Chain Maille Jewelry Making: A Wrist-Saving Tip, Expert Advice, and 10 Chain Maille Bracelets
“One of the things I really like about chain maille is that, despite the singular design of the components, the resulting designs vary enormously.” This line from Denise Peck, Editor of Step-by-Step Wire Jewelry and creator of our special compilation eBook, 10 Chain Maille Bracelets, is such a great point that never occurred to me: All chain maille artists, no matter how skilled or new, no matter what their style, they all just use jump rings–for what seems like unlimited design results.
Here’s the story of a chain maille jewelry-making artist I was drawn to for her chain maille bezels. Enjoy her expert advice on making chain maille jewelry, plus a super tip to help reduce wear and stress on your wrist while you’re opening all those little jump rings!
Chain Maille Jewelry Making and a Super Tip
By Christiane Ross from JTV’s Jewel School
“So, do you make your own jump rings?” I am often asked this question when I teach chain maille classes. My response is generally along the lines of, “Well, I used to . . . before the internet happened.” Yes, I’ve been making chain maille since shortly after it was invented as a form of personal protective armor, way back before Arthur was King!
Well, almost that long.
Actually, I originally started weaving maille to create armor rather than jewelry. I originally learned the art from a friend as a way to pass some of the down-time at work. The first weave he taught me was the European 4-in-1. One Christmas after that, he gifted me with my very own crank. We coiled 16-gauge stainless steel wire, bought from the hardware store, and cut it into rings with end nippers, a tool normally used to cut the heads off nails! We wove those rings into large sheets and turned those sheets into hauberks and coifs. My friend wore his armor while fighting as a knight in the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA). I made armor to sell at SCA events, Renaissance faires, and craft fairs. I was hooked!
As I traveled and met more people, I learned more weaves and I gradually worked wire into smaller and smaller designs. I moved from larger-gauge, full-body armor (and some fashion pieces during my “punk” phase) to wallet and neck chains, then finally to small 24-gauge wire to use in a finger ring. Shortly after, I discovered an entire world of jewelry making on the internet. I could retire my trusty hand crank when I found rings already cut in fanciful metals from niobium and silver to a rainbow of anodized aluminum. Can you imagine the joy of seeing chain maille in color for the first time?
Then, many of those clever weavers out there started incorporating colored neoprene and rubber rings into their designs to create chain maille with a bit of stretch to it. Imagine that! Flexible chain maille! Now, I see crystals and glass used in some of the most beautiful fantasy jewelry ever. I can’t wait to see what’s next!
Chain maille is one of my first jewelry loves. I am truly delighted to see how it has evolved over the years. I love encouraging others to give it a try. To anyone asking, “How do you do that?” I reply, “How do you eat an elephant?” One bite at a time! —Christiane
As promised, here’s Christiane’s handy chain maille jewelry-making tip: “Since I started using larger-gauge rings, I learned to open my rings ‘backwards.’ I have the ring opening pointed towards me while supporting the metal of the ring in my chain-nosed pliers. I lift up on the right side, which pretty much uses my whole hand, wrist, and forearm as a lever, so I don’t stress my wrists alone.”
I can’t wait to try Christiane’s jump-ring-opening technique to see how it feels on my wrists and arms. For you chain maille jewelry makers who open and close so many rings in your work, try it and let me know how it feels! A great way to try it is with our new project compilation eBook, 10 Chain Maille Bracelets, hot off the presses and loaded with 10 complete chain maille bracelet projects from designers like Patti Bullard, Rebeca Mojica, and others.
I especially love our project compilation eBooks because, in addition to being an awesome value, the 10 projects allow me to see how up to 10 different artists use a similar technique in 10 different chain maille jewelry tutorials. I always learn great tips and techniques from these compilations, which I combine with what I already know to create the best practices for me. Plus it’s an instant digital download, so you can have it right away!
About our Guest: Christiane Ross is the Coordinating Producer and Resident Artist for Jewel School, a jewelry-making show on Jewelry Television (JTV). She is a guild artist and Senior Level Art Clay Instructor as well. Christiane was featured creating chain maille bezels in an episode of Beads, Baubles & Jewels, and her Dragonscale Cuff was a Fire Mountain Gems contest finalist. Being chosen as Ms. May in the Femaillers (female chain maillers) Calendar from The Ring Lord was one of her favorite moments! Connect with Christiane and see her chain maille, metal clay, and other jewelry on her Facebook page.
For your chain making explorations – check out these products in our shop!