The curb chain is a chain with tightly interlocked links that have been twisted and flattened. Curb chains are a twist (pun intended) on the classic cable chain. The major difference between a curb chain and a cable chain is that a well-done curb chain lays flat.
History of the Curb Chain
The curb chain is an old chain with a rather unusual backstory. Before people began to adapt them as fashion accessories, horse riders used curb chains to hold the bits in the mouth of their horses. The curb chain was usually a short chain located behind the mouth of the horse, holding the bit in place.
A curb chain works better for a horse’s bit because it lays flat and doesn’t press into its skin, injuring it. The flat arrangement of the curb chain also makes it comfortable to wear as a bracelet or necklace. Horse riders still use the curb chain for its original purposes, and in Italian and French, it’s known as Grumetta and Gourmette, respectively.
When jewelers first started making curb chains, most preferred to make chains with bigger links. The precision required to cut each link equally made it a tedious job to manually create tiny curb chains. Nowadays, manufacturers can easily produce thin curb chains using machines.
How is a Curb Chain Made?
The finished curb chain is a beautiful piece, and jewelers have to take it through a few interesting steps. To create a curb chain, a jeweler needs the following items:
- Gold or other metal
- Jewelry rolling machine
- Jeweler’s plier set
- Soldering paste
- Jewelry hammer
Each of the steps explained below follows the process of manually producing a simple curb chain; however, some machines automate the process.
Step 1 – Roll and Stretch the Metal
First, the jeweler must decide what metal they want to make the chain. Jewelers can make curb chains in various metals, but for this example, it’ll be a gold curb chain.
The jeweler would first place a little bar of gold into the rolling machine repeatedly to get the desired thinness. Placing the metal through the rolling machine would also stretch it into a rope-like form that the jeweler can easily cut.
Step 2 -Cut the Links
Next, the jeweler would curl the stretched metal on a rod. They can curl thinly-stretched gold using a drilling machine; thicker metals would require manual rolling.
After curling the metal onto the rod, the jeweler removes the rod. Next, a sharp plier is used to cut the metal into equal sizes. These little bits of cut metal would form the links of the chain.
Step 3 – Attach and Solder the Links
The jeweler carefully hooks the link in a chain pattern and tightens the gaps between them. The links must then be soldered together to prevent them from separating later.
Soldering paste is applied to the spaces between each link, after which the jeweler heats it with a blowtorch. Heating the soldering paste will activate it, and you’ll notice a slight bubbling.
The chain should be well-linked after the solder cools; at this point, the result would be a cable chain.
Step 4 – Twist the Links
To make the links lie flat, the jeweler turns each of them individually using two blunt pliers. The jeweler must make each link face the same direction and be careful when twisting to avoid breaking the chain.
Step 5 – Hammering the chain
The twisted cable chain would now look more like a curb chain. The jeweler still needs to hammer the chain to remove any irregularities or inequalities in its shape. Hammering the chain also gives it that flatness that curb chains are popular for.
The jeweler uses his hammer to hit the chain while carefully observing that all links are equal.
Step 6 – Finishing
After hammering the chain, the jeweler adds a clasp to the chain; he can choose one of several clasp types. After attaching the clasp, the chain is washed and polished to give it the final finish. In some cases, jewelers plate the jewelry with another metal.
The plating might be to make it appear like another metal, to protect it, or to make the chain and clasp colors uniform.
Price of Curb Chain
Curb chains are available in various shapes, sizes, and metals. These factors determine how much you would pay for your piece, but the metal used is undoubtedly the most important.
You can get a stainless steel curb chain for as little as $10. A 1.5mm 14-karat gold curb chain costs around $200-$400, while a 13.5mm flat curb chain of the same material will cost around $5,000-$7,000. Where you buy your chain also matters; these are the price estimates from Jacoje Fine Jewelry.
Types of Curb Chain
Jewelers have had their creative spins on the curb chain since people started wearing it. There are several curb chain styles to choose from, and these are a few of them.
1. Single Curb Chain
You’ll find this traditional curb chain pattern on horse bits. Single curb chain styles link each link to two others behind and in front, and the links are usually equally-spaced and of equal size.
The single curb chain has a minimalist appearance and is quite flexible.
2. Double Curb Chain
Jewelers make double curb chains by doubling each link of the chain. The double link usually consists of one that’s bigger than the other. The double curb chain spacing and arrangement are usually uniform throughout the chain.
Double curb chains are more complex and are very tough to break.
3. Pavé Curb Chain
Pavé (pronounced pah-vay) is a mode of setting tiny gems on the surface or edge of a jewelry piece. A pavé or paved curb chain is one with gemstones paved in; these gems could be either real or synthetic. The added stones give the chain a stunning glitter effect and are sure to increase its price substantially.
4. Diamond Cut Curb Chain
Diamond cut curb chains aim to achieve a sparkle effect like a diamond pavé chain without diamonds. The process of diamond cutting involves precisely slicing the chain surface to give it a sparkled polish effect.
Curb chains are versatile chains that you can easily use in formal and informal settings. You can choose to buy a fancy pavé curb chain or a simple single curb chain; a curb chain also goes well with pendants. You cannot go wrong with having a curb chain in your jewelry collection.