The Big Guide to Chain Types

June 29, 2021 9 min read

types of chains

Chains are perhaps the most ubiquitous item in the world of jewelry and an essential part of any collection. But with all the different types out there, it can be challenging to pick the right one for your needs and style. Though this list is not exhaustive, it covers all the major chain types, some more obscure styles, and what you can expect from each one.


Classic Chains (simple, timeless, versatile)


Cable Chain

cable chain          cable chain

Cable chains are the classic image most people have in their mind when they think of chains. Cable chains have uniform links, either oval or round, with a single join on each side. A variation of the cable chain is the trombone link chain or paperclip chain, both of which have elongated oblong links that resemble their namesakes, sometimes alternating with smaller round links. This style may also be called a ring and connector chain.

Best for: pendants, layering


Belcher Chain / Rolo Chain

rolo chain          rolo chain

Belcher or rolo chains are a popular variation of a cable chain, with round links that are rounded on the outside and flat on the inside. Sometimes, chains with links that are rounded both on the outside and inside are called rolo chains, as well.

Best for: pendants, layering


Box Chain

box chain          box chain

Box chains are beloved for their simple, yet sturdy design. Each link is square in shape and has a sleek appearance. Box chains are typically made with thinner profiles and therefore can often be used with pendants. Other names for this style are book chain and Venetian chain.

Best for: pendants, layering


Rounded Chains (sleek, fluid, textured)


Ball Chain / Bead Chain

ball chain          ball chain

Ball chains are a popular pendant chain because they have more texture and pattern than a cable chain, yet are usually thin enough to fit through a bail. Ball chains have either solid or hollow spheres joined with connector bars. This style has a reasonable fluidity, but can sometimes be more rigid than the classic chains listed above.

Best for: pendants, layering


Snake Chain

snake chain          snake chain

Snake chains are perhaps the most popular rounded chain because of their sleek and fluid design. Each link has a slight point in the center that, when joined, creates a chevron pattern similar to snakeskin. Although snake chains have a similar profile to that of an omega chain, snake chains are much more flexible.

Best for: pendants, layering


Byzantine Chain

byzantine chain          byzantine chain

Byzantine chains have been around since 300 BCE, and it’s easy to see why this style has endured for so long. Intricate, sturdy, and regal, this chain has a bold presence and makes a statement all on its own. It is unknown where the name comes from, but one possibility is the use of the word “Byzantine” to simply mean complicated or ornate. This style can also be called a birdcage or idiot’s delight chain. Because of the heavier profile of this chain, it is usually not suitable for stringing with a pendant.

Best for: wearing alone


Wheat Chain / Spiga Chain

wheat chain          wheat chain

Wheat chains are similar to rope chains, but have a braided/woven appearance that looks like a stalk of wheat (hence the name). Wheat chains can be either rounded or flat and have good flexibility. Though wheat chains come in varying weights and profiles, thinner versions are suitable for use with pendants.

Best for: pendants, layering


Popcorn Chain

popcorn chain          popcorn chain

Popcorn chains are highly unique and beautifully textured. Rounded, hollow cup shaped or round flat links are connected into a tubular design that has a nice fluidity. The advantage of popcorn chains is that they can have a thicker profile, while still being lightweight and comfortable to wear.

Best for: wearing alone


Flat Chains (comfortable, patterned, attractive)


Curb Chain

curb chain          curb chain

Curb chains are a kind of cable chain with links that have been twisted and usually diamond cut to lay flat and uniform. Curb chains are highly versatile and come in a wide variety of thicknesses. A variation of the curb chain is the Cuban chain, which has more densely grouped links and is typically heavier than a curb chain of the same length. Another variation is the double link or parallel chain, which is often used as the foundation of a charm bracelet.

Best for: some pendants, layering


Serpentine Chain

serpentine chain          serpentine chain

Serpentine chains are identified by their distinctive “S” shaped links that are layered in a parallel design. Serpentine chains typically have a thinner profile and are pretty enough to wear alone, while also being perfect for layering. The twisted version of the serpentine chain is also called a nugget or tinsel chain.

Best for: some pendants, layering, wearing alone


Figaro Chain

figaro chain          figaro chain

Figaro chains are similar to curb chains, but have alternating sizes of links that create a kind of pattern. Figaro chains are very popular as a men’s style and are often worn alone. A similar style is the figarucci chain, which also has alternating link shapes, but with the addition of a reinforcing bar within the link, like an anchor chain.

Best for: wearing alone


Anchor Chain / Marine Chain

anchor chain          anchor chain

Anchor chains are a style of curb chain that includes a bar support in the center of each length. This design gives added strength to the chain, as well as creating an attractive pattern around the neck. As the name suggests, this is the same style of chain used to anchor ships, which gives you an indication of the clever engineering involved in the design!

Best for: wearing alone


Infinity Chain / Figure of Eight Chain

infinity chain          infinity chain

Infinity chains are comprised of oval links that have been slightly twisted to lay flat (like a curb) and connected by links that are twisted into a figure eight shape. This alternating link design creates an attractive pattern that is more feminine than a Figaro chain.

Best for: layering, wearing alone


Herringbone Chain

herringbone chain          herringbone chain

Herringbone chains have unique, pointed links that interlock in a stylish pattern. This design lays completely flat, making it ideal for wearing on its own as a statement piece. Herringbone chains are a nice balance between fluidity and rigidity, allowing them to stay in place when worn.

