Micromaille Mesh -Micro is from the Greek word micros meaning small as in micrometer, microsecond, microgram. The term Flat Mesh has been used to describe a particular chainmaille weave called European 4-1. This weave lies flat on the wrist or body as opposed to the other main weaves like Byzantine or Turkish Round or Persian which are rounded (see below). The term Mesh may be derived from the Latin word macula which means spot or mesh. Micromaille, therefore is used to denote chainmaille in the European 4-1 weave made from small rings cut from thin wire on a thin mandrel. The technique using very many small rings forms a dense and flexible sheet with a silky feel when worn.
What size wire and mandrel qualifies for micro…Typically most rings used in chainmaille jewelry are cut from 18 gauge or 16 gauge wire. For micromaille, I could not find an agreed upon standard for size. Discussions found in the professional organization website, Mailleartisans.org, and in the website of the major ring supplier, The RingLord, disclose a wide range of sizes. Skilled chainmaille artisans enjoy seeing how low they can go using thinner and smaller rings. For wearable jewelry, however, 20 or 22 guage wire is mostly used. Obviously, when using such small rings, bracelets and necklaces take many more rings per inch and many more hours to complete than other types of chainmaille.
What size rings do I use? For sterling silver, gold filled, and bronze wire which I cut in my studio, I use 20 gauge wire and a 4mm or roughly about 1/8 inch mandrel. That is, the rings cut from a 4mm mandrel have a roughly 1/8 inch wide inside diameter I also use rings cut from square wire, e.g. stainless steel or bronze (size 20c) and anodized aluminum rings which are available in many great colors. In each case, a bracelet that is about 1 inch wide uses close to 500 rings, each one added to the last by hand and takes several hours to complete.
My Inspiration for Micromaille Mesh Jewelry At the beginning of my interest in chainmaille, a friend of mine showed me a necklace which had belonged to her mother. It was exquisite! Tiny tiny gold rings were interwoven in a pattern which I recognized as European 4-1 and formed a bib shaped necklace. Rather than a clasp to close it, the necklace had two long strands of maille in the back to tie it closed! That’s how flexible it was, like a fabric! The whole piece had a silky, smooth feel. It didn’t take me too long to start using the same weave and similar tiny rings to make flat wide bracelets. I love the process even though it is intricate and time consuming!
My interest in Mesh Jewelry led me to the discovery of Elsa Peretti, a famous jewelry designer. While working for Tiffany in the 1970’s, she came up with a technique which she called Mesh, a finely woven metal with silk-like qualities. In 1974 she introduced her famous Gold Mesh Bib Necklace. The picture looked just like the necklace my friend showed me!
For more on fashionable micromaille jewelry, see my Board on Pinterest: Micromaille and Mesh Jewelry.