Ask Us – About Chain Mail

from The Bead Scoop Vol. II Issue 3 Sep 2008

Q. What is Chain Mail?

A. In today’s beading design world, “Chain Mail” (or sometimes “chain maille”) refers to the technique of linking jump rings together to create jewelry designs – particularly chain patterns. No one really knows when the technique came into being, but historically it is most often associated with the chain mail protection worn by fighters in the 13 th century.

“Chain mail garments – shirts, hoods, and leg protection – were used for limited protection to stop cutting weapons from piercing the skin in hand-to-hand combat. Through the 13 th century, chain mail was common attire prior to the development of full suits of amour, which began to replace mail. Chain mail fell out of fashion and was eclipsed by modern warfare, but the technique lived on.” **

Since then, you see chain mail used in the gloves of butchers and fishermen, in early kitchens for scrubbing pots, in 19th century purses, and now in beautiful jewelry applications. Techniques and patterns have been discovered in Europe, Japan and the Middle East providing the basis for a wide variety of designs and finished looks. Modern beaders have taken the ball and run with it – developing new patterns, adding beads to jump rings and combining chain mail with other disciplines. Projects can range from very, very simple to wildly complex and everything in between depending on the desired look and the fortitude of the beader!

**Taylor, Terry and Dylon Whyte. Chain Mail Jewelry: Contemporary Designs from Classic Techniques. Sterling Publishing, New York. 2006 .