Chain Maille and Jump Rings

Sterling necklace made with a variation of the Byzantine weave.

Chain maille (also spelled chain mail) is weaving chains and sheets by using rings.  Traditionally, this was done using metal rings, although today’s patterns can make use of jump rings made of metal, fabric, beads and rubber or plastic.  It’s a brave new world!

Before you run out and buy a bunch of jump rings, you need to be aware of their aspect ratio.

The what?

Every jump ring has an aspect ratio (also known as AR), which is calculation based on the size of the ring compared to its gauge.  And the various weaves are made with rings of a certain AR.  (Read on a little further and you’ll get more detailed info on this subject.)

Jump Rings and Metals

You can buy rings from all kinds of places, in all kinds of metals and in a rainbow of colors.  You can get rings made with precious metals (silver, gold) or base metals (pretty much anything but silver or gold).

When learning how to do chain maille, you may want to start with an inexpensive metal such as copper, which is also relatively soft (and therefore easy to open and close).  Aluminum is nice and light (and can also be andonized in several colors), but it can be stiff and tough to close in thicker gauges, until you are used to the stiffness.

With This Ring…

Here are some things you need to be aware of when going jump ring shopping, especially if you are shopping online:

  • Wire Gauge:  thicker gauges make thicker weaves, which is nice when you want a substantial piece of jewelry.  But for some projects, like earrings, you may want a finer, lighter gauge. 18 and 20 are the most commonly-used gauges in jewelry.
  • Diameter:  To calculate AR you need to know the inside diameter (ID) of the jump ring.  However, sometimes you only get the measurement for the outside diameter (OD).  Yikes!
  • Material:  Are you making a casual piece of jewelry or something extra-special?  When it comes to chain maille, almost anything goes.  Special pieces may call for precious metals.  Casual jewelry is fun in colors.
  • Cut:  I go into it more in the free ebook below, but how the jump ring is cut off the mandrel is important.  With precious metals, you want rings that are saw-cutl other ways of cutting will have one end of  the jump ring that is flush, and the other cut end will have a slight point.

Free Ebook Tutorial

And here you go — a free ebook tutorial for Chain Maille Rings.  You’ll get all kinds of info on:

  • What to look for when buying jump rings.
  • The two main wire measuring standards and how they differ.
  • AR Chart — Gauge, ID, OD and AR for common gauges and sizes of jewelry.
  • Examples of chain maille weaves made with different ARs.
  • Mini-tutorial for a 4-in-2 weave.

It’s 9 pages total, and yep, it’s free to you, so enjoy!  🙂

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