About Jewelry Chain: Curb Chain and Gourmette Chain

By on September 26, 2012
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by Rose Marion, Wire-Sculpture.com

Wire Jewelry Idea for
September 26, 2012

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This week in our series on chain, we’re discussing gourmette and curb chain. My trick for remembering what curb chain looks like, is that often the links have a "step up," like a sidewalk curb. But – that’s not actually where the name comes from! Read on.

What is Curb Chain?

Curb chain resembles cable chain that has been twisted and flattened, so that all the links lie flat. Curb chain’s flattened loops are typically oval and all the same size. In some chains, the links in the chain may be made round, and then fed through a rolling mill for greater flatness. So you may see chain that has totally round wire, or it may have flattened spots.

Curb chain and gourmette chain are the same style of chain: flattened ovals. And we owe this chain to horses!

When we hear "curb" today, we probably think of the corner between a sidewalk and the road. Yet that isn’t what that word meant until about 1791. Before that, "curb" referred to the strap passing under the jaw of a horse.

Let’s take a look at "gourmette," another name for curb chain. This is a French word that gave us the word "grommet," meaning a ring or wreath of rope. Gourmette chain was originally – and still is – used to link a horse’s bit, under his chin. You can imagine the horse greatly preferring a chain that lay flat against his jaw! While many curb straps are leather, many bits still use metal curb chain today.

There also seems to be a connection between coats of mail and curb chain. "Panzerkette" means curb chain in German, and "panzerhemd" means, literally "armor shirt." While my research didn’t uncover any German chain maille armor made in a curb chain pattern, it is certainly possible – and perhaps that inspired the style of horse curb chain. (One source insisted "curb chain" is named after "panzerhemd" – but the horse connection seems much more likely!)

Pictures of Curb Chain

Curb Chain Diagram copyright Wire-Sculpture.com

Hint: You can click the above picture and right-click > Save to save it to your computer, or click on it and Print. There will be more diagrams coming!

Curb chain jewelry chain

There are lots of types of curb chain! As you can see, the top chain has flattened spots, while others have more rounded links. The gold chains are fancy curb chains: you can see that even though they are fancy, they will still lie flat.

Next week, we’ll talk about Venetian chain and Box chain – with a special note about book chain. See you then!

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One Comment

  1. avatar


    September 26, 2012 at 5:31 am

    Very interesting information about curb chains. I love reading the history behind items we see everyday but never really think about. Thanks for the post. I’ll now think about it every time I see this chain.