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Clasped in a pre-industrial era


For a completely non-jewelry related story I’m working on, I
need to know how necklaces/neckchains would have been clasped in
a pre-industrial era–the 1200s-1300s, ideally.

John Shanahan, Associate Editor
AJM magazine
The Authority on Jewelry Manufacturing
401-274-3840, ext. 3037


Hello John, They used to use S shaped hooks that would hook onto
a jump ring and then both sides of the S would be sqeezed
shut… They also used a lot of toggle and ring systems which is
now (again) quite popular. Bangles were also very Popular.
Daniel Grandi


Most of the necklaces that I have seen documentation of from
that time period have had “s” hook closures. A great book to
check out for pictures is called: Jewelry, 7000 years : an
international history and illustrated survey from the
collections of the British Museum / edited by Hugh Tait. This
is a wonderful book, very heavy on the pictures. Hope this
helps. Good luck with your story.



Take a walk over to the RISD museum, John, they have a
collection of jewelry. One of my early mentors used to say:
“Jewelers have been doing it this way for 500 years”- a lot of
clasps made now are very similar to what was made then. I use a
clasp cast from a fabricated model I made a few months ago,
duplicating that clasp using tools available to jewelers 800
years ago would be very easy. Reproducing it using tools
available to jewelers 3500 years ago might take more time. If you
look at current work produced in rural India, Africa and other
places, you will see what I mean. Fine work takes talent, not
industrial tools.

Rick Hamilton

Richard D. Hamilton
A goldsmith on Martha’s Vineyard
Fabricated 14k, 18k, 22k, and platinum Jewelry
wax carving, modelmaking, jewelry photography,


John, if i am not mistaken, a simple hook and eye clasp was a
common fastening device even before Antiquity–i.e. long, strong
wire hook and a circular or oval hoop.

i, too, am quite interested in historical jewelry. i’m looking
for a reference or set of references that might tell me about
different types of wire jewelry (chains like “King’s Lace” or is
that “Idiot’s Delight”? viking coil?) thanx, erhard.


Hi John, Look in Tim’s book “The Complete Metalsmith” under
clasps. The time honored clasps he shows are substantially
(sans decoration) the same as the ones that I have seen in
National Geo articles of grave goods of the ancients and in
particular an article about 15 years ago about Thracian (sp?)
gold. I suspect that the “mechanisms” didn’t change very much.
I have a large coffee table book of the “Dark Ages” and the
clasps that I can see are hook-and-eye variations.



Skip Meister
Orchid Jewelry Listserve Member
A day without sunshine is like night!
N.R.A. Endowment
"No man’s life, liberty or fortune is safe…while our legislature is in session."
Benjamin Franklin
Five out of four people have trouble with fractions.


Hi John, I cannot speak to the jewelry trends for 1200-1300 A.D.
in the rest of the world, but in western Europe in that era,
necklaces were relatively rare. Clothing was high necked and
tended to be closed with a brooch. As necklines came down in the
14th century necklaces did become more popular, from what I can
see in my books (why oh why don’t more of the photos show the
back…) most necklaces were either just slipped over the head
or clasped with a hook and jump ring sort of arrangement.
Collars of estate tended to hook in the front or form a full
circle. Perhaps some Orchid member who has seen some of the
surviving pieces in the VIctoria and Albert or one of the other
fine European museums can describe for us any other clasp methods
they have observed. Enquiring minds want to know!



I am operating on the assumption that if something works, it stays
around. These are a little before the time period you mentioned, but I
know of a series of 10 massive silver chains from Scotland that are
dated to the 6th-7th centuries. The Whitecleugh chain is 1731.3 gms
and currently 48 cm long (“2 links were broken of and ‘lost’ in in the
nineteenth century”) They are double link chains, and the clasp is a
penannular terminal ring with “a subrectangular section”. It looks
like a rectangular piece of silver appx 10 cm long and 2 cm wide
rolled into a circle with a .5 cm gap. It is fed onto one end of the
chain. To clasp it, you feed the two links one the other end through
and turn the terminal 1/2 turn. presumably the weight of the chain is
sufficient to hold it in place.

As always, a picture is worth a hundred words. You can find the
Whitecleugh Chain (as well as my referenced quotes) on page 28 of “The
Work of Angels, Masterpieces of Celtic Metalwork, 6th-9th centuries
AD” edited by Susan Youngs, Univ. of Texas Press ISBN 0-292-79058-9.
This is the most thumbed and drooled over book in my reference
library. It is the exhibit catalogue for an exhibition that brought
together works from the British Museum, the Scottish and Irish
National Museums, other museums, as well as previously unshown pieces
from a large number of private collectors. If nothing else it is a
monument to the longevity and timelessness of beautifully crafted
works of art. Needless to say I recommend you all run out and get a
copy (I ordered mine from Barnes & Noble).

Epaul Fischer Gryphon Song Creations Phx, AZ (If your going to Tucson
remember we are having near record highs. Drink too much water)