Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Chain Maille Feature #1 – Byzantine Weave

It’s believed to be an Italian weave, and as far as I can tell Byzantine chain was never used for actual armor, in the way that European 4-1 was – it was always decorative. Named for the Byzantine Empire, which was rich in both metals and jewels the name recalls a time in history when people of all classes wore jewelry – often a lot of it. Thick gemstone chains, large crescent shaped earrings, and minutely detailed cloisonné were popular. By Justinian Law, only the aristocracy were allowed to wear the most precious of stones, diamonds, emeralds, and sapphires, but the Byzantine Empire was a great crossroads between East and West, and many different precious stones were readily available.

Byzantine chain has become a really popular technique for modern jewelry making. It’s one of the first chain maille weaves we tend to learn. 

This was the first full chain maille necklace I ever made.

I discovered that there was no reason to be afraid of chain maille! I would have thought this project was going to take me days to finish. In fact, I had set aside 2 weekends to work on it, thinking it would take me that long … but they whole 19” of chain came together in about 8 hours! I was amazed!

So this was the next project I did. The silver plated jump rings in here have the same outer diameter as the gunmetal ones, but they were made from a thinner gauge of wire. Notice the difference in the way the chain looks:

To carry this example further, these next to were made by my beading buddy Tamara, whose blog can be viewed at

In this example, the jump rings she used were rather large, which makes a nice thick chain:

In this example, her rings she used were a bit thicker, and she has interspersed them with some Swarovski Cosmic Rings in Crystal Copper for a tone-on-tone feel. This is one of my all-time favorites of hers!!

My friend Dagmar, of Kokopelli Designs ( who runs a wonderful blog here on Blogger, (visit her at to make her clasps by hand, and I think that gives this byzantine bracelet a wonderful feel:

Those smaller yet thicker jump rings give the entire piece a solid, hefty feel. This style of bracelet is a joy to wear!!!

Perhaps the most creative of the pieces I want to show you today comes from Jessah Tiemens of Bright Circle, known mostly for her uniquely dazzling shimmerstones. You HAVE to check out her shop at

This piece contains only a little bit of Byzantine, but it’s gorgeously integrated with the rest of the piece. 

Jessah is incredibly creative when it comes to naming her pieces, and often tells stories. This piece is called the “Stronghold of Khazad-dun” and was inspired by the Lord of the Rings books.

She again is using a tighter byzantine with thicker jump rings, and it gives the entire necklace the look of the heavily worked metal from the Dwarven smiths, and the rough texture of the lava stone provides a striking contrast to the richly worked metal.

This last piece is another one of mine, and it’s a popular technique that uses byzantine chain to create a nest from the center of which sparkles a Swarovski bicone. These are known as “Romanov” links, because they recall the richness of the fine art in pre-revolutionary Russia.

For some reason, these links seem to scream to be done in gold tones and rich jewel tones, so I chose brightly polished brass jump rings and juicy red beads for this bracelet:

I hope you enjoyed this! I’m looking forward to doing featurettes on different weaves, since chain maille is one of my favorite addictions! 


  1. Thank you, Moira, for featuring my bracelet! That was actually the first one I ever did. Interesting post and great artists!

  2. I meant to tell you when I posted it ... oops!

  3. Thank you as well Moira, I was honoured you asked to feature my bracelets, I'm just learning but having so much fun with the help you and Dagmar have given me.......

  4. Don't worry! It just happened that I looked at my Blogger account three minutes after you posted it. So I was fasssssssssst with leaving a comment. :-)

  5. Informative, entertaining post! It's neat to see everybody's handiwork with Byzantine. Thanks for featuring my necklace; I'm blushing from the praise!