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How to Make a Byzantine Chain

Updated on October 2, 2011

One of the most popular goals in crafting is to create truly gorgeous and unique jewelry. Chain maille and other types of metal jewelry is extremely durable and, depending on the technique, look great on both men and women. Traditional metal smithing takes a significant investment in time and money, but there are countless projects that require nothing more than a bit of wire. Chain maille (or chain mail) jewelry has caught on like wildfire, and all you need to create countless patterns is a collection of jump rings. You can either buy jump rings already made, or easily make your own from practically any wire. By learning just a few basic fundamentals, which require very little cash to start, you can make just about any maille pattern under the sun.

Making Your Own Jump Rings

With just some wire cutters and a pair of round-nosed pliers or a power drill, you can make your own jump rings cheaply and easily. While there are some tools available to help make perfectly uniform jump rings, you can still make them quite uniform if you wrap them around your round-nosed pliers at about the same point for every ring. If you want to ensure uniformity, a jeweler’s caliper will help you accurately measure your rings for sorting.

The basic jump ring is made by holding the end of the wire with the pliers, then twist until there’s a tightly-wrapped full circle on the pliers. Now clip the wire. You may also wish to clip the piece of wire that the pliers held, especially in softer metals that may have gotten scratched or bent at a weird angle. If you want to make your rings a lot faster, you can use a power drill with an attachment that has a long smooth shaft (longer screwdriver attachments generally work well). Set the drill on a low speed so that you can easily adjust as the wire coils, making sure that each wire wrap rests smoothly just above the previous one. When you’re done, slide the wire off and use the wire cutters to clip every full circle of wire.

Don’t be afraid to experiment with different types of metal, and even different colors of wire. Some types of colored wire may scratch using the plier method, so you may want to stick to a power drill for those. Alternatively, you can always buy pre-made jump rings. These will be more expensive per ring, but it will take a lot less time to get the materials you need for your project.

Making the Byzantine Chain

With your freshly-made jump rings, it’s time to jump into your project. The Byzantine chain is a very versatile and extremely popular chain. It looks complicated, but you may be surprised at how easy it is to create the basic chains and variations on the theme. While you can use any size or mix of sizes of jump rings for this pattern, you may want to try making the basic chain as described here first. Once you have the feel for how to create the pattern, then you can begin experimenting with everything the Byzantine chain has to offer.

1. Hold a pair of jump rings together, then attach two jump rings through both of these rings. Then, attach two more jump rings that go through the original two exactly the same way. You should now have a three-link chain, with each chain consisting of two side-by-side jump rings.


2. With the first pair of rings held firmly in-between two fingers, flip your hand upward. This will cause the bottom pair of rings to fall open. Press the center two rings apart. This can be accomplished with a small knitting needle, an awl, or similar pointed tool.

3. Place the pointed tool of your choice between the rings on the pair in the middle, then through the last two rings where they intersect with the middle. Gently pull these rings through, bringing the ring up between the two middle rings.

4. Hold tight to the rings you just brought up so they don’t slip back out of the middle rings. Using your pliers, insert a jump ring through the last two rings between the center rings. Add another beside it for another pair of rings. These two rings are the first link in your next set of three links.

5. Repeat steps 1-4 until you have reached the desired length of chain.

That’s all there is to it. Though it looks complicated, the Byzantine chain can be created using just four simple steps. If you’re looking for a higher-priced item to add to your craft show repertoire, or an intricate-looking piece of jewelry for your own collection, the Byzantine chain is just the ticket either by itself, embellished with beads, or combined with other media. Don’t be afraid to experiment with ring sizes and colors, various embellishments, wire gauges, and metal types. The sky really is the limit with just this one type of chain.

I hope this hub has been helpful, and you're on your way to making all sorts of unique maille jewelry. Please take a moment to post a comment answering the question, what is your favorite maille pattern, or the one you would most like to learn? I would love to hear about techniques you've used for embellishing your unique pieces too.


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