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Sometimes the jewellery industry is simple and makes logical sense, other times you end up with chain names like byzantine where they’re not particularly descriptive and seemingly unrelated to the actual design. The rope chain falls into the former category and is named because it quite literally looks like a rope, albeit made out of metal and not strands of fibres.

Unfortunately it’s never really that straightforward as the amount of variation with this design means that and there are three main rope chain designs worth talking about. We’ll cover the classic standard rope chain first, and then move on to cover the ever-popular Prince of Wales variation and finally the Singapore style rope chain.

“Standard” rope chain:

Essentially the standard rope chain looks like woven rope but how much depends on how far apart and how thick the links are. Each link generally has between two and four others joining it and tight, thick links create a tight spiraling rope while looser, thin links create a subtle rope effect with more of an intricate knotted pattern. Either way a unique texture is created resulting in a chain which is both functional and aesthetically pleasing.

The multiple links common across all rope variations give strength to the overall design, but they also come at cost. If one link breaks it is possible that the rest of the chain from at link will start to unravel and it is also harder to fix due to the intricacy of the design.

The most common variation of rope chain in this category is where links are extremely close with almost no gaps in order to create the truest rope like effect. This is what some refer to as the standard rope, solid rope, French rope, or just simply a rope chain with closer links. In order to create this effect the links are sometimes doubled producing an even tighter spiral. With these solid rope designs the chain becomes less flexible as the multiple links push against one another preventing movement, but they are also less likely to knot and tangle.

Back in the 1980s and early 90s excessively large gold solid rope chains became entwined with hip hop fashion and culture. Groups such as Run-DMC were famous for wearing these extreme chains as statement pieces that were truly at the limit of wearable rope chain sizes. The fashion then trickled down into the mainstream, though with more standard weights and lengths, and is still an extremely popular design today. Larger rope chains are therefore usually worn alone with the spiraling pattern being the main attraction. Delicate rope chains on the other hand can be adorned with pendants and charms for a daintier look, though these are more in the realm of the Prince of Wales chain…

Prince of Wales:

The Prince of Wales rope chain is worth differentiating from the standard rope chains due to how popular this variation has become. Otherwise known simply as the loose rope chain because, you guessed it, it’s usually found made up of loosely connected links. This allows the chain greater movement, flexibility and a look somewhere between the open and tightly closed link variations of the standard rope chain. It also appears slightly twisted compared to standard rope and if pulled taught looks a little like the double helix of DNA if you can cast your mind back to school biology lessons.

Another key difference is that it is generally found in small widths, is thin and light and made up of finer links. Because of this similarity it is also sometimes used as an alternative catchall term for anything remotely rope related. Jewellers fall on either side with the Prince of Wales being a variation worthy of its own definition or just another name for all rope chains.


Singapore chains are another variation on the standard that differs enough to be given its own category. These chains are essentially at the intersection between curb and rope chains. They appear twisted like the rope with an intricate design but can also lie flat on a surface thanks to the flattened curb aspects. It is associated with the rope family of chains as its links are basically joined together in the same style, so usually between two and four connections per link. However for this design the links are also twisted and then flattened creating the characteristic swelling diamond structures which make up the chain. Because of this the Singapore has a natural twist unlike some other rope chains

The main giveaway for this chain are its diamond cut edges to give it the same levelled effect as a curb, which also means its shine is part of the design.

Like the Prince of Wales the links of this chain lie somewhere in between open and closed. Singapore chains are also usually found in very fine widths and made up of smaller links which creates a liquid-like, flexible chain. Due to this flexibility and smaller size it tends to knot and twist more often than other rope chains if not stored appropriately. As these factors are the main draw of the Singapore chain and what make it unique it is not generally found in larger widths or heavier sizes.

Browse our full selection of Rope, Prince of Wales and Singapore chains at 925jewellery.co.uk available in a range of sizes in both silver and gold…

The name and probable origin of this chain originates from two historically significant precious metal and jewellery production centres in Europe, Italy and Spain. A direct translation of the word in Italian is ear, in reference to an ear of wheat rather than human ears. In Spain the chain is known as Espiga chain which has the exact same meaning and origin as the Italian. As a result of this connection the chain is still linked to and popular within these areas. In English speaking parts of the world the chain goes by either of these names or simply wheat chain.

Spiga chains are usually made up of twisted figure of eight or teardrop shaped links that when joined produce a thick, three dimensional chain with a symmetrical plaited pattern. This braided design is also visually similar to that of an ear of wheat especially when found in the larger gold variations, hence the chain’s name in various languages. Although very rare Spiga chains can be made by actually weaving four strands of wire together to produce the tell-tale ear of wheat design that defines the chain. Spiga chain is also sometimes separated from wheat chain in order to describe and give a name to this different manufacturing process, but like many things in the world of jewellery it is very dependent on the manufacturer and their own preferred terminology. Either way the interlocking design and multiple connections means that each link acts a hinge slightly restricting the range of motion of the chain, the larger the links the more restricted the movement. As a result Spiga chains can be inflexible though the upside is that they are quite sturdy and capable of supporting a range of pendant sizes.

Like most chains, Spigas can be found in variety of widths and lengths. Smaller widths and links produce a finer chain useful for most purposes, but when enlarged the chain’s plaited wheat design is eye-catching enough to be worn alone. For an even more authentic wheat look, gold is definitely the way to go. Because of the how the chain is made very few notable variations exist apart from changes to the size of links or variations in metal. Depending on how large and tightly locked the links are together the finished chain can have a nearly square profile, further adding to the intrigue of the piece. Diamond cutting can also be used to accentuate this squared effect by leveling the rounded curves with the added bonus of enhancing the natural shine of the metal.

To see our full range of spiga chains visit: https://www.925jewellery.co.uk/productlist.php?Group=15&pr=0&ftr0=427&pg=1