The History of the Chain Necklace

There’s no doubt about it: The chain is having a total moment right now. From celebrities like Gigi Hadid and Sophie Turner, to Connell’s iconic thin gold chain in Hulu’s Normal People (it even snagged its own Instagram account!), it’s been a bit of a renaissance for the classic chain necklace. But where did this trend come from, and why are we so obsessed with it? Get ready to do a deep dive, courtesy of your friends in the jewelry business.

The history of the chain necklace

Since ancient times, the chain has been used not only for practical purposes but also as symbolic jewelry among some of history’s most notorious elites. Its simplistic linked structure often represents the endless nature of love, connection, and infinity.

Some of the oldest chain relics were dated all the way back to 2500 B.C., from ancient Babylonia, where they were often buried in royal tombs along with their wearers. Like today, they were usually made from gold or silver and occasionally embellished with available beads, like lapis and carnelian. By the 8th century, the “strap” chain was invented, which connected strands of chain that lay side by side, developing into flexible, wearable adornments. The famous Leonardo da Vinci is actually credited with improving upon the design of the popular chain later on, when jewelry and other embellishments became increasingly popular among all classes of society.

As time went on, chains became useful not only for wearing on their own, but also for ornamenting with charms, pendants, and precious gemstones. They also had other uses; men’s chains were incredibly popular not only to wear around one’s neck, but also to hold onto pocket watches, add to belt loops, or create keychains with. The famous zoot suit was often worn with an extra-long chain, made popular by young men in metro areas like Chicago, Detroit, and Harlem during the 1940s.

Modern day popularity

Despite its popularity throughout history, the chain really took off during the 1980s. With the introduction of music styles like hip hop and R&B, trendsetters (particularly men) took to wearing large and even exaggerated chains. It maintained its popularity throughout the 1990s, where wearers sometimes added on large crosses, diamond pendants, and even symbols like skulls or letters. The introduction of punk culture also brought forth the use of chains for wallets, belt loops, bracelets, and more.

Where are we now?

With the necklace layering trend still maintaining its popularity, chains are more “in” than ever before. Large, bulky chains serve as the perfect statement piece for men and women, while thin, delicate chains can be layered with other styles or worn alone to add a little flair to a simple T-shirt and jeans. The chain’s popularity may very well be in part due to its versatility — no matter what style you love, there’s most likely a chain for you!

Our favorite chain necklaces

Convinced you’d like to try out this trend? Shop any of our classic chain necklaces below either online or in-store to get started.

Men's 14k Yellow Gold Rope Chain

24 in Men’s 14k Yellow Gold Rope Chain

Men's Stainless Steel Figaro Chain

24 in Men’s Stainless Steel Figaro Chain

Men's Box Chain Necklace

24 in Men’s Box Chain Necklace

Double Curb Chain in 14k Yellow Gold

Double Curb Chain in 14k Yellow Gold

14k Rose Gold Herringbone Chain

14k Rose Gold Herringbone Chain

14k Yellow Gold Singapore Chain

14k Yellow Gold Singapore Chain

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