4 Jewelry Making Tips for Chain Mail (Chain Maille) Projects

Jean Campbell is a
contributing editor to Beading Daily


A couple of years ago, I attended a bead show and ran across something that’s stuck with me ever since: the beautiful Vanessa Walilko wearing the chain mail jacket she had designed. She used colored rings and fashioned the shape so that it had a sassy fit. It even included fringe! I recall laughing out loud for joy, thinking, YES! This could be the remedy to my fear of fuzz: Instead of knitting a sweater, I could chain mail one!

You probably aren’t surprised to discover that I haven’t put together a chain mail sweater yet, but I have noticed that I’ve been using more chain mail in my designs lately. I’ve found that this ancient technique—connecting jump rings into patterns—is an easy and pretty inexpensive way to incorporate that metal look that is so popular right now.

If you’re curious, too, you’ll find lots of information about chain mail on the Internet, in books, and in magazine articles. Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist magazine, for instance, has great chain mail projects in the recent August and October issues, offering helpful techniques and step-out photos from the pros. In my dabbling with chain mail, I’ve run across a few tips that have been helpful. Maybe they’ll help you, too?


It’s important to have two pairs of ergonomic chain-nose pliers (the flat-jawed kind that come to a fine point) on hand to make chain mail projects. You’ll use both to cleanly open each jump ring. It’s also a good idea to have a pair or two of bent chain-nose pliers around. This type of pliers has a bent profile for getting into tight spots, perfect for when you’re putting groups of jump rings together.



Inside Dimension vs Outside Dimension

When you’re purchasing rings for a specific chain mail project, the materials list might say “205 gold 6mm (I.D.) jump rings.” The “I.D.” in the listing means “inside dimension.” This is the measurement across the center of the ring, rather than from outside edge to outside edge. The difference between “I.D.” and “O.D.” (outside dimension) is usually minimal in an individual ring, but it can add up quickly as you connect several rings to one ring.

Saving time

Opening and closing jump rings can feel time-consuming since you need tools to do it neatly. One time-saver is to open half the jump rings in a project before you begin.


I’m sure King Arthur’s chain mail shirt was all one color, but with the rings on the market today, there’s no excuse not to incorporate color into your designs. Silver, gold, and copper rings are easy to find, but with a little extra digging, you’ll also find a wide array of colored rings.

Have you jumped on the chainmail bus yet? How have you incorporated it into your beadwork?

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