Reviews: Classical Loop-in-Loop Chains

Craftsman magazine
March 2000

You might imagine that chains made from precious metals with evenly-sized links were a fairly modern invention, but you'd be wrong. There are delicate, handmade loop-in-loop gold chains surviving from five thousand years ago that are arguably a match for any modern equivalent, and Classical Loop-in-Loop chains sets out to explain the masterpieces of classical craftsmanship. Jean and Josephine don't mess about - after a few brief pages on the history of classical chains and basic techniques they get straight down to the focus of the book thirty four detailed and clearly presented projects that explore the range of different loop-in-loop chain types. The photography is black and white, but there are dozens of illustrations to ensure that every step is easy to understand. This is a book that should find a place on many jewellers' workbenches.

Classical Loop-in-Loop Chains
Review by Russell Wright
Findings magazine, Winter 2000

Book reviews, for the reviewer, can be something of a pig in a poke. It is a pleasure, therefore, to receive something which is so good it almost writes its own review. But as a reviewer I perhaps have a duty to find some fault, so let's get that out of the way first.

I take issue with the publishers, who could have Europeanized the book with regard to measurements, equipment and suppliers. I take issue with the authors when they suggest that silver wire should be raised to a red heat for annealing. That, to my mind, is living dangerously. The metal is annealed when it turns grey and the flame-tip turns yellow. One only risks meltdown by heating wire above that point. Duty done.

So many books on jewellery cover the subject broadly, but leave the readers to work out all the detail for themselves by trail and error. This book, on the other hand, takes a discrete field and covers it in depth. To use a sailing idiom, the reader is instructed in fitting out and coaxed into casting off into familiar waters of single loop-in-loop and pinched loop (sailor's) chains. By Chapter 6, on a spanking beat, we have reached multidirectional loop-in-loop chains, the edge of the known world for most of us. The pilot's hand has never been far from the tiller, instruction has been clear, tasks have been achievable, and the crew have been encouraged and delighted by a host of new knots and splices along the way.

But the start of Chapter 6 is not the end; it is just the point of no return. I am sure that anybody who has tried one or two exercises on the way will now be addicted. Beyond this point we are into an almost uncharted archipelago of chain delights, but the pilot is still with us - tapered loop-in-loop chains, multiple soldered chains, multiple woven meshes and even curved multiple woven double meshes (I drool over curved multiple woven double meshes). Finally we are brought to a safe haven with a chapter on simple clasps and terminations, and some useful appendices.

This is not just a how-to craft book; it is a distillation of twenty-five years' work for two sisters, and surely there is another book, on the history of loop-in-loop jewellery, waiting to be written. It guides and instructs the maker but is not in any way constraining, and it has illustrations of beautifully worked examples. Readers are encouraged to branch off and develop their own patterns and techniques; as the authors say in the preface, "We do not believe there is 'one correct way.'" Who cares if the price is a touch high or the quality of photographic reproduction not quite top class, this the book of reference on loop-in-loop chains. Whatever your standard of jewellery craftsmanship there is something in it for you, and probably a lot. Ultimately you will need a copy. If it is on offer, take it. You will not regret it.

Review by Jeanne Jerousek-McAninch
Lapidary Journal

First published in 1997, Classical Loop-in-Loop Chains and Their Derivatives, by Jean Stark and her sister Josephine Smith, had a limited number of books printed in the first edition and could not fill the public's frenzied demands. This insatiable need called for a "re-issue of this classic," which fortunately Tim McCreight's Brynmorgen Press announced in 1999. This issue is a treasure for more than just the chainmaker's library, but also for the metals department libraries of universities, colleges, and schools. This book is a valuable teaching tool that merges neoclassical history with a comprehensive learning experience, covering concept, wirework and fusing with repetition as the key of perfecting technique.

As Jean Stark states in her historical overview, the origins of the loop-in-loop chain go back to the early Bronze Age in the Middle Ages. There was a reawakening of classical jewelry techniques in the 18th century due to the world's preoccupation with archeological excavations. Renowned 19th century jeweler, Castellani, first replicated these finds and assimilated the style with contemporary overtones, lasting until the 1880's. Another resurgence occurred in the late 20th century with the popularity of Kulicke-Stark Academy of Jewelry Art in New York City. This takes us full circle to Jean Stark, cofounder of Kulicke-Stark Academy and goldsmith/teacher for 29 years.

One of the user-friendly strengths of this book is the thoughtful organization of the 34-plus chain styles which progress and follow a natural order from the oldest and simplest loop-in-loop to cumulatively more difficult chains. Double to quadruple loop-in-loop to multiple woven loop-in-loop chains, the addition of beads, and the use of forged links culminate in the last chapter, exploring 10 different clasps. With 350 drawings and 45 photographs, an advanced beginner in chainmaking could practically follow the working sequence by looking at Stark's exquisite (non-computerized) drawings!

The supportive text of the directions has been carefully thought out, streamlined and "bench tested" by six chainmakers. Each project starts with a list of necessary materials, giving exact amounts of wire/gauge and dowel sizes for a specific chain length. Tools and equipment are discussed in two places first in a "general information" chapter where basics of metalsmithing and chain construction are explained, and in the back of the book where Stark lists equipment, tools and supplies in a conservative manner that should encourage new students with limited funds. I do think that safety issues should be more thoroughly addressed.

the charts in the book's helpful appendix provide a wealth of knowledge; for example, one helpful chart shows the weight per foot of round wire from fine silver wire and sterling silver to 22-karat gold. There is also a useful 36-term glossary.

This new edition has two dozen changes/additions to the original text. The major physical change is the had cover with a concealed wire biding which makes the book life flat and the white pages, which better enhance the photos. Classical Loop-in-Loop Chains is easy to use with clear directions and precise drawings. I highly encourage the addition of this book to your library!