Chain Mail Jewelry: Contemporary Design From Classic Techniques by Terry Taylor and Dylon Whyte


This book start out with a section called, Chain Mail Basics, and presents the fine craft of chain mail from a historic perspective. Originally thought to originate in the 5th century, chain mail is recognized by most of us as having been used as a protective shield for knights during the days of the Crusades. Over time, chain mail eventually evolved as a popular technique for making jewelry of all kinds. Chain mail is a technique where jump rings or small wire circles, are interconnected in different patterns of assemblage to create jewelry (among other things). Chain Mail Jewelry succeeds well in providing the illustrations and information necessary for anyone to create gorgeous chain mail jewelry. Crafting chain mail jewelry is also extremely simple, making it a wonderful entry point for novice art jewelers.

The book’s organization is quite simple and elegant as is the subject it explores. It’s broken down into Chain Mail Basics, Beginning Projects, Intermediate Projects and Advanced Projects. The book then ends with a Gallery section that is truly wondrous offering terrific inspiration and eye candy.

Chain Mail Basics starts out with an interesting description of the evolution of the chain mail techniques on up thru the ages. Did you know that divers today still wear chain mail to prevent shark bites? Or that 19th century kitchen maids used chain mail pot scrubbers. Fascinating and a wonderful prelude to explaining the more technical issues involved in making chain mail.

Chain Mail Basics covers tools and pliers, measuring devices, mandrels and cutting and polishing tools. All of which are useful but actually very few tools are necessary for chain mail. Pliers are essential obviously for interconnecting the little rings and you can get very far with pliers alone.

The Materials section of this book explains the many varieties of wire, how to make your own jump rings vs. purchasing commercial ones. We then move on to jewelry findings (clasps and such) adding beads, and Finishing Touches which addresses patination of metal rings (coloration).  A final, three page section then goes into how to actually make chain mail and understand the simple patterns and their directions. So far, this is an extremely well thought out and thorough book. Again, very well organized and laid out.

Heading into Beginning Projects, we find no less than 12 projects that gradually build experience level. These projects are diverse, include both male and female jewelry and show the reader how to integrate beads as well as different colored jump rings. Earrings, an anklet, lariat, bracelets and necklaces projects are yours to choose from. The Spiraling Chain here is a standout with its unusual, sinewy form. Excellent offering of beginning projects in this section.

Intermediate Projects is next with eight projects gradually growing in difficulty level. Men’s watchbands, necklaces with mixed metal rings, delicate bracelets, a crochet-like pendant and earrings as well as free form flat mail all combine to make this a very satisfying chapter. Fast, simple and easy projects combine with more time consuming and challenging projects to give the reader a great variety of choice.

The final chapter on Advanced Techniques delivers very beautifully. The patterns for most of these nine projects are a bit more complex although generally speaking, chain mail patterns are very simple to implement. Most of these projects typically require many more jump rings as well. There’s a Japanese lace collar, the braided bracelet is drop dead gorgeous in its’ heft and grace, the chandelier earrings are a real “wow” and the tasseled snake necklace is stunning.

The book’s Gallery section is well worth the price of this book alone. Why? It offers a wide variety of chain mail pieces that truly inspire. It can challenge and excite, potentially leaving the reader with tons of enthusiasm for this marvelous craft. Chain Mail Jewelry Contemporary Designs from Classic Techniques does an excellent job of what many wire jewelry books fail at: this book doesn’t just teach you wire jewelry techniques, it provides beautifully designed, elegant jewelry to make. Combining those two elements, technique AND design, makes this a luscious book indeed!