Chain Maille ... No Longer Just For Knights

History of Chain Maille

 Jan 1, 2013    Home Page

What is Chain Maille?

Chain maille (also known as chainmail or simply maille) is typically armour or jewellery made by connecting metal  rings to one another.  Although traditionally the rings were made from metal, you can now use such materials as rubber and glass.  Beads and other findings can also be added to your maille to make it unique and entirely yours.



How Old is the Art of Maille?

To answer truthfully, no  one really knows.  The oldest maille ever found was in the graves of Celtic warriors: these pieces were rusted beyond recovering but were plainly maille.  When carbon dated, they were found to be over 2000 years old, but some of the patches were unable to be tested and may be much older.



The Celtic warriors were well known through history, mainly for these types of advances in early weaponry and armour.  Although the English version of “The Knight in Shining Armour” is most famous for maille, in fact it was the Celts, the Romans and the Norse societies who were the original proprietors of maille.


What About the Oriental Weaves?

The Japanese used their own version of maille.  It was used instead to cover joints and connect plates of armour.  The samurai warriors wore this to protect themselves against peasant weapons like spears and cheap swords and most arrows, as many only sported lead or fire hardened wood tips.  The Japanese are responsible for many of the geometric weaves.


Late Medieval Period.

This is the transition between true maille and plate and scale maille.  In this point in history, enough skill had been amassed by Smiths to make large metal that would be able to protect from swords and arrows.  Unfortunately, not many Smiths were interested in articulating the joints with plate armour; this fell to the mailler, who made either just joints or entire suites which would serve as the backing for said plate armour.  This luxury of protection was only afforded to the knights until late in the period, the common foot solder still used ordinary maille.


Shakespearean Times.

During this era only the poorer nobles had their guards equipped with maille, the rest were in  ‘tin can armour’:  not very flexible and deadly hot in the summer, deathly cold in the winter.  The advent of maille as a fashion item took place largely in part to William Shakespeare and his plays, which had a large amount of maille jewellery in them.


How do you make Chain Maille?

One ring at a time!  But honestly, see our page about the basics of chain maille and what you need to get started.  We also have a wealth of information in the Library in our store.

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