History Of Chains

At the heart of today’s modern chain, necklet and neckwear is a long and complex history behind the stylish jewellery we wear today.

The unique and sturdy metal chain dates back to around 225BC when the design was used in wells to draw buckets of water to the surface.

Even before that, simple chains made from stones, bones, shells and teeth were worn by men and women. These chains were olden day jewellery and worn to symbolise status, religion, wealth and power.

The Egyptians who wore chains and bracelets were buried with their treasures to keep in the afterlife. In Neolithic times, metal such as gold was found to be easy to work with and could be bent and stretched into wire. The wire could then be worked into hoops and loops and joined into chains.

Up until the mid 18th century, chain making was carried out by craftsmen by hand. The craftsmen would hammer the metal and pull it into small circles. Once the correct diameter was reached, the craftsman would cut the looped wire into individual circles and interlink the circles, closing them and solder the join. As an example, a 16 inch chain might contain over 500 loops. The process was painstaking, time consuming and error prone.

In France around 1750, a chain making machine was invented by Jaques de Vaucanson to make “U” shaped wire for mesh chain. Around 30 years later, a machine powered most likely by human peddling was created to make circular and oval shaped chains.

In the 19th century peddle power was overtaken by electric motors meaning the machines could be run for longer and with less staffing. Chains made from gold, silver and platinum were rolled out in countries such as England, Germany, France, Italy and more.

Exciting developments led to different machinery where cable chains (or link chains) made with round or oval links were produced and also curb chains (where the links lie flat) were introduced. Snake chain machines and ball chain machines came into practice as did Figaro chain making machines with capacity to create two different link sizes in one chain.

With the trend for a light coloured material and platinum in scarce supply, white gold became very popular along with silver and sterling silver chains which could be produced to meet the new demand.