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Chain mail orb earrings

Adapting a flat weave into a round form is easier than it looks

Chain mail has been used as a garment of war by various cultures since at least the fifth century. In recent generations, we’ve adapted the techniques and weaves to create art and jewelry.

To make these simple yet elegant earrings, you’ll coax a Japanese chain mail weave into a circular pattern to form an orb. Carefully held inside the orb is a small, half-hidden gemstone. These gemstones can have significance beyond their aesthetic appeal — you can choose your gemstone for its folkloric or symbolic attributes, such as rose quartz for romance or aventurine for creativity. For a different look, try a combination of colored niobium jump rings or a blend of silver and gold-filled rings.

The procedure for making an orb can be divided into three phases: the chain phase, the triangle phase, and the orb phase. There are other sequences to achieve the same end, such as forming each row of the triangle separately, but I prefer to use this method as it is the least confusing and most efficient.

Read the project instructions below, or click here for the free project PDF.

Materials

  • Sterling silver jump rings:
    - 16-gauge (1.3 mm), 6 mm inside diameter (ID), 24
    - 18-gauge (1.0 mm), 4 mm ID, 48
  • 6 mm beads or undrilled gemstones (you may need a smaller size if using faceted stones): 2
  • Pair of ear wires

Toolboxes

Instructions
Chain mail orb earrings 1
Step 1
Chain mail orb earrings 2
Step 2
Phase 1: Make the chain

1. Close twelve 6 mm-inside-diameter (ID) jump rings and open twenty-four 4 mm ID jump rings. Place four 6 mm rings inside one 4 mm ring, and close the 4 mm ring.

2. Place a second 4 mm ring through all four 6 mm rings, and close it.

Chain mail orb earrings 3
Step 3
Chain mail orb earrings 4
Step 4

3. Separate the 6 mm rings so there is a pair on each side of the 4 mm rings.

4. Use a pair of 4 mm rings to connect a pair of 6 mm rings to a previous set of 6 mm rings.

Chain mail orb earrings 5
Step 5

5. Continue this pattern until you have a chain of six pairs of 6 mm rings alternating with five pairs of 4 mm rings.

NOTE: The numbers shown inside the rings will act as a guide to making the connections between rings during the triangle phase.

Chain mail orb earrings 6
Step 6
Chain mail orb earrings 7
Step 7
Phase 2: Make the triangles

6. Lay the chain on your work surface so that it forms a triangle, positioning it so that three pairs of 6 mm rings are on the bottom of the triangle; two pairs of 6 mm rings are in the middle; and one pair of 6 mm rings is on the top.

7. Using the ring numbers in Step 6 photo as a guide, connect the rows of the triangle by adding a pair of 4 mm rings at each of the four possible new connection points. (For clarity, the image shows these connection points in green rings.) The triangle now consists of six pairs of 6 mm rings and nine pairs of 4 mm connector rings.

Tip!
While you’re making the connections, hold the piece in your hand, rather than laying it on the table; this allows you to maneuver the jump rings more easily. If you lose your place or get confused, return the piece to the table, and re-form your triangle.

When you’ve finished the triangle, double-check to ensure that all rings of the triangle are in pairs.

Chain mail orb earrings 8
Step 8
Chain mail orb earrings 9
Step 9
Phase 3: Make the orbs

8. Thread a 4 mm ring through 6 mm-ring pairs 6 and 3 of the triangle (the points of the triangle on the right side), and close it. Add another 4 mm ring to complete the paired connection (the image shows this new connection point in green rings).

9. Insert your bead or gemstone into the little pouch that has been created by the last step.

Chain mail orb earrings 10
Step 10
10. Connect 6 mm-ring pairs 1 and 3, and then 1 and 6, with pairs of 4 mm rings to form the orb (the image shows these connection points in green rings).
Tip!
A bit of gentle coaxing may be required to attach the last few rings, as space is getting tight. Try gently rolling the orb in your hand or shaking it in cupped hands, or try using a different 4 mm ring or even a different entry point for the new ring. Don’t force it. If it seems absolutely impossible, or there is a wide gap between the points of the triangle, you may have to choose a smaller gemstone, particularly if it is faceted.

Repeat the above steps to make the second earring in the pair.

Phase 4: Attach the ear wires

11. Not all manufactured ear wires will accommodate the width of the paired 4 mm rings. To avoid this problem, I like to create my own ear wires (click here for instructions in the free project PDF).

Note that the orb has two possible hanging positions. One position displays the stone more prominently. In order to have this side facing forward when the earrings are worn, connect the ear wire directly to a pair of 4 mm rings. If you want to make your earrings longer, use an even number of jump rings to connect the orb to the ear wire. Using an odd number will cause the orb to dangle with the alternate side facing out.

FIND MORE: chain mail , jump rings , stone , earrings , wire

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