Your Definitive Guide to Gold Chains

Gold chains are a staple for most jewelry lovers. And as simple as a chain is, the style has versatility. Some chains acts as simple anchors for charms or a pendant, while others are statements on their own, commanding the spotlight with their lustrous sheen. 

When shopping for high-quality gold chains, consider narrowing your choices to something handmade in 18k gold, perhaps crafted in Italy. That country is home to some of the most famous gold centers in the world, including Arezzo, Florence, and Vicenza. Exceptional handmade gold chains are also produced by artisan goldsmiths in Turkey; and you’ll find that quite a few options are fabricated by studio designers and small independent jewelers throughout the U.S. 

In terms of pricing, the width (specified in millimeters) and weight (specified in grams) of the chain determine the price, plus a markup for factors that are hard to price, including consumer demand for a certain chain type, craftsmanship quality, and the renown of the maker, designer, or retailer.

Some of our favorite gold chain gurus include Lauren Rubinski (for oversized links); Marco Bicego (for textured gold chains with a hand-hewn feel); Robeto Coin (for the fancy classics); Loren Nicole (for techniques rooted in antiquity); and Reinstein Ross (known for its oval-shaped links forged in 20k peach gold). 

Below you will find a glossary (with visuals) to educate you on the different chain styles that await you at your local jeweler, department store, or online search engine of choice. Keep in mind that vintage dealers are sure to have a wide variety of classic gold chain stunners from the 1980s and 1990s—maybe hit those sellers up first?


Gold Chain Glossary


Chain Anita Ko ball chain
Anita Ko ball chain with diamond

Ball Chain
Composed of tiny balls, this chain style might remind you of the chains on military dog tags, giving them a cool, borrowed-from-the-boys feel. We love when a ball chain is balanced with something daintier, like a sparkling diamond solitaire pendant.

Chains box chain Mejuri
Mejuri box chain bracelet

Box Chain
One of the most common chain styles, these squared-off links can be super tiny for just a whisper of shine (or to pair with a delicate pendant) or scaled a little bolder for more presence.

chain Byzantine Ross Simons bracelet
Ross-Simons Byzantine chain bracelet

Byzantine Chain 
Drawing inspiration from the Eastern regions of the ancient Roman Empire, this intricate Italianate type of chain has an opulent, almost regal appearance and a distinctive texture formed by a repeating pattern of interlocking loops and links. 

Cable chain
Cable chain

Cable Chain
Another very common chain style than can scale quite whisper-light and skinny—so much so that you can barely detect its oval-shaped interconnected links. Like box chains, the options range from sweet nothings to slightly more substantial styles. Both chain styles are great for attaching charms and pendants.  

Macy's cuban chain bracelet
Macy's cuban chain bracelet

Cuban Chain
Iconic with loads of hip-hop cred, the classic Cuban link features round, tightly-packed interlocking shapes with dimension and heft. They tend to surface as oversized statement pieces and are often worn to telegraph wealth and success. Rappers A$SAP Rocky and Jay Z have (substantial!) Cuban link chains and Bruno Mars sings about them in his lively party anthem “24k Magic.”


Chain curb link Kay
Chain curb link Kay

Curb-Link Chain
Curb links are similar to Cuban links but have more of an oval shape; they also lie flat against your chest. One of the most famous curb link chains was not a necklace but a bracelet—actually two bracelets, one for each wrist—that the actress Greta Garbo was known to wear in the 1940s. The design, created by renowned jewelry house, Verdura, was satiny-smooth and elegant but also unapologetically bold. Today, curb link chain necklaces can be oversized and high-impact or more understated. They are also a great unisex style (actor James Gandolfini wore a curb link chain with a medallion as Tony Soprano in the television series, The Sopranos).

Chain diamond cut Kinn
Kinn diamond cut chain

Diamond-cut Chain
As the name suggests, this variation on the rope chain (see below) is all about sparkle—sans actual diamonds. Instead, the “diamond” effect is created by simple grooves or notches that are cut into the surface of the chain. A good one for pendants, especially if you want a little extra shine.

