The belcher is a simple chain with simple, singular links but that’s where the simplicity about belchers ends.
Firstly, there is a lot of confusion over the origin of its name. The most believable explanation claims it to have derived from belcher scarves and rings. The shape of these rings, used to tighten the scarf or worn on the hand, was simply copied and multiplied into chain form so the theory goes. It may also have been named after the 19th century bare knuckle boxer James Belcher who lived around the same time that the chain is thought to have been created, and who the aforementioned scarf was likely named after.
Confusion is also abundant when it comes to the definition of the design itself. Some jewellers claim it to be a chain where the links are wider than its thickness, while others claim that it has to be created from broad D-shaped wire. In fact both are correct as in a standard belcher design the use of D-shaped wire would create a chain where the links are wider than its thickness by default, which is the definition we follow. But as the chain can be found in oval, round and box shapes the matter is only complicated further. One thing can be agreed on though and that is that the belcher is a classic British chain, perhaps even originating in Birmingham’s very own Jewellery Quarter.
When pulled taught each link alternates 180 degrees to the next making a simple design which is sturdy, strong and less prone to breaking. Because of this it is often mistaken for or grouped with trace and cable chain though they are not the same thing. The name is sometimes used interchangeably with rolo chain but this is more common for the rounded versions of belchers and is more similar to cable chains with uniform sized links.
Historically associated with men’s fashion due to the chain’s initial standard being heavier and with thicker links, the belcher has since developed a more universal appeal due to its simplicity and many potential variations. Thinner belchers with closer links make a delicate chain excellent for charm bracelets or showing off pendants on necklets. Alternatively, the traditional wider and chunky links create a robust looking chain suitable for adorning larger and heavier accessories or simply worn alone for a restrained and refined look.
Available in sterling silver and gold, browse our extensive collection of belcher chains at 925jewellery.co.uk