Chains and Variations


Necklaces are one of the first type of body adornment created by humans. There is a long history of neck adornments, the first ones being made out of bones, shells or other natural materials, such as gemstones. Strung by hand, one by one, pieces were connected to create long strings or collars that were worn to decorate the neck. By definition the elements of a chain. The Bronze Age ushered in the use of metals in jewelry. It was the Ancient Egyptians that first threaded links of gold together, making some of the earliest chain, dating back to 2500 BC.

Necklaces have been worn to show social status, power, affiliations and to make statements about identity. Today, these statements are less about religion or class but more about style- and there are many patterns to choose from to fit one’s personal taste. What composes a necklace? Chains worn around the neck are the most fundamental component of necklaces; chains are made of silver or gold, (or similar metals) and sometimes carved or cast non metal materials, and from these elements we have so many ways to express our individuality. Chains usually have a clasp at the end so one can easily open up the necklace and add a pendant or charm to it. 

Pictured here is a wide array of necklaces made from chains that date back to the Georgian era. Some chains are dainty and feminine while others are bright and bold. Some are heavy and stand out while others are understated and quiet. From the top left to the bottom right we can see chains in silver and gold composed of various segments with many designs. Some are hand-linked together, as is most common before jewelry was machine made (starting around the turn of the century) and these links take on many shapes.

 At first glance we see a 19K gold Portuguese chain that makes a statement with its intricately woven turquoise cabochons. Next to it is a classic belcher chain, made of small rounded links that are wider than their thickness. This is similar to the trace or cable chain, or the rolo, also both very simple and clean in design.

A Victorian sailor’s eternity knot chain made of hand strung links is followed by a vintage curb link chain. Just below is a box link chain made of rectangular segments. These chains are simple yet they are symbolic, adding sentiment and character to any outfit.

There is an infinite amount of variations, in pattern, material, length, and cultural meaning. Some chains were made to hang with medallions, sometimes of commemorative or religious meaning, particularly during the Victorian era. Other chains such as chokers, which are the shortest in length and worn against the neck, were displayed in this way to announce special powers by the Sumerians of Egypt in ancient times.

 Medallion chains, cast link chains, filigree chains and figaro chains featured in the center of this image are ornate and wear great on their own. Heavy twisted rope chains or chains that are dotted with gemstones create a beautiful pattern for the eye to follow. At the bottom right we have a book chain from the Victorian era, with fantastic mobility, followed by a box chain with a hollow interior, and then a helix-shaped necklace. The styles and patterns go on and on…

Before you choose a chain you may want to consider what this piece of jewelry means to you. Whether it’s a gift for yourself or for others, it’s good to think about the attachment one will create with a piece of jewelry that is so rich with history. Chains are not just made to wear around the neck! They can also be worn around the wrist as bracelets, hold a watch, wrap around the ankle, or belly…Simple in concept yet infinite with possibility!

Kirsten's Corner Chains

To see more navigate your way to Jewelry by Type: Chains or click above image