Jewelry Design Challenge: Chainmaille

chainmaille leaf earringsChainmaille jewelry is one of those things I’ve often looked at and thought “that must take forever to make.” I could just imagine the hours of opening and closing all those jump rings.

I admired the skill and the patience I assumed it must require to create the intricate patterns but didn’t feel compelled to try it myself.  I know me.  And patience is not one of my virtues.

However, chainmaille was a technique for a Self-Representing Artists in Jewelry Design monthly challenge. So I decided to give it a go. I ordered some artistic wire jump rings and a beginner’s pattern book, with plans to make a byzantine weave bracelet.

Have I ever mentioned how pathetic I am at following pictorial instructions?  I do much better with written instructions.  Naturally, the pattern book I picked up was more pictures than words. I tried watching a few video tutorials.  My ability to mimic mirror image directions is just as poor as my ability to figure something out from pictures.

Despite having the “wrong” kind of instructions to work from, I did manage to get my byzantine chain underway. I opened, connected, and closed links for about two hours.  The entire time I was working I had this nagging feeling I was doing something wrong. But since I was definitely forming a pattern, I kept at it.

Until my neck and shoulders demanded I take a break.  When I measured the total length, I realized I had only managed about three inches. Doing some quick in-my-head math I calculated it would take me about way too much longer to make a bracelet.

And thus, dangle earrings were born. I separated my chain in the middle, added some artisan ceramic leaf charms at the bottom, connected the tops to ear wires, and called it done.  The ceramic drops are from Majoyoal.

Chainmaille leaf earrings

Box weave dangle earrings using bronze colored artistic wire jump rings, with green ceramic leaf drops.

I was pretty proud of my earrings, but I still had a feeling I got the pattern wrong.  This suspicion was confirmed when I shared a photo of my earrings in a couple of jewelry artist groups on Facebook.  It turns out I actually made a box weave rather than byzantine. I’m told this is a fairly common beginner mistake.  I also got recommendations for some better pattern books that might help me when I try again.

I didn’t make a byzantine weave bracelet as I set out to do.  However, I confirmed that chainmaille is every bit as time and labor intensive as I imagined. I don’t think I’ll be making this technique a major part of my jewelry repertoire. But I’m glad I gave it a try, and I do think short segments could have a place as occasional design elements within some of my jewelry.