Jewelry Chain Glossary of Styles

Get to know more about jewelry chain styles and effects in this glossary of chain styles. This is a great reference to bookmark and refer to often when shopping for chain.

Jewelry Chain is made in many shapes, sizes and styles. This glossary of terms will introduce many of the most popular chain styles on the market as well as some common variations. Bookmark this page as a great reference when you are shopping for jewelry making supplies!

Open Link Styles

Halstead Cable Chain

Cable Chains – Cable chains consist of uniform round or oval links of wire that are connected to form a chain. Cables are the most simple and commonly used jewelry chain. Cables are frequently altered by flattening the links, texturing the metal surface or drawing/elongating the links. Double cables use two links side by side for each chain link position.  Flat cable chains have the links hammered flat, instead of being of round wire.

Halstead Figure 8 Chain

  • Figure – 8 – This starts out as a cable chain but then the alternating links are twisted or “curbed” into a figure-8 or infinity shape.

Halstead Curb Chain

Curb Chain – Curb chains are oval cables where each chain link has been twisted or “curbed” so the entire chain length lies flat against the body.

Halstead Parallel Curb Chain

  • Parallel – A common variation of the curb chain is the parallel curb where two links side by side are used in each link position.

Halstead Long and Short Chain

Long and Short – As the name suggests this is a broad category of chain styles consisting of links of differing lengths to create an appealing design. Long & short styles are usually a short, repeating pattern of links with a fairly uniform width but differing lengths.

Halstead Figaro Chain

  • Figaro – A popular variation of the long & short, figaros are patterns of three short links followed by one long link nearly equal to the length of the three short lengths. Figaros are usually made from thicker gauge wire than many other chains so they are heavier weight styles.  The links are curbed.

Halstead Rope Chain

Rope – A braided rope assembly of open wire links so named because the braiding is similar to that used to create fiber ropes or twine.

Halstead French Rope Chain

  • French Rope Chains – a variation on the rope chain that creates a spiraling affect in the finished braid. This chain is not made in France. Rumor has it that the tool & die maker who invented the braid had the last name French. Not sure if that is just industry lore or the actual truth.

Halstead Spiga Wheat Chain

  • Spiga/Wheat Chains – another common variation of the rope style, wheat (or spiga in Italian) chains exhibit a wheat-like v-pattern when viewed from the side. Wheat links are typically thicker than the fine links used in standard ropes or French ropes.

Halstead Singapore Chain

  • Singapore – A twisted, lightweight rope chain variation.

Halstead Rollo Chain

Belcher & Rollo Chains – Belchers are chains that are made from uniform round or oval links made from Low dome or flat stock wire. Rollo (Rolo sometimes) chains are made from half round wire. The resulting chain is heavier than cable and looks like it has been assembled from strips of metal instead of wires.

Halstead Bar ChainBar Chains – As the name suggests, bar chains are made from bar shaped links connected by small oval jump ring connectors. Bars can be straight, curved or even shaped like chevrons, marquise… etc.

Halstead link and Connector Chain

Link & Connector – A pattern of alternating round or oval wire links connected by straps of flat, wide strip. Link & connector styles are usually larger, fashion chains.

Halstead Fancy Wire Link Styles

Fancy Wire Link Styles – Many fancy variations are possible by machining different shaped link components. These styles are called “fancy” or “fantasy” variations of cables. These chains may use heart, infinity, flower or other shaped machine-made links instead of rounds or ovals.

Halstead Fancy Sheet Link Styles

Fancy Sheet Link Styles – These chains are hand or machine made by assembling stamped sheet links in shapes such as flowers, petals or geometrics. These stampings may have additional variation effects such as textures or curbing.

Halstead Rombo Chain

Rombo – Rombo link styles are “fancy” or “fantasy” variations of cables. These chains typically use diamond or “rombo” shaped, machine-made links instead of rounds or ovals.

Halstead Double Link Chain

Double Link – Cables with separate double links in each position instead of a single round wire link.

Halstead Marine Chain

Marine – This chain style was popularized by the Gucci brand is often referred to as Gucci chain. However, the name use is restricted due to trademark laws so jewelers are advised to call the chain marine or anchor chain instead. Marine chain is manufactured using round wire that then goes through complex, multi-step machining to create large oval links, cut bar segments, insert and then solder the bars in the center of each large oval link. Finally, the chain is flattened or hammered.

Halstead Ladder Chain

Ladder – Ladder chains are machine made by assembling wire links in a hook and eye configuration instead of standard interlinking.

Solid Chain Styles

Halstead Bead Chain

Ball or Bead Chain – A ball in socket assembly of spherical metal beads and wire connectors that when joined create a flexible length of bead chain.

Herringbone – A flat chain made from double cable that has been “swaged” or drawn through a flat condensing die. The resulting chain is smooth and solid in appearance with a mirror surface. Herringbones are not flexible and can easily kink.