Best for: wearing alone


Foxtail Chain

foxtail chain          foxtail chain

Foxtail chains are often used interchangeably with wheat chains, but foxtail chains have a more squared edge and are made up of links set at a 45º angle. These chains are usually thinner on two sides and wider on the top and the bottom, creating a design that lays flat and shows off the distinctive chevron pattern.

Best for: wearing alone


Cobra Chain

cobra chain          cobra chain

Cobra chains are a type of flat laying chain that have a zigzag design running through the center. Although easy to confuse with a Boston link or C link chain, the cobra can be differentiated by the triangle shaped links that form the pattern.

Best for: wearing alone


Boston Link Chain

boston link chain          boston link chain

Boston link chains are cable chains that have been flattened to create a flat, stacked appearance. Unlike many flat chains, Boston link chains come in thinner profiles that can be worn with certain pendants.

Best for: some pendants, layering


C Link Chain

c link chain          c link chain

C link chains are easy to confuse with Boston link chains, however, rather than having trapezoidal shapes, the links are curved like boomerangs. C link chains have greater flexibility than herringbone chains, while still laying flat.

Best for: wearing alone


Panther Chain

panther chain          panther chain

Panther chains can best be described as having a brick pattern. Rectangular shaped links are offset and stacked in three or more rows to form a chain with a lot of drape and a bold presence. This design can also have a mesh like appearance depending on the size of the links.

Best for: wearing alone


Mesh Chain

mesh chain          mesh chain

Mesh chains can be either flat or rounded, depending on the method used to make them. These chains have a beautiful fluidity similar to fabric and are created with very fine wire that is either woven or knitted.

Best for: wearing alone


Omega Chain

omega chain          omega chain

Omega chains are beloved for their unmatched sleekness and the near seamlessness of their links. This is achieved by crimping closely aligned plates to a mesh substructure. Omega chains can be either flat or rounded and have limited flexibility, though are excellent at holding their shape. Some round omega chains can be string with a pendant.

Best for: some pendants, wearing alone


Scroll Chain / Snail Chain

scroll chain          scroll chain

Scroll chains have distinctive links that are created by two wires spiraling into each other. Together, these links create a lovely pattern that lays flat when worn. Scroll chains come in varying weights and in their narrower form, can be layered with other pieces.

Best for: layering, wearing alone


Twisted Chains (eye-catching, textured, sparkling)


Rope Chain

rope chain          rope chain

Rope chains are highly popular and come in a wide variety of styles and weights. In their classic form, rope chains are made up of uniform links that are connected to two other links at a time. This design gives the chain a natural twist. Another variation of this style is the French rope chain, which has a tight, twisted appearance, is very sturdy, and typically has a heavier weight than the classic rope chain.

Best for: pendants, layering, wearing alone


Nugget Chain / Tinsel Chain

nugget chain          nugget chain

This chain is also known as a twisted serpentine chain and has a lovely sparkle to it. The S-shaped links are visible in the design, but they have been twisted into a more dimensional shape. Nugget chains are typically kept to a lightweight profile and can therefore be paired with many styles of pendants.

Best for: pendants, layering


Singapore Chain

singapore chain          singapore chain

Singapore chains are comprised of diamond cut links that are flattened and twisted. This design has an intense sparkle and an excellent fluidity. Singapore chains can relax into a flat design, but naturally twist on their own.

Best for: layering, wearing alone


Margarita Chain

margarita chain          margarita chain

Margarita chains are made from rectangular links that are connected widthwise into a twisted row. This creates a textured, tubular appearance with an excellent sparkle. This unique style allows margarita chains to stand out, even when layered with other pieces of the same metal type.

Best for: layering, wearing alone


Specialty Chains (unique, patterned, fancy)


Bar Chain

bar chain          bar chain

Bar chains, or bar and link chains, were very popular as watch chains in the Art Deco and Retro eras. Bar links alternate with single or multiple oval links and range from plain to ornately patterned. These chains look wonderful on their own, but their thinner profile makes them easy to layer with other pieces, as well.

Best for: layering, wearing alone


Barleycorn Chain

barleycorn chain          barleycorn chain

Barleycorn chains are so named because each link, tapered at one end and rounded at the other, looks like a grain of barley. This design gives the chain a scalloped profile that is versatile without being overly simple.

Best for: some pendants, layering


Peanut Chain / Crinkle Chain

peanut chain          peanut chain

Peanut or crinkle chains have links that have been crimped into a wavy shape that resembles a peanut. These chains are lightweight, visually and literally, and are great for adding texture to a necklace stack, or could be worn alone for a delicate look.

Best for: layering, wearing alone


Filigree Chain

filigree chain          filigree chain

Filigree chains are usually comprised of marquise or oval shaped links made up of scrolling wire filigree. These chains are more feminine in appearance and have a lace like quality that is ornate, while still being wearable.

Best for: layering, wearing alone


San Marco Chain

san marco chain          san marco chain

San Marco chains have tubular semi-circle links that are flat on the back, but from the front give a twisted, almost rope-like appearance. This unique design gives the chain a heavy, impressive look, while still being comfortable against the skin.

Best for: wearing alone


Saturn Chain

saturn chain          saturn chain

Saturn chains are either cable, curb, or box chains that are dotted with evenly spaced beads. This style is also called a station chain, and creates an attractive pattern around the neck that is great for layering.

Best for: layering, wearing alone


Shop our collection of chains in every style!

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