pattern of interlinked jump ring pairs, Byzantine chain tends to be substantial but highly flexible. This chain is also called idiots’ delight, kings’ braid and birdcage.

C


Cable
Cable Chains Enlarged
The most common chain style, cable chains are formed by connecting single links perpendicularly end to end. Links may be round, oval or other shapes.
Cuban
Cuban Chain Enlarged
Cuban link chain is like a curb chain but designed with thick links that gives the chain a weighty, substantial appearance. The links can be fabricated from sheet and have hollow interiors, reducing material costs and giving the finished chain a lighter weight.
Curb
Curb Chains Enlarged
A curb chain starts as a cable design, then has its links twisted so they lie flat; the twist gives the links a slightly interlocked look that adds dimension to the chain profile. This chain is also known as gourmette.

D


Diamond-cut
Diamond–cut Chains Enlarged
Diamond-cut chains have facets precision-cut into the links with diamond-tipped tools. The facets are then polished to enhance the light-reflecting properties of the link surfaces.
Double rope
Double rope Chains Enlarged
Double rope chain features link pairs, each connected to the two previous link pairs in a continuous row. This doubling of links gives the chain a more substantial twisting effect, emphasizing the spiraled look characteristic of regular rope chain.

F


Figaro
Figaro Chains Enlarged
Figaro chains feature one longer link alternating with three to five smaller links; all are twisted to lie flat, similar to a curb chain.
Figure-eight
Figure–eight Chains Enlarged
Figure-eight chain is characterized by the twisted, 8-shaped links that connect its round or oval links. This chain is also known as infinity.
Foxtail
Foxtail-Chains Enlarged
Foxtail chain is made with two rows of oval links arranged at 45° to one another and connected by small flat links.
Franco
Franco Chains Enlarged
Franco chain is an intricate but substantial weave that delivers a square profile and resists kinking so that is stays smooth and sinuous. From two of the parallel sides, the chain resembles a curb style; from the adjoining two, it resembles a wheat style.
French rope
French rope Chains Enlarged
French rope chain features a double row of twisted links that are interconnected, producing a substantial chain with an obvious spiral, as if two rope chains were entwined.

H


Herringbone
Herringbone Chains Enlarged
Herringbone chain is constructed of multiple rows of V-shaped links, arranged so that the direction of each row is opposite the row next to it. The links lie flat giving the chain a low-profile, highly fluid look.

K


Krinkle
Krinkle Chains Enlarged
Krinkle chain is a cable chain made with oval links that have been crimped to have curves and/or angles; also sometimes called a peanut chain.

L


Ladder
Ladder Chains Enlarged
The links on a ladder chain are rounded on one side and on the other side narrowed and folded backward to form a hook. The hook then links onto the round end of the next link. This chain is also called hook.
Long & short
Long & short Chain Enlarged
Long & short chains feature one long link alternating with one or more shorter links.

M


Margherita
Margherita Chain Enlarged
Margherita chain is made from flat, rectangular links that are joined widthwise across their centers, so that the links present an ever-changing profile. The chain can appear to have a neat spiral twist or a random nugget look. Bright-finished links reflect quite a bit of light as they move.
Mesh
Mesh Chain Enlarged
Mesh chain is crafted of very fine wire woven to produce chain that has a fluid, fabric-like flexibility.

O


Omega
Omega Chain Enlarged
Omega is a wide chain comprising small, wide metal plates aligned next to one another and crimped to an underlying mesh substructure to create a bright chain with lots of surface area but limited flexibility.

P


Popcorn
Popcorn Chain Enlarged
Popcorn chain is made with identical stamped hollow links that feature flat, concave or convex sides; once linked, the sides fit together to present a uniform surface texture that can look scaly, dapped or bubbled.

R


Reverse rope
Reverse rope Chain Enlarged
Reverse rope (and reverse double-rope) chain styles feature links (or link pairs) connected alternately from the front, then the back, of the previous two links (or link pairs) in a continuous row. This alternating of the direction gives the finished chain a woven profile.
Ring & connector
Ring & connector Chain Enlarged
Ring & connector chain features round ring links connected by round or oval flat-top links that serve as pads for attaching gemstones or findings.
Rolo
Rolo Chain Enlarged
The links that make up rolo chain are created from flat or semi-round wire so that each link is wider than the wire thickness. The shape of the links may be round or oval. This chain is also known as belcher.
Rope
Rope Chain Enlarged
Rope chain features twisted links that are each connected to two other links in a continuous row. The twist causes the chain to create a spiraled effect similar to the woven fibers of a rope.

S


Scroll
Scroll Chains Enlarged
Scroll chain is made up of links created from two lengths of wire spiraled outward in opposite directions from a center point. The spiral creates the scrolled look; the outer ends finish in a loop that allows the links to be connected to one another.
Serpentine
Serpentine Chain Enlarged
Serpentine chain features tightly-formed and flattened S-shaped links joined end to end.
Singapore
Singapore Chain Enlarged
To create a Singapore chain, chain links are interconnected to form an elongated diamond structure which is then twisted and flattened.
Snake, Unseamed
Snake, Unseamed Chain Enlarged
Traditional (unseamed) snake chain is made from round, slightly curved metal plates or bands tightly joined together; the plates create a subtle zig-zag effect along the length of the chain.
Snake, Seamed
Snake, Seamed Chain Enlarged
Seamed snake chain is created with soldered, machine-made curb-style chain that is compressed twice, producing the snake-like appearance and leaving behind a telltale seam visible along its length. This chain is also called Brazilian, hexagon, round maille, and star weave.