S-Link – Similar to herringbone, this is a chain made of s-shaped links that are interconnected. S-links are slightly more flexible than herringbones but still prone to kinks.

Halstead Snake Chain

Snake Chains – A tubular chain made from assembled curved plates. Snake chains are highly flexible and have a solid appearance instead of open links.

Halstead Omega Chain

Omega Chains – A stiff, solid chain made from metal sheet strip spiraled around a box chain core, omegas are known to hold their collar shape. Omegas are solid and shiny in appearance with no open links. Omegas can kink if not properly handled.

Chain Variations

Most open link chain styles can be altered with one or more of the following techniques to make pleasing design changes.

Halstead Flat Cable ChainFlattening– Wire links can be flatted to create more surface area to reflect light. Flat chain links appear to be more bright and shiny.

Halstead Drawn Elongated Chain

Drawn/Elongated – Round or oval machine links can be stretched or “drawn” to elongate the chain. Drawing a chain can change its overall appearance and also make it narrower.

Swedged or Swaged – A swage chain has been drawn through a die to decrease the diameter and condense the links of the chain. Swaging can significantly alter the chain style. For example, herringbone and serpentine chains start out as double cable or curb chains that are re-shaped through swaging.

Halstead Dapped Chain

Dapped – Dapping can either curve a metal link  or leave a single hammer strike mark that reflects light. Both effects can be used for design purposes.

Halstead Hammered Chain

Hammered – Hammering the surface of the links creates a multi-faceted reflective surface texture.

Halstead Knurled or Textured Chain

Knurled or Textured – Knurling is a common texturing that gives links a hatch mark surface texture that brinks down reflectiveness and also forms an excellent foundation for oxidizing in relief. Many other surface textures can be applied ranging from simple line textures to more complicated pattern imprints.

Oxidized – The style shown above has also been oxidized or antiqued to darkens the silver and heighten the visibility of the textured surface relief.

Halstead Diamond Cut Chain

Diamond Cut – Chain links can be diamond cut in various patterns with precision tools. Diamond cuts create angled facets with precise edges. This alteration creates the most shiny, light catching facets possible on a metal surface.

Halstead Twisted Chain

Twisted or Curbed – Twisting or curling links is called curbing and can vary the look of chains. Curb chain are most obviously curbed cables. However, you can twist other styles as well for added effect.

Soldered vs. Unsoldered

It is important to note that most precious metal chain links are soldered together. Soldering closes the links so that gaps cannot form and cause chain breakage. Some other metals, such as copper cannot be easily soldered. Unsoldered chains made from these metals should be used with care. Make sure links are substantial enough to handle typical wear and pendant weight without stretching.

Numbering Convention

Many cables and curbs produced domestically use a numbering system that gives a rough indication of chain size. The first two digits refer to the thickness of the chain wire in thousandths of an inch. The second two digits indicate the number of links of chain per inch. At Halstead we prefix our chain with a metals code: 1 for base metals, 2 for sterling, 3 for gold filled and 4 for copper. So a 21018 chain would be a sterling chain using .010” (30ga) wire that is 18 links per inch. This numbering system is only used with some chain styles. Please keep in mind that machine chain production can alter the gauge and link count due to normal drawing during manufacturing. So, these numbers should just be considered rough indicators.

Shop Now

At Halstead we stock a variety of jewelry chain styles in bulk by the foot in sterling silver and gold filled. We hope you find this reference guide useful. Feel free to share it as long as Halstead is credited as the original source.

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  • I am looking for stainless steel chain to buy in bulk. Do you sell stainless steel chains and if so do you have any floral styles?

    • Thanks for the inquiry, Joann. Our chain products are manufactured at numerous locations in the US and abroad. If you are interested in a particular chain you can click on the image on our website which will take you to the item detail page. There you can find Nation of Origin, weight, finish, material…etc. Hope that helps!

  • Hi, I recently started getting back into jewelry and have been buying .999 silver items rather than the .925…. then I stubbed in Mexico silver now it’s up to taxco silver I’m bidding on with a lot of competion. What is the better one? I feel like I’m learning of a better stamp than the last, although I do feel the weight as we go on down the line, gets heavier

    • Hi Angela, I’m not quite sure what your question is so I’ll attempt to cover each description. .999 is pure silver and very soft. .925 is sterling silver with 92.5% being silver and 7.5% comprised of metal alloys (usually copper), Mexican silver is usually 95% silver and 5% copper, however, you must find the mark that will tell you the silver content used in each piece. There is an alpaca mark that contains no silver at all and is often stamped on Mexican pieces. As of the mid-1940’s Taxco silver is now stamped as 92.5% silver with a metal alloy as the other 7.5% (just like sterling silver) but you must be sure to buy from a reputable source or you could end up with alpaca silver instead of Mexican or Taxco silver.

      I hope this helped. Please let me know if you have any other questions.

  • I am wanting a gold “plated” chain that will not fade or tarnish, what would you recommend to be the best “per-say” metal & gold/gold type coating be?

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