Byzantine Blues

All, Recently we took in a heavy Byzantine chain for rebuilding the
jump rings that connected the clasp. Having performed the service,
we then placed it in the vibratory tumbler for burnishing with non
abrasive ceramic media. After about an hour we removed the chain and
discovered, to our horror, that a number of the external wires had
rotated and were projecting outwards. We also noted that they would
not go back into place. Before we could attempt to rectify the
situation, the owner came in and saw what had happened. I told him
that we would like to keep the chain for another day inj order to
right the situation , but the man went completely into orbit and
launched into a tirade of expletives, accusations and threats. He
demanded immediate satisfaction and claimed that he had owned the
chain for twenty years and had paid two thousand dollars for it.
Shortly thereafter he began making hysterical phone threats and we
had no choice but to make an incident report to the local
constabulary. Our next step is probably going to be one of invoking
a restraining.order.

My question is: Have any of you had any simlar experiences with
Byzantine chains and, if so, how have you approached the problem ? (
I certainly hope that none of you have had the misfortune to
confront a similar personality ! )

Thanking you in advance, Ron at Mills Gem, Los Osos, Ca.

Ron, My sympathies on having to deal with a hysterical customer who
also sounds like he has a few screws loose.

A colleague of mine is a nut for handmaking chains and loves making
byzantines, in particular. They are lovely and intricate, and can
take a lot of time to make by hand. The downside of those chains is
that you CANNOT solder closed all the jump rings that comprise the
chain. This leaves a vulnerability to those rings getting pried open
during a process like tumbling. That’s likely the source of your

You don’t say whether the chain was silver or gold or mixed, so it’s
hard to say what might have been happening from a work-hardening
perspective in the process of tumbling, as well. When you mention
that they “won’t go back in place,” though, what do you mean? They
wouldn’t bend back into round shapes? Or were they caught on other
pieces? Or what?

At this point, I’m guessing the customer wouldn’t just accept a
replacement chain, eh?

Good luck!
Karen Goeller

Dear Karen, Thanks ever so much for taking the time to relay your
experience with Byzantine chain. I have had some really insightful
responses and the consensus is that Byzantines are virtually
impossible to repair and the tendency to breakdown is exacerbated
with age. The chain in question is approximately five mm. square and
is 14 K yellow gold. Since I used the vibratory machine with ceramic
media it is logical to asume that some work hardening had occurred.
On the other hand, how much harder can a gold wire get after being
worn 24/7 for twenty years ? I f I am lucky, the small claims court
will take into consideration the inherent design flaws and the
considerable age of the chain. Thanks again, Ron

I’m confused about not being able to solder the links; I’ve made
byzantine chains, sequential and parallel linked, in gauges 16 to
32 wire and soldered all the links. I’m referring to the one in the
"The Complete Metalsmith" book (McCreight) p. 146. Is there a
different kind of byzantine chain? The one chain I haven’t been able
to solder every link on is the one where two links (round in this
case) are place at 90 degrees to form a cage which is soldered
together at both ends. Then two more links are fed through the cross
that has formed in the cage and are soldered, but I’ve only had
success with one end on the successive links. It was in an AJM last
year, but I couldn’t find it in their archives. genevieve marshall

I believe the byzantine chains we are discussing here are made by
fusing individual links either from 22k gold or fine silver. There
is no solder in these chains. The links are woven by hand.

Jennifer Friedman