Hello and here we are with just two weeks to go until what I hope (at the time of writing) will be as much of a normal Christmas as possible under the circumstances.
I hope everyone has been keeping well. I’ve been busy doing this and that since the last blog in October and time seems to have flown by. As a result, I haven’t really done much in the way of jewellery making although I have been studying the art of chain weaving which is fascinating even if fiddly and frustrating at times. There are some examples that I've made of Chain Maille on my Victoria Jewellery Facebook page
So, for this blog, I’ve decided to focus on chain and wire. They can either be the main construction method or an embellishment but however they’re used, they add interest and beauty.
Let’s start with wire, which is in my view, a fundamental element of jewellery making and has been used for centuries in many ways. Without it we couldn’t for example link on piece of jewellery to another such as a pendant on a chain, make the chain itself, create jump rings, bails or do cloisonné enamelling. It is because it is so flexible in its usage, that it is an important element in making pieces.
Wire, as you can imagine, comes in different shapes, sizes, and metals. The shapes I tend to use are round, square, and D shaped and in sizes from 0.7mm to 2.5mm depending on the purpose I want the wire for. I like using 9ct gold or sterling silver if soldering is required but for non-soldered projects, I also make the most of gold vermeil, gold-filled wires and gold and silver-plated wires all of which can create some smashing pieces for chain work and which work out less expensive than something in gold or silver without compromising style.
Findings, which are the small bits and pieces that finish off the item such as earring wires, posts, scroll backs and closures of different kinds, do sometimes need to be in specific sized wire. In the case of earring posts and earring hooks, they are made in 0.8mm sterling silver or gold wire as they need to be robust but not uncomfortable for the wearer whereas necklace and pendant clasps are often made in 1 – 2mm widths to keep their shape and provide security. Cloisonné enamelling requires very fine gold or silver wire such as 0.3 – 0.5mm which not only gives flexibility to fashion the “cells” but doesn’t take away the focus of the piece.
You can do just about anything with wire and all it takes to create a beautiful piece of jewellery is a bit of imagination and patience along with some simple technical skills. It’s always fun to learn new ways of working with it such as twisting strands together, mixing different metal wires to add interest, weaving beads into a wire work design which adds colour and texture, making ring bands, pendants, chain and so the list goes on.
In the second part of this blog, I’m following on from wire and concentrating on chain. It too has many practical uses from old fashioned lavatory flushes (ha ha) to ship anchors and everything in between. Chain is in fact wire in many disguises but for the purposes of this blog, we’ll stick to how it works in jewellery!
I love chain especially when it’s woven into elaborate Chain Maille patterns like Byzantine, European 4 in 1, flowers and individual decorative units. The art of Chain Maille is an ancient technique dating back more than 2000 years which links metal rings of the same or different sizes together. King Arthur and his Knights will no doubt have worn Chain Maille under their armour for comfort and additional protection and it is still used today when making the likes of butchers’ gloves and some diving gear. Moreover, you’ll also find historically accurate armour suits at re-enactment events showing off Chain Maille and of course the technique continues to evolve to more elaborate and complicated patterns. I’m still at the basics but it is fascinating.
There are different forms of chain work – chain weaves form the traditional chains like Byzantine; sheet weaves increase the width and length to create fabric like items (like those worn under the armour) and the individual weaves which can be introduced into other chain work. These might be flowers or involve beads and precious gems.
I think out of all the possible weaves, Byzantine is one of my favourites. It produces some amazing designs and when made using a mix of metals, it is beautiful. The weave consists of units and the size of each ring will dictate the tightness and thickness of the chain. A basic Byzantine “pattern” consists of a minimum of two 6 jump ring units connected by another ring and by adding further pattern units, the chain grows. I like using 6mm diameter rings with a 0.7- or 0.8-mm thickness although I’ve used larger rings which give a more open weave but equally as lovely. I mentioned earlier the European 4 in 1 weave and it is perhaps most famous for that protection needed under armour in days gone by. This technique is a sheet weave made up of rows of jump rings which link four rings into one and change direction on each row. The weave, besides using it for protection, can create wonderful decorative collars and cuff bracelets as well as belts. As with all Chain Maille weaves, the possibilities are endless.
I could go on and on about chain and wire, but I don’t want to get boring, so I’ll call it a day here. There is a lot of information online about the subject if you feel encouraged to find out more.
I shan’t be blogging again until the New Year and so it only leaves me to wish you a safe, peaceful, and hopefully enjoyable Christmas.
Best wishes for 2022
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