Chainmaille: Fashionable Armor
Many centuries ago, medieval blacksmiths discovered that thousands of tiny metal rings meshed together made a stab-resistant, ultra-light armor. This battlefield innovation, called chainmaille, protected knights from swords, daggers and arrows. But in modern times, demand for medieval armor has shriveled while the need for exclusive jewelry has exploded. The same mesh construction that shielded the vitals of ancient warriors is now in vogue for necklaces, bracelets and rings. And the good news: many are relatively simple to make.
Chainmaille offers endless possibilities for the clever designer, with the artist's creativity as the only boundary. Chainmaille is distinctive because the handcrafted process of creating chainmaille does not lend itself to mass production; each piece takes many hours to create and is one of a kind. With time and patience, an imaginative artist can accrue a large collection of unique designs.
The European version of chainmaille armor is known for its basic 4-in-1 pattern where every link in the pattern goes through 4 other links. This is a common style for jewelry today and has been around over a thousand years. The Japanese also created their own version of chainmaille, Kusari gusoku. Samurai warriors wore Kusari nearly a thousand years ago and continued to wear it until the 19th century.
A jewelry designer can create chainmaille with a few basic items: jumprings, jewelry pliers, an instructional pattern and any desired embellishments. When working with jumprings, it's important to use the proper technique for ''Opening a Jumpring'' to avoid damaging them. To open a jumpring, place a pair of chain-nose pliers and flat-nose pliers on each side of the opening. Open the jumpring by rotating the pliers in opposite directions. Do not pull outwards as you will ruin the curve of the jumpring. To close the jumpring, rotate the two sides back into place. For more detailed instructions on specific chainmaille projects, take a look at our Jewelry-Making Instructions page.
Chainmaille Design Ideas
Design idea B710 illustrates how several sizes and colors of jumprings, combined with seed beads, create an elegant juxtaposition of masculine and feminine.
Design idea D20S illustrates an example of a bracelet featuring a traditional armor look. Though the bracelet only uses two types of jumprings and no embellishments, the challenge of handcrafting with such detail makes the piece extraordinary.
The Fire Mountain Gems and Beads Jewelry-Making Instructions page has hundreds of projects with step-by-step instructions on how to create them. Among the plethora of projects are a few chainmaille designs, including
Design idea E91U. This piece, titled Zenobia's Chain , is a chainmaille bracelet adorned with antique new "jade" beads. Use our free instructions and materials list to create a similar design of your own!
Another fun project that uses chainmaille is
Design idea A352. This gorgeous necklace features a large lampworked glass focal component, and a variety of sparkling green beads. The necklace also calls for a section of ''Queens Link Chainmaille'', which can be created using our easy-to-follow instructions.
Learn how to create a Persian chainmaille weave or a chainmaille love knot from Sue Ripsch renowned chainmaille jewelry artist, instructor and author of ''Classic Chain Mail Jewelry''. Sue gives detailed instructions on how to quickly create these one-of-a-kind jewelry projects.
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