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Do you make your chain?


#1

Hi,

After making my own first few chains for my finished pendants, I
realized that it can be pretty time consuming.

I’m wondering how many jewelery makers/ metalsmiths that are in the
business to make a living off their work actually make their own
chains to complete their work and why? How many of you buy chains to
add to your handmade pendants?

Thanks for any input,
Chris


#2

I don’t bother to make my own chain unless there are cogent reasons
to do so such as needing to express a particular aesthetic in the
work - for instance a loop in loop design or the incorporation of
fancy links. I can buy manufactured chain for about 3-4 times its
value in metal. I cannot duplicate the speed, accuracy and regularity
of a machine made chain and I have better things to do with my time.

On the other hand I do quite enjoy making chain at times. It feels
almost like a form of meditation but this is usually for myself or
friends.

All the best
Jenny


#3

Chirs- I actually enjoy making chains, but they are not economically
feasible most of the time.

On rare occasions I will make one for a special piece. A few years
back Tim made a pendent in platinum for a ten carat diamond. These
folks had enough spare change to have me make a double linked
platinum chain by hand. It was at least 18-20 " long.

Mostly though we let the machines do it for us.

Have fun and make lots of jewelry.
Jo Haemer
timothywgreen.com


#4

Chains are very labor intensive. In my experience it is hard to make
money by making chains, at least in sterling. But, the chain can make
the piece. Any pendant must have a chain for display and it is better
to have a commercial one than none. For me the decision to make my
own chain or to use commercial is dependent on the price point I’m
shooting at with the over all design I want to create taken into
account. Good looking distinctive chains are hard to come by in
commercial and also expensive either to hand make or buy. I have also
found that my clients are hesitant to spend $350 plus on earrings. To
me, earrings are two separate pieces but, to my clients they are a
pair. I think I need ideas of how to break that barrier in my mind
and then to sell it to my clients, any ideas? For example, to put 6
bezels on a pair of earrings seems to be less than if I put the same
6 bezels on a pendant in the minds of my clients.

Sam Patania


#5

Hi Chris,

I always opt for making all my components as I think it is expected
from the clients I sell to and honestly I love making them. You can
always tell manufactured components from hand made and that doesn’t
sit well with me.

Occasionally I do come across someone who doesn’t want to spring for
hand made chain or clasps in which I will buy manufactured
components. However, I always make it perfectly clear that they are
bought and not hand made.

Hope this helps,
Christine
christinebossler.com


#6

It depends on my price point. If it is low end I go with the chain
by the foot type of stuff. But for the more expensive stuff I like
the look of the heaver hand made chains. They have a look and feel to
them that is just not duplicated in machine made.Also I’ll use
machine made if I think a certain pattern chain would look better
and I don’t know how to achieve that same look by hand.

John (Jack) Sexton


#7

Made some chain in first year, and the comment by the teacher at the
time was that “chain makers tend to be men”, of course I thought
this to be a non-pc comment, but it was just his observation. He was
not referring to (chain) mail making, which is a different process.

The test to see if you passed chain making, the teacher put one end
of the chain in a vice then yanked as hard as he could several
times… if the chain broke you had more work to do.

Regards Charles A.


#8

I really like to make my own chain, but seldom do so. If you are
working in gold, you can get paid decently for it. In silver, not
likely.

When I make a necklace comprised of multiple dissimilar links, I
look at how I join the links and make an adjustable extension of
hand-made chain that mimics the way I joined the fancy links - but
that is only five or six inches of chain.

As to Sam Patinas question about getting decent money for earrings -
don’t make them exactly alike. The client mentally sees them as two
pieces, not a pair, and you can get past the lower expectations for
price. And if you really want to make sure that they will sell
quickly, design them with some kind of obvious gold accent on silver
earrings.

Judy Hoch


#9

Short answer YES.

I make my own chains and have made them for others. Sometimes you
can not get the look you want any other way. I feel about chain
making as other feel about knitting it is relaxing. If i have a
large stone setting job I will some times make a few inches of chain
to get my hands and eyes focused.

I am old school, I also alloy my own gold and mill it to what I want
for each piece.

I do solely make my living making jewelry and have for over 20
years.

Lauren


#10

Goodness Charles - what a test for a teacher to do. Yanking as hard
as he could! Let’s hope he was a weakling as I tend to think most
chain would break under these circumstances unless made of very
heavy material. But I could be wrong - perhaps it was a good test.
But glad my teacher never did such a thing - I probably would have
left the class!

K


#11

Thanks for the feedback everyone… I enjoy making my own chain. The
idea of adding something handmade to something mass produced makes
me cringe a bit but I can see where it is necessary in the time is
money equation.

All objects that we use, mass produced or handmade, tend to become
our own as we attach memories to that object over time.