Chain Shane Co. figaro chain
Shane Co. Figaro chain

Figaro chain
Assembled in a pattern of one longer link alternating with two to five smaller links, Figaro chains are an Italian classic frequently associated with men who dress well (in fact, all signs point to its being one of the sexiest chains you can wear). Durable looking and feeling, it can handle the weight of larger charms and medallions.

Chain foxtail Brilliant Earth
Brilliant Earth Foxtail chain

Foxtail chain
With its distinctive chevron pattern, the foxtail chain design has two rows of oval links, arranged at a 45-degree angle and connected by flat links with squared-off edges.

Chain baby gold herringbone
Baby Gold herringbone chain bracelet

Herringbone chain
The herringbone chain style is defined by multiple rows of interconnected V-shaped links, mimicking the look of herringbone suiting fabric. It’s a sleek, high-shine style popular in the 1980s and 1990s but the wider versions are having a resurgence in popularity. Someone you know probably has one hiding in their jewelry box and isn’t wearing it—get in there.

chain mariner link Jennifer Fisher
Jennifer Fisher mariner link chain

Mariner chain
Also referred to as an anchor chain, the mariner link has a reputation for durability. The link shape is oval and each one is bisected by a middle bar to provide additional support. Gucci did some great mariner chains in the 1970s; today the designer Jenna Blake offers an interesting riff on the classic link, using carved gemstones instead of metal. 

chain omega Aurate
Aurate omega chain

Omega chain 
Distinguished by a smooth, flat surface that beautifully reflects light, the omega chain style is comprised of small, wide metal plates and an underlying mesh component. Omega chains are always elegant but may well be at their best when you go bold and wide—Cleopatra will have nothing on you.

Chain paperclip Brilliant Earth necklace
Brilliant Earth paperclip chain necklace

Paperclip chain
If it’s possible to be an “It” chain style (like an “It” fragrance or “It” handbag), the paperclip chain is surely the one. It is technically a variation on the cable chain except the links are more pronounced and elongated. Paperclip chains have been having a moment for several seasons and the fervor continues with thicker, bolder, and deluxe versions coming to market from major design houses (you also see the paperclip link lending its shape to earrings). 

Chain rolo chain Julez Bryant
Julez Bryant rolo chain

Rolo Chain
Similar to a cable chain, this one has circular, symmetrical links (whereas the former consist of oval-shaped links). The rolo can definitely be categorized as a basic, but it also has a light and airy feel—perfect for smaller, delicate pendants or charms.

Rope chain
Rope chain

Rope chain
With its twisted pattern, a rope chain can quietly anchor a pendant or charm or be the opulent and oversized star of the show (as was the fashion in the early days of hip hop—Run-DMC surely started the trend). 


Zoe Chicco snake chain
Zoe Chicco snake chain

Snake chain
This type of chain is narrow but sturdy and supremely flexible, creating a single, continuous and fluid line. You don’t get any kinks or misshaping with this one, it’s just easy, slinky and chic.


Anine Bing tubogas chain
Anine Bing tubogas chain necklace

Tubogas "chain"
Pioneered by Italian goldsmith Carlo Weingrill around 1879, the tubugas technique features two interlocking gold strips wrapped tightly together to form a flexible and hollow tubular necklace (no soldering required). Today the tubogas style is highly recognizable and most associated with the work of Bulgari and Van Cleef & Arpels. However, the Carlo Weingrill house is still in operation should you want a tubogas necklace by the O.G. 


Wheat chain John Hardy
John Hardy wheat chain

Wheat chain
Also referred to as a Spiga chain, the wheat chain is formed by V-shaped, interlocking links. It has a braided/woven look that resembles a stalk of wheat. Very 1970s chic and also a good option for charms and pendants.


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