An introduction to chainmail
by Marilyn Gardiner
This is the third project in a series of chainmail earrings for beginners.
This month’s chainmail weave is called Byzantine. You may see references to some of its other names: Idiot’s Delight, King’s Link, Birdcage, and others. Byzantine is one of the most popular weaves & it is very versatile. Changes in the size of the wire and the rings can produce very different looks. As well, the basic byzantine segments can be linked together in different ways to make interesting bracelets, necklaces & collars. And Byzantine is perfect for adding beads!
This weave is part of the European family of chainmail weaves. Take a look at this website to see other weaves in this family.
Many different metals can be used to make jump rings. You will see copper (plain & enameled), sterling silver, fine silver, Argentium silver, gold (in different shades), anodized aluminum, bright aluminum, brass, bronze, steel, niobium, titanium and even more. See Urban Maille and The Ring Lord for more information about these different metal rings.
One of the most interesting recent developments in metal for jewelry is Argentium Sterling Silver. it is still 92.5% silver, but the alloy used, Germanium, makes it slow to tarnish. You can anticipate seeing this product readily available in the future as refiners and jewellers become more familiar with it.
First, the wire used to make the jump rings comes in different “tempers”, from dead soft, through half-hard, to hard. I like to use half-hard wire because it gets harder as it is coiled and made into rings, and it gets harder still as the rings are tumbled to clean and polish them. My goal is to have rings that won’t pull open.
Wire comes in different thicknesses—and describing the thickness, or diameter is an “interesting” topic—or should I say a “frustrating” topic. The wire for this month’s project measures 1.0 mm in diameter. Here is a chart with some useful information about gauges. Look at the row for 18 gauge—under AWG you’ll see that the metric equivalent is 1.0 mm. Soooo, when you buy rings you need to clarify which system of measurement is being used (AWG, BWG, SWG), and whether the number is in inches or millimeters.
The size of the ring is typically measured by the Inside Diameter (ID). If you think about it, the wire was coiled around a metal rod (or mandrel) and then cut with a saw into rings—so the diameter of that rod is pretty close to the inside diameter of the resulting rings. Seems logical, but of course, just to make things difficult, some companies sell their rings by the Outside Diameter! Buyer beware!
And just to confuse things a bit more, some companies measure in fractions of an inch, others use decimal inches, while still others use plain millimeters.
The small jump rings are also made from 1.0 mm (18 gauge) sterling wire with an ID of 4 mm.
The small jump rings are made from 0.8 mm (20 gauge) sterling wire with an ID of 3.5 mm.
2 sterling headpins with ball or other decorative end
2 of 6 mm crystals or gemstones
1 pair of earring findings
Tools Required For This Project
2 pairs of smooth-jawed jewelers’ pliers
Both pairs could be chain nose pliers, or one could be chain nose and the other one could be either flat nose pliers or bent nose pliers (where you would use the curved part to grip the jump ring).
See the previous project for more information about pliers.
The Project: BYZANTINE EARRINGS