Chains are a piece of jewelry worn on the neck that is categorized by a series of links joined together to form a long line. People can make chains of different link styles, and how each link fits together determines the final look of the chain.
20 Different Chain Types
When some people hear of “chains,” all that comes to their mind is rap hip-hop, but the use of chains is more than that. You can even wear some chains as part of a corporate dressing (mostly for ladies); they all come in different lengths and sizes.
If you want to start wearing chains or have been wearing a particular type for a long time, there are many options. Below is a list of popular chain types to help make your switch easier. The list below does not outline every type of chain; however, these are some of the most popular ones.
1. Ball Chain
Ball or bead chains are chains made with equal-sized beads with little spaces between them. Some people call them military dog tag chains because military personnel frequently use them to hold their dog tags on their necks. Ball chains can come in various sizes, with some as small as 1.2 mm up to 5 or 6 mm.
You should take off your ball chain first if you constantly engage in contact sports because they can snap very easily. Ball chains are perfect to pair with a pendant and would regularly have easy-to-use lobster clasps. However, you should also be careful about putting too much weight on a thin ball chain as that can also cause it to snap.
2. Box Chain
A box chain, sometimes known as a “Venetian chain,” is constructed from a sequence of cubic links. It is created by flattening round wire before shaping it into various box-like forms. Box chains with smaller links combine to form a practically smooth chain.
3. Cable Chain
Cable chains consist of round or oval links; each cable chain link can be soldered or unsoldered. Manufacturers can flatten some cable chains to have a uniform appearance. Non-flattened cable chains are intertwined so that one flat link is attached to a standing one.
4. Cuban Link Chain
Cuban link chains are a variation of cable chains with distinctly oval-shaped interconnected links. In this case, the links are twisted, and they intersect in a rope pattern that has a cable-like design. Cuban link chains didn’t originate from Cuba; instead, they originate in Miami and are a huge part of the South Florida fashion culture.
Large Cuban link chains have adorned the necks of many hip-hop artists for decades and continue to do so. However, there are smaller sizes that you can easily wear as part of your daily fashion wear.
5. Curb Chain
Curb chains consist of links that have been flattened and twisted to fit together firmly and form a chain. Jewelers got the model for curb chains from the look of horse bridles to make this variant of the cable chain. Different curb chain kinds come in a range of link sizes, from big circles for big, dramatic stacking bracelets to tiny links for delicate, textured necklaces.
6. Figaro Chain
The Figaro chain is yet another take on the cable chain; this one has flattened links that aren’t all the same sizes. Usually, there would be a long link separating 2 or 3 shorter ones. The Figaro chain has various sizes and thicknesses, and it is a chain type that men mostly favor.
7. Foxtail Chain
As the name implies, the model of the foxtail chain is the appearance of a fox’s tail. A fox’s tail has layers of fur that appear in a repetitive V pattern, and that’s how the foxtail chain looks. This chain has centuries of history behind it, and it’s one of the chains originally made without precision tools that people still use today.
The links on foxtail chains are usually very tightly-knit that it’s impossible to know where one link ends and the other begins. Original foxtail chains used to be very delicate and easy to damage; however, manufacturers make more durable ones nowadays.
8. Franco Link Chain
The curb pattern on buildings and pavements inspired an Italian designer to create this chain named after him. Franco designed this V-shaped link pattern to increase the girth and longevity of his chains.
Franco chains seem like a hybrid of the foxtail and Cuban chain. However, they aren’t as tightly-knit as foxtail chains and do not have the robust and sturdy construction of a Cuban link chain. Franco chains have an exquisite look that showcases a great deal of craftsmanship.
9. Gucci Link Chain
Also known as the Coffee bean chain, the links of Gucci Chains are a broader and more rounded modification of mariner chains. Gucci chains are robust and long-lasting, particularly the heavier ones. A larger, broader Gucci chain is a terrific option if you want a distinctive statement item.
10. Herringbone Chain
The herringbone chain or flat gold chain is a complex and unique-looking chain that has its origins in Ancient Egypt. The chain has a flat texture with slanted chain links parallel. Herringbone chains derive their name from the herringbone fish with a bone structure similar to the chain.
Herringbone chains are flexible, supple, and adaptable and available in various styles and lengths. Also, the chain rests comfortably on the skin and doesn’t get twisted easily. Many celebrities have recently worn this chain style, becoming as popular as Cuban links in hip-hop.
11. Infinity Chain
Infinity chains consist of links that have been twisted into a figure-eight or infinity pattern and flat oval links. Each figure-eight link is linked to the other by the oval link in an alternating pattern. Large infinity chains can be uncomfortable on some people’s necks because of the shape of the links.
