herringbone chain

Herringbone Chain: A Timeless Piece of Jewelry

Historically, chains are depicted as tools for oppression or restriction of individual freedom or liberty. However, on the more pleasant and agreeable side of life, chains are timeless and popular pieces of personal adornment, such as the herringbone chain.

Herringbone Chain

But before digging deep into what is a herringbone chain, let’s first paint a better picture of what chain jewelry is.

What is a Chain Jewelry

Chain jewelry, simply put, is a necklace. The word “chain” differentiates it from other forms of necklaces—which are so many.

Necklaces are probably the earliest forms of jewelry prehistoric humans wore. Everyone has worn them, from medieval royalty to the lowliest slave.

The Chain Necklace

A chain, by definition, is a series of links or rings, usually metal, connected or fitted to one another. They have been used for a variety of purposes but, for a millennium, have been worn as jewelry.

Chain necklaces are thought to symbolize eternal love and human connection—the eternity circle without a beginning and an end—linked to other circles in a fortified manner.

Chain jewelry, as we know it today, may have been around for about 6,000 years. Though it has undergone a lot of changes since its initial conception, the basic design remains the same.

Earliest Chain Necklace

The oldest specimens of chain necklaces were found in a royal tomb in what was once Babylon (now Iraq). The necklaces were dated back to around 2,500 BC. They were the early versions of the perennial loop-in-loop type, then shared throughout the Mediterranean and Western Asia.

Around the same era, the Greeks, Romans, and Ancient Egyptians also wore gold and silver chain necklaces which they later adorned with decorative pendants and semi-precious stones. A sample was found featuring an aquamarine pendant.

Ancient Roman Chain Necklace

The early chain necklaces featured charms to protect the wearer from harm. When the Byzantines converted to Christianity, they replaced the charms with crosses to show their religious piety.


Throughout history, only the royalty and the rich wore chain necklaces. By 300 BC, the elite and those belonging to the upper crust of society started wearing chains with gemstones embedded in the links.

In the Middle Ages (500 to 1500 AD), chains became the symbol of power and authority. Kings and the clergy wore thick chains of gold engraved with the insignias of their office. Chains became an integral part of dressing during the Gothic and Renaissance periods. By then, chains became a mark of social status.

The Rennaisance Period, particularly, gave chains more importance as personal ornamentation that even Leonardo Da Vinci got interested in improving its design. Chain necklaces became more important during this time as personal ornamentation. 

Personal ornamentation gold chain.

In fact, King Henry VIII was fond of wearing thick chain necklaces and often presented the same to close friends as a sign of royal favor. The fad was not only contained in England but spread to the men in Germany and Flanders.

Throughout the period, both men and women wore chain necklaces with fashionable and lavish pendants displaying their status. Most common were biblical scenes or emblems. Men and women wore chain necklaces—with those of men more thick and significant to display their status.

Modern Chain Necklaces

As the years passed, chain necklaces became a part of the ornamentation of well-dressed women and men. Though they look slightly different from their ancient predecessors, the basic design remained the same. Chains became longer, thinner, and more delicate in construction.

Then in the 18th century, chains became functional as well as decorative. For example, they were attached to muffs (pieces of fur intended to keep ladies’ hands warm).

In the 1930s, Coco Chanel introduced her version of the chain. This time, her design involved draping it around the waist, adorned with fake pearls. It made a hit among women as they were made available to everyone, including the working class.

Then the war came. Gold chains shrank, then expanded. Jewelers had a heyday in creating chain necklaces that showed vestiges of war, such as tank treads, gas pipes, and bricks.

As the 20th century crept in, long gold chains returned to fashion. However, their designs were simplistic and influenced by the boho style (a chic style of technique derived from various bohemian and hippie influences) of the 1970s. They were chunky and sleek and bi-sexual. While the Victorian-era chain necklace was crafted much earlier, the modern chain necklace depicted its simplistic yet elegant style of the modern era.

The Herringbone Chain

There are more than a dozen chain types in the market, one of which is the herringbone chain.
A herringbone chain is a type of necklace made up of small, thin, and flat pieces of bone or metal segments that join together to form the V-shape pattern of the bone of a fish. The name comes from the way the pieces are arranged to resemble the bones of a herring.
The herringbone chain is an intricate tapestry of parallel links fastened to each other. It lies flat against the skin, gracefully contouring the wearer’s neck. Though its origins can be traced to Ancient Egypt, it remains a classic piece of jewelry even today.

What is a Herringbone Chain Necklace

The herringbone chain necklace is a necklace using the herringbone construction. Lest you jump to the conclusion that a herringbone chain is mainly about necklaces, it is not. They are also used to make bracelets.
While the difference between the two is pronounced, for reasons of clarity, it is worthwhile to define what a necklace is.
Herringbone chain for men
What is a necklace?

A necklace is a personal ornamentation worn around the neck as a string. It can be made from a myriad of materials, from organic to metal. In its earliest form, it was either a bare string to something elaborately adorned
with shells, teeth, or bone beads. The earliest forms of necklaces, such as those in the Neolithic era, used red coral combined with some precious metals. Other early types used twisted metals, such as those during the Celtic period.

