Chainmaille was originally used to protect the body of soldiers when in battle. Small metal rings were connected together to create the mesh for an armor of metal clothing. Chainmaille was considered to be one of the earliest forms of metal armor. The oldest known accurately dated chainmaille is 2,700 years old; it was found at burial sites of Celtic warriors. Earlier examples of chainmaille were discovered in 5th century BCE graves in Scythia. Getting an accurate history of chainmaille is difficult because much of it was destroyed in battle. Besides armor, there is evidence that chainmaille was used for jewelry by the Vikings and ancient Egyptians.
Chainmaille can be made from any material that can be formed into a circle. Chainmaille jewelry is usually made from small metal rings or "jump rings". The jump rings are "open". This allows the Maker to link the jump rings together, one by one, to form a pattern. While metal is the most popular way to make chainmaille, unusual materials are also used, such as rubber. The variety of metals include not only the popular metals such as copper, sterling silver, and gold but also aluminum, stainless steel, niobium, titanium, brass and bronze. Metals can be anodized, meaning that they can be dipped in solutions that are electrically charged and, by varying the voltage, dye the metal vibrant colors.
According to Maille Artisans International League, there are well over 1,000 common distinct "weaves" Artisans continue to create new patterns from simple chains to intricate designs.
Creating a chainmaille piece requires close attention to detail. If a link is not closed properly, it will catch on the wearer’s clothing and/or irritate the wearer’s skin. Thus, each link has to be carefully checked for exactness of closure. Different patterns require different size links. The links used in chainmaille are not standard sizes, so they have to be ordered from specialty stores.