Chris


#12

I make about 50% of my own chains. It depends upon the piece. I use
to design just the focal piece and purchase a chain. I began to look
at that piece and the commercially purchased chain just irritated me
that it was a part of the piece at all. Now when I design a focal
pendant I include the chain as part of the design and hand make that
too. The end result is happy me and happy customer. I have made all
kinds of chains from tiny and simple to big organic shapes…it
just depends upon focal piece. I do have some reproduction castings
that I purchase chain for. Even that chain I buy in a spool and make
the clasp. I love making a handmade chain. I have gotten really fast
at it…it’s like anything else…practice. Now I don’t even think
about the time it takes. The end result is so much better and
unique. I made a chain for my own cross. It is made from 2.5mm jump
rings and it is 32 inches long. It took me 8 hours to solder the
rings - that was 3 years ago. That chain is not for sale because I
wear it everyday but I could probably make that chain in three hours
now. I won’t, why? Not unique enough for the time involved. If I am
going to spend three hours on something it has to be crazy and cool
and different. I am not working in a slave labor camp assembling
boring chain. So, go nuts and see what happens! I bet you will love
it!!! It helps to make your jump rings in mass if you are going to
make chains. Even if the links of your chain are not rings you still
need jump rings to finish the chain at the ends or as a part of an
extension at the back. I usually put a 3 inch extension on all my
chains just so they fit everyone where they want them too.:wink:

joy kruse


#13
Goodness Charles - what a test for a teacher to do. Yanking as
hard as he could! Let's hope he was a weakling as I tend to think
most chain would break under these circumstances unless made of
very heavy material. 

Nope he’s a really strong guy, and it did ensure that the soldering
was excellent :slight_smile: CIA


#14

We make larger chains, because they aren’t generally available off
the shelf - I made a huge gold chain last Christmas, where each link
weighed about 10g! I realise that there are intermediate size chains
which can be made by hand, or bought from a bullion dealer, but
no-one seems to have mentioned very tiny complex chains - I don’t
imagine that there are any jewellers makings 1mm snake chains,
omegas, box chains…etc. Most of the pendants we sell are on these
types - small platinum pendants on small platinum chains.

Jamie Hall
http://primitive.ganoksin.com


#15

Interesting timing for this topic, as Sam Patania and I were just
discussing the pros and cons of handmaking chain. The consensus was
that handmade chain should be a given with a handcrafted pendant.
It’s all part of the overall design of the piece, and the entire
piece is cheapened somewhat by carefully crafting a piece and then
throwing it onto a commercial chain. However, the trick is in getting
customers to really appreciate the craft in designing and creating
that chain, and not just seeing it as a “freebee.” After all, chains
can be quite labor intensive and therefore expensive! I think the
real question here is how do we change current thinking that it is
expected that the chain will be thown in with the cost of the
pendant, to understanding the value of and craftsmanship in the
handmade chain itself.


#16

people - one of my first decisions not long after starting jewelry
work was “life was too short to re-invent the wheel” - that applied
to chain and stone faceting. discovering the ridiculously low price
of good imported faceted stones in tucson i sold my grave’s 'mark '
faceter and just buy from the same trustworthy dealer, ‘best in
gems’, in tucson every year. chain making was time consuming - back
to “too short” - getting satisfaction from the finished products
didn’t balance out with the time i spent since they looked just like
commercially produced chains; after you tell the customer “i made
this chain” and get a nonplussed look back, what’s the return? okay,
some chains i do make because they’re integral to my design - larger
links, different shape, hammered/textured, etc - but i’m more
selective after another jewelry artist friend looked at one piece
with what must have looked like tortured links, and slyly said,
tongue in cheek, “you know, you could engrave little sayings around
each link and…” so - the question is: do you want self-only
congratulation on all that time spent, or do you think you’ll get
more from spending it on new designs? ive think, people, think.


#17
It's all part of the overall design of the piece, and the entire
piece is cheapened somewhat by carefully crafting a piece and then
throwing it onto a commercial chain. However, the trick is in
getting customers to really appreciate the craft in designing and
creating that chain, and not just seeing it as a "freebee." 

Well said, Sarah.

I create only one of a kind pieces, so mass produced chains would
look awful on my work. I find chain making to be a zen like process,
something I can do when I’m worn out from working in more intense
techniques.

Years of making chains means that I’m actually quite fast at it.
Streamlining and assembly lining parts also helps speed things up
tremendously. Doing primarily fused chains means that there is no
clean up.

Best wishes,
Victoria
Victoria Lansford
victorialansford.com


#18

I do a combination of making my own chains, cutting up sterling cable
chains and adding larger forged links and tweaking commercial chains.
For my lower-end work, I use commercial chains. For stand alone
chains, I would cut up cable chains, add various sized jump rings and
forge them to get more unique loop necklaces. I will also remove the
super tiny clasps on commercial chains and put much larger clasps on
to make it easier on my clients. Last, since I teach so much, I’ve
given up trying to make anything in my studio, and just knit wire
into Viking chains while in class. Now, I have a bunch of single
color, tri color and 8 color Viking knit chains I just have to finish
them off into complete necklaces.

I also buy vintage bronze/brass chains, finish off the ends, add
clasps, and sometimes send them off to be silver or goldplated.
Personally, I love making chains for it gives me time to solder.
Brazing is one of my most favorite things to do, so I look for an
excuse to braze as much as I can. No wonder I love to lampwork glass
beads in my spare time.

Joy


#19

I learned to make chain from Victoria’s book. My chains are
attractive, 11 mm diameter rings shaped to links. The jury for a show
I applied to told me I should put my pendants on simple black rubber
cords, instead of my chains (which were fine silver). Any comments
would be appreciated.

Sally


#20

I consider my chain to be as much a part of my art work as my focal
pendant. I take elements from the pendant and use them in the chain
to unify the piece as a whole. Perhaps the jury thought the chain
competed with your pendant. I’ve been tempted to buy chain because it
would speed me up, but that would cheapen the whole product.