Jewelry Guide

How to choose a gold chain

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Gold chain guide, all you need to know

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A gold chain is one of the most common ways that gold is used in jewelry. However, most people make the mistake of thinking that a gold chain is a simple one-choice item.

Not quite.

Gold chains come in a variety of styles and lengths, and it can be quite a challenge to pick one. Whether it is used to hold a pendant or to be worn as a simple chain around your neck, here are 8 important things to remember when you are on the hunt for the perfect gold chain.


Tip #1: Know what you are looking for

There are different types of chains that work for different purposes and personalities. Some chains have a masculine look whereas others are quite feminine. Some are able to withstand daily wear and others are better to hold pendants. Knowing why you’re buying the chain will help you zero in on the right type.


Here are the most common types of gold chains available:

  • Bead or Ball Chain – This variety of chains have small round beads of metal that are either spaced with some distance or linked closely together with just a tiny space to allow movement. These are very popular especially with dog tags for men. You can choose the thickness of the bead which generally varies between 1mm to 2mm thickness.

ball chain gold

Ball/Bead chain. See it here.

  • Box Chain – This type of chain has square “box” links that are usually worn as a necklace for pendants and around the wrist with watches. The nice thing about this chain is that it is easier to repair than other types of chains. If a “box” breaks, the link can be replaced or the broken chain reattached with the remaining links. Box chains are popular among women and range in size from 0.5 mm to 1.5mm. 

Gold box chain

Box chain. See it here.

  • Cable Chain – This is probably the simplest type of gold chain and looks much like a tiny version of a common iron chain. Simple but elegant, it has identical, uniformly interlocked ovals. This chain is popular for both men and women, and ranges in thickness to suit all styles.

Yellow gold cable chain

Cable chain. See it here.

  • FigaroThis is another gender-neutral chain, but a tad fancier than cable chains. Originating from Italy, Figaro is composed of an alternating pattern of flattened links varying in size. Usually the pattern is 2 or 3 shorter links followed by a longer link. Figaro chains are commonly chosen for necklaces as well as bracelets. 

Yellow gold figaro chain

Figaro chain. See it here.

  • Anchor or Mariner Chain – This chain is composed of interlocking ovals with a bar that runs across the center of each oval. Anchor or mariner chains come in a variety of widths, with thicker sizes common among men. There is a modern version called the puffed mariner which is also very popular these days. 

Yellow gold mariner chain

Mariner/Anchor chain. See it here.

  • Rope Chain This works like a “supporting” chain in that it is intricately designed to look like a real rope. These are more popular worn with a pendant which is the actual focal point.

Yellow gold rope chain

Rope chain. See it here.

  • Snake ChainComposed of small rings, either plates or bands, snake chains are knit closely together to form a continuous tube-like appearance that resembles that of a snake’s skin. These are very delicate but very flexible and would complement a pendant well.

Yellow gold snake chain

Snake chain. See it here.

  • Spiga or Wheat ChainSpiga, meaning wheat, is formed by delicately woven strands of twisted oval links. The chain looks like a soft golden braid. This necklace is very popular with women because of its intricate pattern. It has a delicate, stylish look and can be worn by itself or with a pendant. 

Yellow gold spiga chain

Spiga/Wheat chain. See it here.

  • Singapore ChainThis is one of the most delicate-looking and beautifully designed types of chains. Made of fibers that are braided and twisted together, this is a classic chain known for its durability and strength.

Yellow gold singapore chain

Singapore Chain. See it here.

Related Article: Top 10 Types of Necklace Chains

Tip# 2: Know the chain strengths

If your main purpose for a chain is daily wear, the number one question would be:

What is the strongest chain?

Out of all the types of chains we mentioned above, the strongest ones are those made of LINKS, such as cable, figaro and anchor. These are the strongest for the following reasons:

  • The links are soldered individually
  • They can be made thicker (and more durable) and still retain that flexibility of a rope chain
  • With the above said, they do not have a bending point – which means they will not break and can withstand any form of activity like bending, twisting, folding or knotting.
  • In the rare event that a link breaks, the chain can be repaired by replacing the link or reattaching the remaining links.

You have to remember though that this will only apply to quality metal. Any jewelry made out of substandard material will deteriorate over time regardless of the design.

But how to sort the real deal from the not-so-great ones?

Tip #3 Know the material: Solid chain vs. hollow gold chain

There are three types of material that a gold chain can be made of: Solid gold, gold filled and gold plated.

What are these, you ask?

For a detailed insight, check out our comprehensive guide to gold. Here is just a brief outline:

Solid Chains

  • Solid Gold – Solid gold doesn’t necessarily mean that the chain is made of 100% pure gold (24 karats). It can be 22K, 18K, 14K or 10K. Of these, 18 and 14 karat gold have the best combination of beauty and strength. Higher gold karatage results in a weaker chain while lower karatage results in chains that don’t have the best gold color.


  • Gold Filled – Also called rolled gold, this type of metal is made by bonding sheets of gold onto a base metal, commonly silver. Rolled gold is much less valuable than a solid gold chain, but better than gold plate.


