Understanding chain types

If you draw a blank on hearing terms like 'trace', 'belcher', 'Figaro', 'spiga' and many more other types of chain, you're not alone.  There are several standard types of jewellery chain, which are differentiated by the shape of the loops and how they are linked.  We're talking commercial jewellery chains here by the way, handmade designer chains can take any shape or form.. But that's another story.


Most standard chain names are not very descriptive (see belcher for instance), which adds to the complexity.  

So let's demystify it all! 


One of the simplest styles of chain, but often what's required if you want more emphasis on a pendant for instance.  The links in a trace chain are typically uniform in breadth and thickness, and can be very delicate in finer widths.


Similar to the trace, a belcher chain link is wider than its thickness. Generally the links are round, but the shape of the link can vary.  It's named for the bare knuckle champiom boxer Jem Belcher.  It's one of my favourites for the roundness and visual symmetry.


Also known as Box, briolette is similar to a belcher chain except the links are tighter together and are square in shape, hence the name.  A contemporary type, more gender-neutral than other styles.


In a curb chain the links interlock with each other when laid flat. Some more open-link curb chains can only be distinguished from a trace by this method. 


Inspired by the chain that holds large anchors on ships, it has oval links with a dividing bar through the middle. There is also a version called Maritime, where only every other link is an anchor link.


A very tight-linked chain that has a round or square cross-section and has links that create a slight zigzag look.



The chain with the greatest liquid effect, formed from v-shaped links to lay entirely flat. Thin strands of herringbone can be twisted or even plaited together.


Formed of small balls of metal joined by small lengths of wire, not longer than each bead in between. Larger steel versions are more often used to hold ID cards, but finer ones are more and more used for jewellery. One of my personal favourites!


Made by many small links which are not completely joined, this chain creates the effect of two twisting strands spiralling together. One disadvantage is that, if one link should break, the rest of the chain might unravel...


The Figaro has a number of standard links (usually three) which precede an elongated link all the way through. The name was inspired by the operas The Barber of Seville and The Marriage of Figaro.


A twisting chain made of small circular links, where each single link has no less than four others joining into it.


May also be called twisted curb, but the links are joined in such a way that, even when the chain is untwisted, there is always a natural curve and a liquid-like look to it.


Small figure-eight links form a 3D chain that feels almost square, and looks as though the wire has been plaited.


Formed of very long, thin teardrop-shape links that all point in the same direction. The joint of each link is like a tiny hinge, meaning this style is not as flexible or liquid-like as some others.


Avery intricate chain, formed by having a double link in a chain of circular links, and crescent-shaped links enclosing the doubles. It lies flat and looks ellipsoid in cross-section. The name stems from the place of origin.


Round soldered rings are stretched into oval links and pinched in the middle to form two loops – one at either end – and bent. Each bent link is then worked into the previous one to form the chain.