What style of chain is best for a pendant? A light chain or one that’s slightly heavier? How do I choose a necklace chain? I don’t know where to begin. What is the most popular necklace length and what length of chain will suit me best? If you’d like answers to these questions, you’ve come to the right place.

Do you know what length of chain you’re wearing right now? Most of us don’t because we’re used to buying jewellery hung on a chain. The most popular necklace length is 45cm (18″) so that’s often what you’d purchase on the high street.

Left photo, the shortest chain is 40cm (16″). In this photograph, I’m wearing 40, 45 and a longer 55cm chain (16″, 18″ and 22″ respectively).

Right photo, the shortest chain is 45cm (18″). In this photograph, I’m wearing 45, 50 and 55cm chains, (18″, 20″ and 22″ respectively).

However, there are so many different ways to wear a piece of jewellery so it’s a good idea to know what length of chain suits a particular style of piece, and what chain will look good with what you’re wearing.

How do I choose a necklace chain?

The best way to choose a necklace chain is to start by narrowing down the style of the chain that you’d like. The most popular styles are curb, trace, cable, rope, box and snake. Here’s a checklist to help you choose.

  • Decide on a style of chain
  • Choose a precious metal quality, or a plated base metal, which will be considerably cheaper
  • Choose a necklace chain length, anything from 40cm (16″) to 81cm (32″) is usual in ready made chains.
  • Pick a clasp if you have a choice. Bolt rings are circular, the most popular choice and lobster clasps are larger but often denote a higher quality chain.
  • Decide on what pendant you’d prefer to hang on your chain. Pieces will look and hang differently dependent on the length, style, weight and quality of chain.

Like most things in life, and this applies to chains too, you get what you pay for. Comparing like for like for Sterling Silver chains from a reputable supplier, the heavier the chain the dearer it will be. Fancy chains are more expensive than simpler chains, such as the most popular ones, trace and curb.

At Silver Nutshell Jewellery, the chains come in a choice of two different styles of chain, curb and snake. There’s been a lot of work done to choose a necklace chain that is the best quality and finish, without adding considerable cost to the final piece. Here’s a more in-depth look at the two styles of chains available.

What is a diamond cut curb chain?

The diamond cut curb chain is a light, delicate chain which sparkles and reflects the light, due to the diamond cut finish. They’re affordable, easy to wear and all Silver Nutshell diamond cut curb chains have a slightly larger than average bolt ring clasp and joining ring.

silver cowrie shell charms on chains make beautiful gifts
Silver Cowrie Shells make beautiful gifts and charms from Silver Nutshell Jewellery

What chains are best for a layered look?

These diamond cut curb chains hang in a V-shape, which a lot of customers prefer. They’re also light enough to hang together and perfect for layering different pieces of jewellery. For example, choosing three different pieces, hanging the first on a 40cm chain, the second on a 45cm chain and the third, on a 50cm chain will create a stunning layered look.

what length of necklace chain is the best for me?
What length of necklace chain is the best? 40, 45, 50, 55cm (16″, 18″, 20″, 22″ inch) necklace chain

With layering, the pieces look best if the smallest piece is hung on the shorter chain. Mixing a round piece, such as a cowrie shell, followed by a different shape piece such as a winkle shell may mean choosing a 55cm chain for the third piece, such as a twin leaf necklace. That way, the pieces won’t touch each other.

Layering jewellery is fun because every time you wear your jewellery, you can mix and layer to create your own personal style and get a different look. If you’re interested in purchasing different lengths of chain when you order, just drop me an email and I’ll make some suggestions for you.

Why choose a snake chain?

Snake chains are infinitely more luxurious and ‘showcase’ a piece of jewellery and draw attention to it. The simplest piece can be elevated to look striking by hanging it on a stylish snake chain. Snake chains are denser so use more sterling silver. Hence why they are more expensive than the curb chains.

The snake chains hang in a U-shape, which creates a statement-look. Snake chains are thicker than the diamond cut curb chains so are available at Silver Nutshell as an upgrade. In my opinion, they always look and feel more luxurious but both chains have been chosen because of their high quality and they’re made to last.

Why are some chains more expensive than others?

