Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Chainmaille: How We Got Here

Since I have a lot of people breezing through who might not be familiar with maille, I thought I'd say a word or two on the state of chainmaille in the world today.

Of course, in ancient times it was made of bronze, brass, or steel and worn as armor. It's much lighter than plate armor and much easier to fix if damaged.

Some time in the last couple of decades the Renaissance faire-going and SCA-attending crowd started making their own armor out of coiled rings. Usually steel. But steel's heavy, and if you're fighting with PVC swords, or not fighting at all, you don't really need all that much protection. Aluminum is one third the weight of steel, so it was a natural choice. From there it was a short step for the ladies of said geeky persuasions to start wearing bits of their own chainmaille... necklaces, headdresses, that sort of thing. The guys made themselves rings and bracelets. They experimented with the weaves and started inventing amazing new ones.

Along came the hobby jeweler (probably just behind scrapbooking in the hobbyist craze, to judge from the amount of inventory at my local Hobby Lobby). They were using a lot of wire anyway... I don't know who started it, but really, chainmaille is a natural fit here. It requires a minimum of tools, and done in silver is mesmerizing. Plus... if you've never had a piece of well made chainmaille in your hands you're missing out. The feel is extremely sensual and incredibly fun to fidget with if you've got restless hands. Chainmaille went from the bits of "geek" jewelry to sleek creations in glimmering precious metals. And the jewelers carried the experimentation even further, and added other jewelry making techniques and materials into the mix.

I guess I wouldn't call chainmaille "mainstream" yet, although it's made its appearance on the fashion runways in the past few years (wait... that's not mainstream, never mind). But that might be a good thing, because "unique" is the word I hear most often to describe my work, which I like. And you want to wear something unique, too, right?

So whether you're looking for something to wear with your Renfaire costume, a stretchy bracelet to wear to high school, a slinky choker to wear with that little black dress, a sturdy stainless steel bracelet to wear to your blue collar job, or armor against the mundane, you'll find it in chainmaille.

So here's my suggestion: head on over to Etsy and search "chainmaillers team" or go to our Etsy Chainmaillers' Guild blog, where you'll find an amazing array of styles and materials to fit your mood and your personal style. And of course, I'd love to work with you personally to make a custom item exactly the way you want it.


Rose Works Jewelry said...

Great explination of the history of chainamille jewelry! I've started playing with making it...slowly...

Liv'nGood Jewelry said...

great explanation of the recent history of an ancient art

i'm very new to it, but took to it like a duck to water

Rey Ybarra said...

Very nice article about the chainamille jewelry. I also loved the photo of Dr, King and President Obama.

Rey Ybarra, New Media Expert.

Anonymous said...

Ive just started leaning chain maille and even with the very simple designs that I have started with I have to say how much more I greatly admire the jewelry. It is so time consuming and tricky but always looks so elegant and lovely when its finished. You do wonderful work and Ive been a fan of your shop for awhile now :)

Anonymous said...

Excellent notes about history. I love this stuff!

Tara @ The Costumer

PolymerClayTutor said...

I just love the look of chainmaille and reading this was really fun! I wasn't aware the jewelry component of chainmaille was so young. I've only done a couple of simple weave bracelets but must admit it is something I am dieing to learn more about so I can incorporate with my polymer clay beads. That is why I'm here, and look forward to reading more on your blog! ~Cindy Lietz