W


Wheat
Wheat Chain Enlarged
A variation of the rope chain, wheat chain is made with alternating figure–eight links that are closely interconnected to present a braided look and an almost square profile. This chain is also called spiga and espiga.



Chain Size and Length

The width of chain for jewelry is measured from the outside of the widest link on the chain. When choosing how wide you want the chain to be, consider the overall size of your pendant or the design you are creating. Pick a chain width and thickness that accommodates a suitably sized bail or jump rings.

If you’re buying finished jewelry chain, ensure that the end ring will fit through your bail or plan how you will attach your design to the chain. When determining your finished length, this photo of the standard lengths (shown on figure) may help.

Display with different chain lengths

Determining Chain Width

Display with different chain lengths

Determining Chain Lengths


Metal Types and Finishes

The metal type of the chain you select plays a crucial role in the design and look of your jewelry—not only for its appearance but also for the value, durability and any maintenance required to keep the jewelry shining like new. This list describes the characteristics of the most common metal types and finishes.

18-Karat Yellow Gold
18–Karat Yellow Gold Enlarged
18-karat yellow gold contains 75% gold and 25% alloyed metals, and it provides a richer-yellow color than 14-karat.
14-Karat Yellow Gold
14–Karat Yellow Gold  Enlarged
14-karat yellow gold is 58% gold and 42% alloyed metals, and it provides the classic yellow gold color.
14-Karat Rose Gold
14–Karat Rose Gold  Enlarged
14-karat rose gold is 58% gold and 42% alloyed metals (copper with a small percentage of silver) to create a soft pink color. This gold is also known as pink gold, red gold or blush gold.
14-Karat White Gold
14–Karat White Gold  Enlarged
14-karat white gold is 58% gold and 42% alloyed metals of least one white metal, usually nickel, manganese or palladium.
Argentium® Silver
Argentium Silver Enlarged
Made with a touch of germanium, Argentium® Silver presents a bright white color that is closer to fine silver than traditional sterling, yet is extremely slow to tarnish under most conditions.
Base Metal
Base Metal Chain Enlarged
Base metal, such as copper, brass and bronze is ideal for mixed-metal and alternative materials designs and is often used for plating. Most copper chain is raw and will patina over time; to maintain the desired color, or to prevent discoloration on skin, a lacquer can be used.
Gold-filled
Gold–filled Chain Enlarged
Gold-filled metals are available in yellow and rose and deliver karat gold at a more affordable cost than solid gold. 14/20 gold-filled material is made with 14-karat gold bonded to a base-metal core. The gold represents 1/20th of the total weight of the material.
Silver-filled
Silver–filled Chain Enlarged
Silver-filled findings offer your customers the bright white finish of sterling at a very affordable price. This metal features sterling silver bonded to a base-metal core and is no less than 10% (1/10) sterling silver.
Sterling Silver
Silver–filled Chain Enlarged
Sterling silver is the standard in silver jewelry and contains 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper. It is more durable than pure silver but can tarnish if exposed to oils in the skin as well as contaminants in the air.
Plated
Plated Chain Enlarged
Many chains are electroplated with other metals to add color and durability, protect against tarnish or to brighten finish. Rhodium plating gives the chain a durable, tarnish-resistant finish, while ruthenium plating delivers high-quality gunmetal finish. Black ruthenium produces a high-quality dark finish.
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Common Selling Units for Chain

Before purchasing your chain, you should consider what units the chain is sold in. Each unit that jewelry chain is available in has its advantages depending on the type of work you are doing.

Pre-Cut

We have a large selection of pre-cut chain lengths finished with a clasp, including bracelet chain lengths in several styles.

By the Foot or Inch

Ordering jewelry chain by the foot (sterling silver, Argentium® Silver, and gold-filled) or by the inch (gold) makes it easy for you to get custom lengths. You can buy only the amount you need for your design or you can choose to add up what you’ll need over a period of time and purchase at the best price break.

Bulk Spools

Bulk spools (silver, gold-filled and base metals) are available in 10, 20, 50 or 250-ft. lengths. When available in the chain style and width you’re looking for, Spooled chain is an economical choice and ensures that you have whatever length you need on hand when you need it. Also keep in mind that, with bulk chain, you’ll need to select a clasp and plan for the work steps necessary to attach it to your chain. This allows you to customize each piece with the right clasp style for your design.

Special Orders

If you’re looking for a large quantity of chain, a specialty length of finished chain or a style you don’t see on our website, we will do our best to special order it for you. Give us a call at 800.545.6566 or email us at [email protected] to request a quote.

Most precious metal chain for jewelry has links that are soldered together. This strengthens the chain by closing the links so that gaps won't form and cause the chain to break. Some chain cannot be easily soldered and therefore the links are left open. Unsoldered chains should be used with care and you must make sure links are substantial enough to handle typical wear and pendant weight without stretching.

Example of Soldered Chain

Soldered

Example of Unsoldered Chain

Unsoldered

Questions About Chain?

Feel free to contact us with your questions about chain for jewelry. We're happy to answer any questions you may have regarding chain or any other jewelry project you are working on. Give us a call at 800-545-6566 and talk to one of our experts.