Choosing the Right Chain
The Ultimate Accessory Should Compliment Your Style
Need a crash course in selecting the silver chain for someone...or yourself? Have you blindly purchased a chain in the past, without even thinking about length or width, then regretted the decision afterward?
I put this guide together to review the most important aspects of choosing your next necklace, depending on your personality and style. After all, what you wear is a reflection of who you are - it should be an extension of yourself.
The "length" of a necklace is defined as the length from the very tip of the clasp to the very opposite end of the necklace (yes, the clasp itself is included!)
Your first consideration is to decide on a length, which has everything to do with your style. Will the necklace be worn under or over a shirt? The length you choose will ultimately decide! Here are some pointers:
- 18" - On an adult, a necklace of this length would be considered a "choker necklace," extending perhaps an inch or so below the adam's apple. It might be uncomfortable in some cases, but is a decent size for adolescents. Some people are sensitive to objects that are too close around their neck - if you're one of them, stay away from an 18" chain.
- 20" - This is the most common length for men's chains. It's a shorter length that will reach down to the clavicle bone (the top-most portion of your ribs) and is typically worn to be concealed under a shirt. It falls between the 1st and 2nd button of a standard button-down shirt.
- 22" - A length right in the middle of the range. It can be worn under or over the shirt, with or without a pendant. It is just barely concealed under the 2nd button of a button-down shirt.
- 24" - Necklaces starting at this length are typically purchased to be worn outside of shirts. They extend down to the middle of the sternum, with or without a pendant (typically without).
- 30" - This is the longest standard-size necklace you'll find on the market - it was made to be worn outside of a shirt without a pendant of any kind.
Can't Decide On A Length?
There's a simple solution - get a ruler or tape measure, and cut a piece of string to the exact length you're considering. Wear the string, and it will give you an idea of how the chain falls when worn.
The second biggest determinant of a silver necklace's style -- and cost -- is its width. You won't be able to measure a chain's width without a jewelry caliper.
Wider necklaces are more noticeable from a distance. In general, a 1-2mm necklace is as wide as a strand of spaghetti, while a 5-6mm necklace is about as wide as a pencil. Today, widths of 10-13mm and above are becoming more common and gaining in popularity.
Silver Necklaces vs. White Gold Necklaces
White gold is simply gold mixed with nickel (or in some cases, palladium or manganese) and its purity is measured in karats, as are all gold products. While white gold is a mixture, it is also plated with rhodium in some cases.
There is one fact you'll want to take note of: there is no such thing as 24k white gold. White gold is a mixture; gold only exists in its famous "yellow" color.
Why Choose White Gold?
In essence, the choice between a silver necklace or a white gold one is purely of preference or status symbol. In many cases, a .925 sterling silver necklace can cost as much as a 10k white gold necklace (note, this is a low karat as 10k = 41.6% gold) and look identical in color.
Some people exhibit "gold allergies" with jewelry under 14k (in some extreme cases, under 18k). This allergy is actually due to nickel, not gold, and can cause itching, rashes, swelling and burning, and it should be a consideration before purchasing anything made of white gold.
White Gold In Low Karats
The higher the karat of white gold, the more "yellow" tinted it will appear. If you wish to own a white gold necklace that is silver in appearance, it will have to be a low karat - which in essence is a "cheaper" product. This is why rhodium plating has become so popular with white gold jewelry - it masks the "yellowness" and makes the jewelry appear more "silver," although the actual gold lies masked underneath the plating.
White gold is always "lower karat gold" - as far as being 'investment gold,' white gold is rock bottom. It looks nearly identical to silver to the un-trained eye, but costs far more. However, it does not tarnish like silver does.
Silver Necklaces vs. Stainless Steel Necklaces
Stainless steel is a mixture of steel -- which is mostly iron -- and chromium, a high polishing metal that is popularly known as "chrome." It is not stain proof, but simply doesn't stain or corrode to the extent that pure steel does.
A separate type known as "surgical stainless steel" also includes nickel and molybdenum, but is not commonly used for jewelry.
Why Choose Stainless Steel?
Stainless steel necklaces are far less expensive than silver necklaces, as they are made of a less valuable material. Upon first glance, one can tell the difference between stainless steel and silver due to a considerable difference in the shiny luster, luminance and deeper, darker tones of steel.
As with the decision between gold or silver, the decision between silver or stainless steel is also subjective and depends if the wearer would prefer something more rich looking (such as silver) or more shiny, polished and reflective (such as stainless steel). Stainless steel doesn't require regular polishing as silver does; however, polishing a silver necklace is barely a chore that takes more than a minute.
Stainless steel is visibly "darker" than silver, and has a high gloss finish. It is considerably less expensive than silver and is low maintenance. Unlike with silver or gold, stainless steel jewelry is not purchased for both fashion and investment purposes.
Silver Necklaces vs. Titanium Necklaces
You may have heard of titanium before; it's a metal that has one of the strongest strength to weight ratios on earth, a high melting point, and is also corrosion proof. It's a favorite metal for making firearm cylinders.
Titanium is pricier than stainless steel, but usually not as much as sterling silver. It is light weight, and will fare well in salt or chlorine-laden water.
Why Choose Titanium?
This metal is a good choice for those who have gold allergies, or are adverse to purchasing a silver necklace and having to polish it regularly. Like steel, Titanium is low maintenance and retains a glossy appearance. It is a higher quality metal than steel, as well.
The Appearance of Titanium
Titanium has more dim appearance. It's darker, and with a dull shade. Titanium is a good consideration vs. stainless steel necklaces, as both of these metals are more similar in appearance, with Titanium costing far more.
One of the more unusual properties of Titanium is that it can be colorized by the manufacturer through a process called anodizing. It's not uncommon to see colored Titanium products on the market, such as bicycle frames, carabiners and body jewelry.
Titanium is costlier than steel, but still looks less "rich" as compared to sterling silver. It is a highly durable metal used in many other commercial applications, and can also be found in jewelry such as necklaces and rings. Choosing Titanium is a personal preference for a low maintenance product.
Curb (aka "Cuban") Chain
The most popular chain style today -- also known as "Cuban chain." The pattern consists of a series of uniformly-shaped, grooved links. A subset of this style, called "Miami Cuban," has tighter gaps with less space between the links.
A globally-known traditional Italian design that's lesser seen today -- now considered an old school style more prominently seen in the 1970s and 80s. It has a distinctive 3/1 pattern of smaller links connected to one larger oval link.
Heavy and solid looking, the 'box chain' pattern is made up of perfectly square links that interchange with each other. Its made to be worn without a pendant. Due to its composition, box chain necklaces tend to be heavier than other designs.
A classic design made famous in the hip hop world. Rope chains have braided, weaved links that give a very distinctive, vintage appearance. Due to their intricate composition, they're extremely durable.
The Byzantine pattern is sophisticated looking, and almost similar to a bicycle chain. They traditionally have black oxidization accents within the links for a richer look.
Named for having the same pattern of the spikelets at the top of a stalk of wheat, this chain type seemingly never goes out of style. As with rope chain, t's popular in hip hop jewelry.
A classic "old school Italian" necklace style. Herringbone chains are patterned like a herring fish skeleton. It's a traditional boardwalk pattern, too. It is smooth to the touch, and impossible to bend and kink.
This pattern looks like a conglomerate of corn kernels, hence its name. It is used more extensively without pendants, and is more difficult to find than most other necklace patterns.
The widely recognizable chain used for military dog tags. An alternate version called "ball bar chain" alternates a ball with a rounded bar throughout the pattern.