Jewelry Findings: Choosing Chains | Rolo Chain, Cable Chain, Ball Chain, Long and Short Chain

by lakeerieartists

Whether you are a jewelry designer, or just a person looking for the right chain to hang a favored pendant, choosing the right chain can make your necklace stunning, or just so-so.

Whether you are a jewelry designer, or just a person looking for the right chain to hang a favored pendant, choosing the right chain can make your necklace stunning, or make it look so-so.

There are numerous styles of chains to choose from, and all of them can be bought already finished with a clasp, and ready to use, or in bulk spools or lengths.

Choosing the Right Chain for Your Necklace

copper ball chain

Chains are described by the following criteria:

  • length--includes the total length of the chain from end to end-- common lengths for women are 16, 18, and 20 inches
  • width-diameter of the widest part of the chain
  • type of clasp if the chain is finished
  • metal-silver, copper, 14k gold, brass, silver plated, gold plated, base metal
  • style--snake, rolo, cable, ball

With all of these variables, the choice of chain is quite wide and varied.

The prices of chains vary widely also, primarily dependent on the current cost of the metal used. Precious metals are considered a market commodity, so they change on a daily basis, and jewelry suppliers change their prices accordingly. At the time of this writing, precious metal prices are way up, which has resulted in much higher prices for silver, gold, and platinum supplies including chains.

Popular Chain Styles

The two most common chain styles right now are the ball chain pictured to the right, and cable chain.  Ball chain are much more casual, and the popularity goes hand in hand with the current fashion of making precious metal dog tag necklaces.

Cable chains come in many varieties and are versatile, lending them to be used for numerous jewelry making applications.

Sterling Silver Cable Chain

Sterling Silver Delicate Cable Chain 1.5mm-Bulk By The Foot

Very Fine & Delicate. Bright Sterling Silver Cable Chain. Small 1.5mm Width. Sold By The Foot. Sterling Silver Cable Chain. Fine, lightweight, sterling silver chain. The most ...

$2.15  $2.00
Sterling Silver Cable Chain 2mm Textured Bulk By The Foot

Bright Sterling Silver Cable Chain. Textured Finish. Ideal For Necklaces & Earrings. Light 2mm Width. Sold By The Foot. Sterling Silver Cable Chain. All-purpose sterling ...

Only $4.25

Venetian Box Chain

Sterling Silver Venetian .9mm Box Chain 36 Inch with Clasp

Bright Sterling Silver. Sleek Venetian Box Chain. 36 Inch Necklace Total Length -.9mm Wide (When clasped this necklace measures 18 inches long.). Finished With Clasp. Sleek, ...

Only $22.49
Sterling Silver Venetian .9mm Box Chain 16 Inch with Clasp

Bright Sterling Silver. Sleek Venetian Box Chain. 16 inch Necklace Length -.9mm Wide. Finished With Clasp. Sleek, supple, shining - these are a beautiful way to hang the ...

Cable Chains

Chains are available in just about every metal precious and non precious.  However, for jewelry purposes, the most common chains are sterling silver and sterling silver plated.  Sterling silver chains are solid sterling silver, while sterling silver plate is a fine veneer of silver over another metal, usually copper or base metal like steel.

Sterling is still popular even with the price increase in precious metals because many people are allergic to base metals, and specifically nickel alloys.  Sterling silver plate will wear off over time, so if you buy it and are allergic to nickel, make sure the jewelry says that it is nickel free.

Cable chains are made by creating flat loops of metal and attaching them to one another, then soldering them together.  Loops can be circular, oval, or sometimes square or triangular.    There are variations of the cable chain, the long and short, featuring one long, then one short link, and the rolo chain in which the loops are not flat, they are wide cylinders.

Snake Chain

Sterling Silver Fine Snake Beading Chain .5mm Bulk By The Ft.

Delicate Sterling Silver. Sleek Beading Chain. Sold By The Foot, Cut To Your Order. Our finest and most delicate Sterling Silver beading chain, in an extra slender (.5mm) ...

Only $2.99
Bright Silver Plated Fine Snake Beading Chain 1mm Bulk By The Foot

Fine & Delicate Silver Plated. Sleek Beading Chain. Sold By The Foot, Cut To Your Order. Delicate Silver Plated beading chain, in a very slender (1mm) width. Choose your ...

Only $1.25

Long and Short Chain

Sterling Silver Delicate Long & Short Chain 2.2mm Bulk By The Foot

Fine & Delicate Sterling Silver. Long And Short Chain. Bulk By The Foot. Delicate Sterling Silver chain, in a pattern of one long link alternating with three short links. This ...

Only $4.75
Antiqued Brass Long Short Curb Chain 5mm Bulk By The Foot

Antiqued Brass Curb Chain. Long And Short Links. Sold By The Foot. Fancy flattened link curb chain with long and short links, made of antiqued brass. Great for jewelry and ...

Only $2.49

Other Chain Styles

There are also other chain styles that are less popular with handmade jewelry artists including the Venetian box style, snake chain, and the omega chain.

Both the snake and the omega style chain (which is really a flattened snake) are easily damaged and/or kinked.  Once they are damaged, they cannot be fixed which makes them difficult for artists who travel from show to show.  The longest lasting omega chains are the very wide flat chains.  To keep them in good condition, make sure to put them back in their box after wearing.

The Venetian box style was much more popular about 25 years ago, but is being used less and less in artistic jewelry designs.

Most artists prefer a more flexible, hardier chain which is why they tend to choose a version of the cable chain, or the ball chain.

Ball Chain

Genuine Copper Ball Chain 2.4mm - Sold By The Foot

Copper Ball Chain. 2.4mm Ball 1.5mm Bar Spacer. Sold By The Foot. Genuine Solid Copper. Nickel and lead free. Connector bar can fit inside balls, offering maximum flexibility. ...

Only $1.49
Black Enameled Steel Ball Chain 2.4mm - Sold By The Foot

Black Enameled Steel Ball Chain. 2.4mm Ball 1.5mm Bar Spacer. Sold By The Foot. Black Enameled Steel. Connector bar can fit inside balls, offering maximum flexibility. Great ...

Only $1.89

Rolo Chain

Vintaj Natural Brass 3.5mm Round Rolo Chain - Bulk By The Foot

Vintaj¨ Natural Brass . Round Rolo Chain 3.5mm. Sold By The Foot, Cut To Your Order. Vintaj Product Code : CH90S. This nickel and lead-free item is made of a lovely antique ...

Only $3.75
Beadalon Chain Rolo Large Silver Plated, 19-1/2-Inch

Use a little or a lot of this Silver Chain to add appeal and create drama in beaded designs. Short lengths of Chain lend a sparkling touch: add a hanging chain tassel from ...

Only $8.99

Antiqued Metal Chains

Most metals can be darkened or antiqued with several different chemicals, the most common is sulphur.  We used to call this tarnish, but now the more polite term is patina.  Patinas are developed on precious metal chains on purpose to create a desired finish or look, and what they do best is bring out the texture in a chain.

Antiquing primarily is a stylistic choice of the jewelry designer, and does not impair or change the value of precious metal.  It is only on the surface and can be removed with high heat.

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Updated: 10/07/2014, lakeerieartists
 
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