Infinity chains have a feminine touch and are a good idea to give as an anniversary or engagement gift.
12. Mariner Chain
The mariner chain consists of oval, overlapping links with a bar running across the middle of each link. Since the anchor chain’s appearance inspired the mariner chain’s design, people often use the two terms interchangeably.
Mariner chains are an excellent choice for anybody who loves the ocean and wants a sturdy necklace chain that will last a lifetime. Traditionally, mariner chains have been flat, but recently, there’s a new type of mariner chain known as a puffed mariner chain. This chain has a distinctive appearance thanks to it, and it looks well too.
13. Name Necklace
Name necklaces are chains that have text attached to the front of them. These chains don’t need you to add pendants to them as the names act as pendants already. The body of the chain can consist of any type of chain, but the most used is a rope chain.
Some jewelers and online stores would allow you to pick what text you want your name chain to have. Alternatively, you can pick whatever default tags they’ve already made.
14. Omega Chain
Omega chains are flat chains made by linking metal pieces together; these chains are usually inflexible. Omega chains occasionally come with pendants known as slides or sliders because they are specifically designed to move freely along the chain.
Omega chains typically measure 16 to 20 inches in length and can be used as chokers.
Omega chains are extremely delicate. One of the drawbacks of using the chain is how easily it can kink or bend, which can ruin it irreparably.
15. Rolo Chain
Rolo chains are also known as belcher chains and are a modification of the cable chain. The symmetrical links that make up a Rolo chain connect in an alternating pattern. The wire used to make each link in this chain is frequently rounded on the outside and flattened within.
These stunning necklaces are perfect for layering and are lovely to look at.
16. Rope Chain
Rope chains are often composed of three simultaneously-joined uniform links. The various spherical links are assembled to give the chain the thick appearance of a rope. Rope chains have a naturally twisted look.
The rope chain style is common in jewelry for males, but it’s equally a great item for ladies. Rings and bracelets are available in the rope chain pattern, so you can use them if you want to match all your jewelry items. Another variant of this chain is the French rope chain, which has a tight, twisted look, is extremely strong, and often weighs more than the traditional rope chain.
17. San Marco Chain
Although they aren’t very common anymore, San Marco chains were one of the most desired chains of the 80s. The makeup of this chain is long, spherical links that resemble rice grains. Tiny pins join the links on a San Marco chain, and their arrangement can be end to end or side by side.
San Marco chains are a unique type of chain that would surely catch the eyes even without a pendant. Wearing a San Marco chain with a pendant isn’t advisable as it’ll make it hard for anyone to notice your pendant. However, if you want to wear a pendant, you should consider buying a smaller chain.
18. Singapore Chain
Singapore chains consist of the flat loops of a rope chain and the distinctively curved links of a curbed chain. The Singapore chain has an elegant and intricate design.
It is composed of several little segments interconnected for optimal strength. As a result of its flowing appearance, the Singapore chain is a particularly popular type of ornamental chain.
The Singapore chain’s fluid design makes it hard to identify where one link ends, and another begins. On top of that, the chain has a sturdy appearance and looks great on its own or with pendants.
19. Snake Chain
People call this kind of chain a “snake chain” since it has a body shape similar to a snake’s. The flexible movement of the chain also resembles that of a snake. Snake chains consist of several tiny rings (plates or bands) that are firmly connected to create an uninterrupted, elegant chain.
Snake chains have a lovely texture, and they generally look nice and elegant all around. Only up close can you see the rings since they are coiled so tightly together. Pendants usually look great on a snake chain.
20. Spiga or Wheat Chain
Italian for “wheat,” this exquisite chain style is known as “Spiga” and is made by plaiting several oval links together in a single direction. Wheat chains resemble rope chains but are braided or weaved to resemble a stalk of wheat (hence the name). Wheat chains have considerable flexibility and may be either circular or flat.
The metal links of the Spiga chain have a lovely, textured look and twist together to form an exquisite pattern. Wheat chains come in various weights and shapes, but the thinner varieties work well with pendants.
While repairing a damaged Spiga involves effort, these chains often hold up well and are a great alternative for regular wear.
How to Choose The Right Chain Type
With the 20 types of chains listed above and many other available options to choose from, it can be tough to decide the right chain type for you. Below are some factors that you should consider whenever you want to buy a new chain.
The setting of your chain refers to how you plan to wear the chain and the other outfit items with which you plan to wear it. Since your clothes are the most visible fashion item, you must consider the clothes you want to wear the chain on.