  • Gold Plated – Gold plate is done by submerging the non-gold alloy into molten gold to create the golden coating. This is one of the inferior forms of golden chains in the sense that the only gold material you can find is on the coating of the base metal. It is less costly but it is more temperamental because it needs so much care and maintenance to make its beauty last longer.

Hollow Gold Chains

Hollow gold chains have a hollow space inside, somewhat like a tube. The reason for this is to reduce the quantity of gold used in the chain.

For example, a hollow 14K gold chain will still be a gold chain, but with much less gold than in a solid chain. Hollow gold chains are less expensive and lighter but they are much weaker. They can dent, kink or break easily.

If you have the choice, go for a solid chain as it will last you a very long time and will never lose its value. But if you’re on a budget, a hollow chain gold chain still has more resale value than a solid gold plated or gold filled piece.

Tip #4 Is a hollow gold chain fake?

This depends on the amount of gold in the chain.

Not all hollow gold chains are fake. Hollow chains refer to how the chains are constructed not what type of material they are made of. As mentioned above, hollow gold chains can still be made out of pure, 24-karat gold or the other valuable gold alloys.  And of course, they can be gold plated.

But are hollow gold chains the best type? Depending on what you use it for, hollow chains are either value for money or a wasted investment.

Hollow gold chains are better worn every now and then and do not perform well for daily wear.

Tip #5 Evaluate the quality of your gold 

Because gold is a very in-demand metal, there will always be people who will try to fob you off with a fake. The key to outsmarting them is to know your information and not fall for these traps! Here are five easy ways to determine whether a gold chain is real or fake:

  • Hallmark – A hallmark is a tiny engraving on the surface of an item of gold jewelry, usually found in very inconspicuous parts. This indicates the purity and material of the gold chain. Any reputable gold chain manufacturer will include a hallmark on their work.
  • Porcelain test – One of the easiest ways to initially determine if the material is fake or not is by rubbing it against an unglazed porcelain tile. Inspect the color the chain has left on the tile. If it is real gold, you should be able to see a golden yellow stain. If it is a fake (usually of pyrite), it would leave a black streak.
  • Magnet – Another easy initial test would be to check if the product is magnetic. There is no such thing as magnetic gold. If your chain is attracted to magnet, then it means that it has some iron or even nickel in it. While this is a good test, remember that some scammers use non-magnetic metals such as copper, aluminum and lead.
  • Acid Test – You can do this with nitric acid, hydrochloric acid or sulphuric acid. Granted, it isn’t always easy to get your hands on these chemicals. But assuming that you do, all you have to do is to drop a very small amount of acid on the body (not the clasps since some scammers would go so far as to make the clasps real just to trick you). If there is no reaction, there is a good chance that you have the real deal. If there is, then you’ve got either a fake, a gold-plated item, or an item with a very small percentage of gold (and not exactly what the karat hallmark says).
  • Appraisal – This is the sure-fire way to determine the authenticity of your gold chain. It is somewhat costly to pay for an appraiser and this is best if you are dealing with high risk purchases.

Tip# 6 Chain thickness: know which is for what

The thickness of a gold chain doesn’t only serve aesthetic purposes. It also has practical uses. Gold chains are produced thick or thin according to how they are used.

If you are going to use the chain to hold a pendant, consider the size of the pendant. Make sure the chain is thick enough to be able to hold the weight.

anchor pendant gold

Choose a chain with strength and style for your pendant. See this here.

Some people consider having long hair a major issue when wearing gold chains. This is because smaller, thinner chains can tangle easily, taking your hair with them. To avoid this, it is advisable to wear a chain of medium thickness.

For men who use the chain as a standalone accessory, personality is key. If you are more of a flashy, boisterous type, a thicker chain is good for you. For simpler silent types, a thin chain works well.

Tip# 7 Pick the length of your chain

It may sound like a dirty joke, but size does matter. You don’t want to be choked to death by your own jewelry because it’s too short nor deal with a mess of tangles because it’s too long. Chains ranging from 14 to 22 inches are the most common for regular wear.

Shorter chains are good for day and night use, and are more comfortable if you plan to wear the chain while you sleep. As an aside, it is not advisable to wear your gold chain when you sleep because it can cause sleep marks on your skin and there is the possibility of damaging the gold by bending or denting it. Another thing you have to avoid with short chains is getting choked. Make room for some movement.

Longer chains are best for outdoor wear and/or parties. They get in the way more than short chains do and therefore are best for special occasions or when you are heading out.

Tip # 8 Know your style

You have to know your style in order to choose your chain.

If you like classy and elegant designs, go for a thin, delicate chain. Choose a simple pendant to go with it for a casual, stylishly minimalist look. For a more outgoing person who likes to make a statement, an eye-catching larger chain will work wonders. You can pull it off, so why hold back!

If you would like to know more about gold, check out our comprehensive guide on gold

If you’re looking to buy a gold chain, Amazon has an unbeatable range that suits all budgets. You’ll surely you’re your ideal chain here. 

Blue Nile also has a select range of high quality gold jewelry on offer.

Jewelry Guide