Chain Reaction: The Fascinating History of the Chain Necklace
Written by Anna Currell
February 20, 2023
Chain necklaces may be trendy today, but they’re definitely not new on the jewelry scene. In fact, the chain necklace style has been around for centuries. The trend dates back to ancient civilizations and pops up across a long and varied history, all leading to our modern version of the chain necklace that is so popular today. Let’s explore the history of chain necklaces:
Chain Necklaces in Ancient History
Chain necklaces were very common in ancient Egypt, where they were often made of gold and decorated with precious stones and intricate designs. In addition to being worn for fashionable purposes, chain necklaces were also believed to have magical properties and were sometimes used as amulets to protect against evil spirits. The broad collar chain necklace, which is often gold and spans the width of a person’s collar bone, was a popular type worn by royalty.
Chain necklaces were also popular in ancient Greece, where they were made of a variety of materials including gold, silver, bronze, and iron. Like in Egypt, chain necklaces in ancient Greece were often decorated with elaborate designs. One ancient Greek chain necklace on display at the British Museum features a looped chain style, small flowery details, and leaf-shaped pendants.
The chain necklaces in ancient Rome featured similar designs and details to those of ancient Greece. A great example is a woven gold chain necklace housed at the Met Museum, estimated to be created and worn somewhere between the first and third centuries CE. It features a gold crescent pendant, a motif that has made a resurgence in the fashions of today.
Chain Necklaces in the Middle Ages
In the Middle Ages, chain necklaces were often worn as a sign of wealth and status, and they were often a medium for religious art. During the Middle Ages chain necklaces were made of expensive and precious metals and gemstones, so only the wealthiest class could afford to wear them. Archeologists recently excavated a medieval necklace in Britain, found at a burial site of a woman who archeologists believe to be very wealthy, along with many other valuable artifacts, indicating the necklace’s significance to its wearer.
Chain Necklaces in the Renaissance
The Renaissance was a time of cultural and artistic revival, and this was reflected in the design and craftsmanship of chain necklaces too. Complicated details and ornamentation became popular, and goldsmiths and jewelers during this time period were highly skilled at crafting this level of intricacy in their chain necklaces. Like much of history, chain necklaces during the renaissance were not only a fashion statement but also carried religious and spiritual significance in the form of medallions and pendants.
Chain Necklaces in Modern Times
Today, people wear chain necklaces all over the world. In the modern era, chain necklaces are made from a variety of materials, including gold, silver, platinum, stainless steel, and even acrylic and plastic. Not only are they still popular after centuries of wear, but chain necklaces are also growing in popularity. In fact, they’re considered a staple in many peoples’ jewelry collections, and there is a palpable craze over minimalist chains for men in fashion today.
People might wear a chain necklace today for a variety of reasons, including as a fashion accessory or as a religious or cultural symbol. Chain necklaces are often used to hold pendants as well; the most popular current chain styles for pendants include snake chains, ball chains, box chains, curb chains, rope chains, and cable chains.
A chain necklace is a perfect everyday piece to have in your jewelry collection. You can dress it up or down, layer it with other necklaces, or use it to display a few gorgeous pendants. If you already have a chain necklace you love that isn’t quite the right length for your look, you can always send it in to us at Quick Jewelry Repairs. Our expert jewelers will lengthen or shorten your chain necklace so it’s exactly how you like it, or you can create a completely custom chain plucked from your own imagination. Let’s get started!