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.
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