Choosing a Chain

Choosing a Chain

My designs for a necklace don’t stop at the pendant. With styles of chain, metals, finishes and lengths to consider, how do I choose the right chain for each of my pieces? Here are some of the factors I consider when making my decision.


When I choose chains for my pieces, I am looking for one that is stylistically appropriate. There are hundreds of chain styles, however some common ones are cable, snake, and ball chains. Cable and other chains are often made with variations such as flattening, texturing, and elongation.

For my Signature and Collaborations collections, I mostly use snake chain, which has a linear appearance, for a sleek modern feeling that does not distract from the pendant. In the Tiny Islands collection I often choose bead, or ball chain, which feels slightly industrial and a little playful, because I think it works well with the Tiny Islands shapes. For the Aurora collection I use cable chain, whether bright silver or oxidized, and for the Unearthed Treasures collection, I use only 14K or 18K cable or rolo chain for a traditional look. 

Snake chain examples


I carefully consider the length and weight of a chain, choosing shorter chain for smaller pieces and longer for larger pieces, as well as matching the size and weight of the pendant to the weight (thickness) of the chain for both strength and appearance. Too thin a chain can look flimsy, too thick a chain can overwhelm the piece.

Chains typically come in four common lengths, traditionally referred to as:  Choker (14” - 16”); Princess, or Standard (18” - 20”); Matinee (22” - 26”); and Opera (28” - 34”).  See our Necklace Lengths diagram. 

Choosing the length of a necklace can be as simple as personal preference, or selecting the best length for an outfit.  As the name implies, a Choker will sit close to the neck and near the collarbone, and goes nicely with off-the-shoulder outfits.  When paired with a longer necklace, a Choker provides a nice layering effect. The Princess length tends to be most commonly worn, since it sits nicely above a low neckline or below a high neckline. The Matinee length works well over a collared shirt or other high-necked shirts. The Opera length has an elegant look that pairs well with a turtleneck or a bulky sweater.  All of these lengths can be used to layer multiple necklaces.

Examples of Cable chains


The metal of the chain I choose usually matches the metal of the piece itself, though sometimes using contrasting metals can create an interesting juxtaposition. 


I use machine-made silver and gold chains for all of the jewelry I make. I use solid 14K gold (58% gold) or occasionally 18K (75% gold) for a warmer yellow color, because of gold’s lasting properties. I do not use gold-filled chains, which are made from 5% gold bonded to base metals, or plated chains in my work because I want customers to enjoy their jewelry for years to come.

Ball and Rolo chain examples


The silver chains I use are sterling silver, also known as .925 to indicate the silver content of the alloy, which is 92.5 percent, and 7.5% copper for added durability. Sometimes I choose a bright shiny finish on the chain, other times oxidized silver, especially in the Aurora collection. Oxidized silver is true sterling silver that has been chemically tarnished to replicate the look of silver that has naturally tarnished over time, and has a dark velvety appearance. The resulting patina offers a rich, edgy contrast to the iridescent mother-of-pearl.  

Like fashion, chains for jewelry have evolved as tastes and times change, but today’s chains are still very much rooted in jewelry tradition.

For a closer look at common chain styles click here.