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Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Discovering more about... Chainmail

Chainmail – the name evokes thoughts about knights of the roundtable, dragons and jousts! But what exactly is chainmail?

Chainmail was the earliest form of metal armor worn by the average soldier during the Middle Ages. It was a flexible armor which was made from interlinked metal rings. It is believed that the word 'chainmail' was an English combination of two words. 'Chain' meaning a series of metal rings or links fitted into one another to make a flexible ligament and 'mail' from the French word "maille" which is derived from the Latin "macula" meaning "mesh of a net". Chainmail is also referred to by derivatives of the word such as: Ringmail; Chain armor; Ring armor; Mail.

In the early feudal period of the Middle Ages a knight wore a cloth or leather tunic covered with iron rings or scales, and an iron cap with a nose guard. About the beginning of the twelfth century he adopted chainmail, with a hood, or coif, of the same material for the head. Making chainmail was undertaken by the blacksmith. Making chainmail armor involved the linking of iron or steel rings, the ends of which were either pressed together, welded or riveted. The rings were formed when they were stamped out of a sheet of iron and then used in alternate rows with riveted links.

Late 17th Century European
It is believed that chainmail was invented by the Celts. Chainmail history dates back to antiquity and was adopted by the Romans after they realized its potential after fighting the Celts. In the 14th century, plate armor began to replace the chainmail worn by knights. However the chainmail was not completely discarded by the knights who continued to wear a shirt of chainmail beneath plate armor to protect the joints and the groin. Plate armor was extremely expensive and the average soldier during the Middle Ages still used chainmail as their most effective form of protection. The history of chainmail shows its decline and use with the invention of the musket in 1520 and the subsequent use of gunpowder in various weapons.

The use of chainmail spread to Scandinavia, North Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, India, Tibet, South East Asia, and Japan.

Mail continues to be used in the 21st century as a component of stab-resistant body armour, cut-resistant gloves for butchers and woodworkers, shark-resistant wetsuits for defense against shark bites, and a number of other applications. 

Modern safety glove
Except for some of the modern applications and for re-enactments, the majority of chainmail that you’ll find now is jewellery and incorporates beads, crystals and other components. Chainmail jewellery is created by jumprings that are connected to each other in various patterns.

You too can experience the fun of chainmail in any of Marilyn Gardiner’s classes! You can also enjoy Marilyn’s interpretation of chainmail through the projects in her new book, Modern Chainmail Jewelry. 

Upcoming classes with Marilyn Gardiner: 
Love Knot Crystal Bracelet 
November 14
9:30am – 12:30pm

Viper Basket Bracelet 
November 14
1:30 – 4:30pm

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