Some chain types would look awkward on a corporate dressing; for instance, you won’t put on a suit and tie and wear a Cuban link chain over it. Some other chains also fit a dinner dressing perfectly; you should go for those if you’re looking for a night out.
Some chains also look better in shorter lengths than when they’re long; take note of that also. A chain like an omega chain isn’t even available in longer lengths, so that’s something to take note of.
If you’re a pendant lover, it is a big factor in deciding what type of chain you should go for. Some chains are so attention-grabbing that a pendant can easily get lost while you wear it. Sometimes, wearing a pendant on the chain can make the whole thing too noisy.
Name necklaces don’t even give you the ability to put pendants on them because there is already a nameplate attached. A thin ball chain is also not a good option for heavy pendants because of how easily the chain can break when subjected to too much weight.
When you consider that a chain will be having direct contact with your neck for long hours, your comfort is important. Always select a chain that stays on your skin without you feeling it. Also, smooth chains like the rope chain are the best option when you’re wearing a piece of fabric or clothing that can easily catch the links of the chain.
Chain Length Guide
Chains come in various lengths, and there’s always something for everyone and every occasion. Some lengths are better for some types of chains, and not all chains are available in all these lengths.
1. Choker Length
The shortest types of chains are called choker chains or simple chokers. Despite its name, this chain type does not suffocate the wearer; they are so-called because they sit high on the neck. A typical choker usually ranges from 13-15 inches (33-38 mm) in length.
Chokers are supposed to stand out on the neck of the wearer and not just to complement their dressing. The use of chokers is a more modern fashion convention, and they perform incredibly well with simpler fashion styles. Chokers go well with styles that offer the shoulders and collarbones room since they may assist in emphasizing the lines of one’s neck rather than its length.
2. Collar Length
Collar length chains are usually 16-17 inches (40-43 cm) long and sit comfortably at the base of the neck. You can wear these chains in most casual settings; however, they might not fit well in casual settings as they would pop outside the collar.
Collar-length chains are the best chains to use if you want to highlight a pendant. Their high position on your body would make it hard for anyone to miss out on the lovely pendant you’re trying to showcase. Collar length chains are best for chains like the Cuban link and omega chains.
3. Princess Length
Princess length chains are considered by many to be the standard chain length. These chains are usually around 17-19 inches (43-48 cm), a range that is also perfect if you want to display a pendant. Also, they work well for those who prefer to keep their chain under their shirts and only let the sides show.
Princess length chains are generally attractive, and strands typically lay on the collarbone, giving any height or body type a feminine appearance. This chain is versatile, and you can wear it over low-cut, open-necked, or strapless tops and turtleneck clothes.
4. Matinee Length
The typical length of a matinee chain is between 20 and 24 inches (50 and 60 cm). Both casual and professional clothes are appropriate for the matinee necklace length. However, some people find wearing it a little uncomfortable because they dangle just below or on top of the bust.
Turtlenecks, button-down shirts, and other straightforward outfits go best with these trends. Also, it is popular for layering necklaces of various lengths since it often hangs 2-4 inches above the bust and below the collarbone. They fit most body shapes because they are a mid-length option.
Most of the time, you can’t wear a matinee necklace with a strapless top or an open neckline since it will cover the neckline of your garment. A matinee-length necklace also looks great with plunging evening gowns, especially wedding gowns.
5. Opera Length
Any chain between 28 and 37 inches (71 and 81 cm) is an opera-length chain. Depending on the wearer’s height and body type, opera-length necklaces might stop just below the bust or at its lower half. Opera length chains are so-called because of the long necklaces popularly worn by female opera singers.
This shape helps highlight a tall frame when worn over shirts and dresses.
Many plus-size ladies like this chain length because it emphasizes their bustline. Alternatively, you can wear an opera-length chain by wrapping it twice around your neck; you can achieve a layering effect using this pattern.
6. Rope Length
Rope length chains are chains that are longer than 37 inches (94 cm). Women mostly wear rope-length chains, which usually fall just over or below waist level in most cases.
Rope-length chains, worn once around the neck, are best for taller ladies. However, if you’re not tall, you can wrap the chain around your neck more than once. Wrapping the chain around your neck multiple times allows you to layer out. Rope length chains appear well when worn with exquisite apparel such as dinner dresses.
Pendants do not work well with rope-length chains except if you’re wrapping them around your neck more than once.
The world of chains is an interesting one to dive into, and it’s almost certain that the moment you buy your first one, you’ll want to buy more. The two most common metals that chains are made of are gold and silver.