Necklaces went through several evolutions, with each expressing the period or region where they were fashioned. Thus, necklaces are showing classical Greek, Roman, or Egyptian influences.

Modern-day necklaces are more fashionable, elaborate, and well-crafted than their early predecessors. And there are so many varieties too. For example, there are more than a dozen types of necklaces in the market. One of them is the chain necklace style. This, in turn, is classified into more than 30 different styles. Among this cornucopia of chain styles is the herringbone chain necklace.
Thus, a herringbone chain necklace is a necklace style with pointed links that interlock in a stylish pattern. This type of necklace lays completely flat, making it ideal as a fashion statement. It provides an excellent
balance between fluidity and rigidity and stays in place when worn. This characteristic has made the gold herringbone necklace very popular among fashionable and glitzy people—both male and female.
They are made via a series of interlocking metal links that come together in a zigzag pattern. Herringbone chain necklaces come in different metals such as gold, silver, stainless steel, or brass and come in various lengths
(18 – 24 inches is the most popular) and widths ( see chart).
Herringbone chain width chart

What is a Herringbone Chain Necklace Made Of

As previously mentioned herringbone chain is usually made of gold, silver, stainless steel, or brass. While a herringbone gold chain is an ultimate choice for the well-heeled, pure gold is soft and cannot withstand the daily wear and tear necklaces are subjected to. Silver is a good alternative, but its nickel content may not be good for people with sensitive skin.
So the most practical way is to go for the plated varieties. The most common is the 18K gold. There are other options, though, such as the 14k gold herringbone chain. Beyond that, you can get a 9K or 4K. But don’t expect them to last long.

How to Wear a Herringbone Chain

The herringbone chain is one of the most popular chain necklace styles.  Its flat and parallel links make it look unique and elegant. It adds a touch of sophistication to any outfit. But there are certain ways to get the most out of its superb beauty.

First and foremost, they come in a variety of lengths. Therefore, it is important to choose the length that flatters your body type. In general, short chains add to an elegant look, while longer chains look great for a casual look. Regardless of length, they are always elegant and sophisticated, whether on casual or formal occasions.

Because of their versatility, they can be styled in several different ways to complement any kind of outfit you are wearing. For example…


For formal occasions, a herringbone chain is best worn over a suit and tie. It can add a touch of sophistication and elegance to a man’s outfit.

A thin chain will be perfect over a shirt, suit, and tie. But if you go out wearing a three-piece suit, a thick chain will look more elegant.

It’s important to tuck the chain tucked under the shirt and tie so it doesn’t distract from your overall appearance. Take note, however, that a short chain will sit higher on the chest, while a longer chain will sit lower on the chest. Both are good options depending on your personal preferences.

Not only are herringbone chains great for formal occasions, but they are also chic and stylish add-ons for casual occasions. Try it with a T-shirt and blue jeans combination. A short chain will give you a subtle look
while a longer one makes you look bolder.

And if you want to go one step higher on style, layer your herringbone chain with other chains in your jewelry box to add more personality to your outfit.


A herringbone chain can add a touch of gorgeous elegance to a woman’s outfit going out for a candle-lit dinner. Wear it with a dress or a formal blouse. A thin herringbone chain necklace will be perfect if paired with
a formal blouse and pants for a sophisticated and polished look. A thick chain will be breathtaking on a formal gown.
To ensure that the herringbone chain complements, not detract, the overall look when worn, it should be tucked under the garment. Take note of the length of the chain, as it can enhance or mar the final look.
For casual occasions, herringbone chains can look stunning if paired with a T-shirt and a pair of jeans. The length of the chain plays a crucial part in making the casual look still classy and chic. Wear a thin and long
chain to make you look really casual. You may layer the herringbone chain with other jewelry items, such as earrings and bracelets, for a more subtle appearance.

Herringbone Chain Care

Everything this not rosy for the herringbone chain necklace. Though it is considered a timeless and elegant piece of jewelry, it is very delicate and has to be handled with extreme care.
Here are a few tips when wearing a herringbone chain necklace to make sure that it will last for as long as it should.

No pendants

Never put a pendant on a herringbone chain necklace. Putting one is one of the main reasons for the chain to get damaged. Herringbone necklaces are very fragile, and any weight that pulls them down can bend or kink them.

If you wish to add a pendant, make sure it has a wide loop or a clasp specifically designed for a flat chain. And it should be as light as possible.

Not for daily wear

Since herringbone chains are very vulnerable, you should exercise care when you wear them.

In general, avoid wearing it if you do strenuous activities to avoid twisting or bending. Don’t wear it while working out, taking a swim, or having a shower. And never sleep with your herringbone chain, as it can easily get kinked when you turn over in bed.

It kinks easily

The links of a herringbone chain are thin and fragile. They easily twist or kink if subjected to some degree of force.

Kinked herringbone chain

Though a king may mar the beauty of your herringbone chain, it does not spell the end of it. An expert jeweler can easily bring it back to its dazzling best

The herringbone chain is very popular not because of its smooth simplicity but also because of how it fits snugly to the contours of your body. However, the herringbone chain is not the only awesome choice among chain necklaces. Visit “A Guide to Different Types of Chain Necklaces”  to find more captivating styles.