Choosing chains is like choosing ribbon. Should I buy the narrow ribbon, the satin one or the one with the pattern on it? Chains come in lots of different styles, weights, lengths and metals.

Precious metals are sold by weight so regardless of the style, the heavier the chain, the more expensive it will be. That’s why some chains are more expensive than others. If you purchase a piece of jewellery on the high street, check to see whether it’s Sterling Silver or silver plated. All Silver Nutshell chains are solid Sterling Silver because they are better quality. With some silver-plated chains, the plating will rub off over time revealing the base metal underneath. They may be a cheaper option, which is fine as long as you know what to expect over time.

choose a necklace chain for a sterling silver poppy pendant

If you’d like to buy a different chain when you order a piece of Silver Nutshell Jewellery, just ask. Together, we can look at your budget and make the right decision for you.

How do know if a chain is sterling silver?

Some sterling silver chains include a tag to say it’s 925 Sterling Silver, or just says 925. This marking can often be found on the clasp or end ring of the chain. However, as it’s not a legal requirement here in the UK to hallmark sterling silver under the weight of 7.78g, you won’t find these tags on lighter chains. That doesn’t however mean that they’re not Sterling Silver.

At Silver Nutshell, all available chains are Sterling Silver. If a chain is longer and weighs over 7.78g, legally, it will include a hallmark tag. If you’re lucky enough to have precision scales, you can weigh the chain to find out.

Bear in mind that this is for Sterling Silver jewellery made and for chains sold here in the UK. Every country has slightly different laws regarding Hallmarking so if you’ve bought a piece abroad, the rules might not apply.

Your Quick Reference Guide to Silver Nutshell Chains

Metal – all chains are 925 Sterling Silver

Type – either diamond cut curb chains or snake chains

Length – you can choose different lengths, depending on which type, including:

40cm – 16” / 45cm – 18” / 50cm – 20” / 55cm – 22”

I also stock of a selection of fancy chains in varying different lengths so please ask if you’d like to upgrade to a different style, or length of fancy chain.

choose a necklace chain with a larger bolt ring clasp

Clasp – I choose larger clasps, which are easier to fasten. Diamond cut curb chains have a larger than average, round jump ring clasp. Snake chains have either a round jump ring clasp or a substantial lobster clasp.

What chain should I buy for a charm necklace?

Diamond cut curb chains are delicate, and light so are best for hanging silver charms and light pendants. They are also the most affordable.

silver heart shell on a necklace chain and message
Beautiful silver heart shell necklace and secret message from Silver Nutshell Jewellery

They are the chain of choice to thread through the hollows of the broken shell pendants, such as the Beautiful Heart Shell Necklace.

What chain works best if I want to add a birthstone?

medium spiral broken shell with blue topaz december birthstone on a necklace chain
Sterling Silver Spiral Shell with Birthstone, blue topaz for December from Silver Nutshell Jewellery
how to choose a necklace chain for a birthstone pendant

Birthstones can now be added to complement any of the pieces. They add a pop of colour to any of the botanicals or shells and you can either add just one, or more to celebrate a different occasion in your life. Take a look at the selection of 12 different cubic zirconia birthstones in my Etsy Shop.

Snake chains are a wider chain and due to the design of the chain links, they’re great for heavier pendants. And will also turn a tiny charm into a statement piece.

What length of chain suits me best?

A great way to know what suits you best is to try on three or four different lengths of chain. Choose your favourite pieces and try them out to see which length you prefer. It’s likely that the pieces you wear the most often are the best chain lengths for you.

choose a necklace chain for layering sterling silver pendants

Top Tip – take a selfie and make a note of it on your phone then you’ll have it with you when you next buy a piece of jewellery.

The different lengths are referred to in different ways.

  • 40cm – 16″ is Choker
  • 45cm – 18″ is Princess
  • 50 – 60cm – 20 – 24″ is Matinee
  • 70 – 90cm – 28 – 36″ is Opera
  • 90 – 105cm – 36 – 42″ is Rope

If you’re considering a longer chain, these work really well over a plain jumper, blouse or dress. Shorter chains may disappear beneath your neckline. If this is the case, choose one slightly longer or shorter. In essence, look in the mirror and if you like it, and it’s comfortable – wear it!

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