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How chain maille has evolved

Figure 1
developed into some stunning jewelry. Instead of rings made from iron, bronze, or steel, jewelry designers use sterling silver, gold, aluminum, titanium, as well as stainless steel to make pieces that look quite different from the chain maille that hung from medieval helmets, which were called an aventail or camail. The chain maille was quite effective at protecting the knights, and today, chain maille techniques make sturdy, strong jewelry (Figure 1).  This bracelet was taught by Diane Miller at a Bead & Button Show and finished with one of Kim Fox’s sterling silver clasps.
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Rings do not have to be metal, though. In the last few years, some artists such as Rebeca Mojica and Dan Rychtarik of Blue Buddha Boutique started using EPDM rubber rings. Several chain maille artists started using the rubber rings which can give some stretch to pieces made with it (Figure 2). Here is one from CelestialBlacksmith.

The use of graduated rings leads to some simple designs, such as this design from John Fetvedt of Bijoux de Terre. By using different sized jump rings, a simple earring in sterling silver is one of my favorites (Figure 3).

And from a class I took from Spider at a Bead & Button Show a few years ago, here is another example of using graduated rings (Figure 4).

With new materials and some artistic design, chain maille hardly looks the same. To do this type of work well, it is imperative that you learn how to correctly open and close a jump ring. At the Bead & Button Show a few years ago, Spider taught a class on just how to do this correctly.  No gaps, no rough edges sticking out, but a near perfect joining of the two ends will give a professional look to your work, even if it is using a jump ring to connect an earring component. When done correctly, you can hardly see the break in the ring.

And for the finest work, soldering each jump ring gives a chain that can take a lot of abuse and still look wonderful. A few minutes in a tumbler, and you can bring your piece back to looking brand new.

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