The chances are that at some point in your life you've come across Chain Maille being used somehow. Maybe it was as part of a costume or clothing, or an ornament or sculpture, or most likely as a piece of jewellery.
Chain Maille is an extremely versatile and adaptable medium to work with, and can even be used on the micro-scale to create tiny works of art such as embellishments on a pen or a dart.
But where does Chain Maille come from? Current thinking is that we probably have the ancient Celts to thank for it, invented somewhere before the 5th century. The name mail comes from the French word “maille” which is derived from the Latin “macula” meaning “mesh of a net” and is made by linking rings to one another. These rings can either be pre-formed, or made by wrapping wire around a rod or mandrel to make a coil which is then cut into rings.
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As you can imagine, as far as jewellery in concerned there are many ways to link the rings together to make patterns, chains and focals.
In fact, on the Maille Artisans International League, there are over a thousand different weaves that have been documented. Coupled with the possibility of interchanging the ring size, colour, finish and even material, it is easy to see how beautiful, intricate pieces can be formed.
There are typically three types of Chain Maille used for jewellery making:
Japanese Chain Maille
Japanese weaves worked by linking rings in simplistic flat box structures or hexagonal grid patterns.
European Chain Maille
The basic European 4 in 1 is assembled with units of four jump rings joined together with one jump ring. This style offers more flexibility and strength.
Persian Chain Maille
Persian Chain Maille produces round, dense but supple lengths of chain.
All manner of mediums can be incorporated into a Chain Maille design - from leather (as in the Celtic Star Pendant below), to beads (in our Captured Pearls Necklace pattern) or rubber rings. Chain Maille weaves can be as dainty and feminine or as robust and substantial as you like; the only limits are (as the cliché goes) your imagination!
Check out this video from Beadalon that shows how to work with Chain Maille rings:
If you fancy trying your hand at Chain Maille, we found a few video tutorials on YouTube to give you some ideas:
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We have a great selection of ChainMaille rings, tools and accessories such as books and pliers in our Chain Maille category online.
We also stock a huge range of pliers that can be used for Chain Maille in our Tools category online.