What is a Ball Chain? (Pros, Cons, and Buying Guide)

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Ball chains are an attractive and popular necklace chain type. While they’re typically found as inexpensive steel chains, ball chains also come in a variety of styles, metals, and sizes. In fact, they can be a vital addition to your jewelry box.  

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Here we take a closer look to define ball chains and provide some of the options available to you if you’re thinking of purchasing one.  

What is a Ball Chain? 

Ball chains feature a series of small metal balls set on a thin metal wire. The wire threads through small holes drilled into the sides of the metal balls. Rivets on the wires mean the balls do not move around and sit in a place at regular intervals.  

There are other varieties of ball chains as well. 

beaded ball chain necklace
Beaded ball chain made of gold. See this here.

Beaded ball chains are another variety that doesn’t have any space between the balls (think chunky pearl necklaces). These types are better-considered standalone bead chains.  

Are Ball Chains Inexpensive? 

ball chain dog tag
Dog tag necklace. See this here. 

Ball chains have a bit of a reputation for being inexpensive. Yes, you can even find them for non-jewelry use – on key chains or connecting clothing items to tags. But, as we’ll see, ball chains don’t need to be the second-best option. They are a great jewelry item too. 

In fact, ball chains are very stylish when paired with the right necklace. They’re particularly popular worn as dog tag necklaces, paired with a well-crafted dog tag pendant.  

What Are the Pros of a Ball Chain Necklace?  

satellite ball chain necklace
Stylish ball chain with beads spaced far apart. See it here.

Ball chains offer several pros.  

For one thing, they’re quite affordable and easily available. You can find them made in a variety of metals at various price points. This means that there’s a ball chain for whatever purpose you have in mind. 

For another thing, the balls won’t rub together. They look like they’re floating in space but are held apart using rivets that keep them in place. So, while they look fragile, they’re quite practical.  

This means that although you have a lot of separate parts in a ball chain, they won’t be banging together on the chain. Less friction means less wear and tear (compared to, for example, a bead chain). And the look is very balanced.  

What Are the Cons of a Ball Chain? 

By necessity, the wire that runs through the metal balls to make the chain is thin. This means that ball chains can be less durable than other necklace types.  

Another negative is that, yes, if you’re buying a cheaper material, it will look cheap. For a quality look, buy better-quality metal and a well-crafted ball chain.  

Is A Ball Chain a Good Jewelry Item? 

gold ball chain
14k gold ball chain. See this here.  

A ball chain makes a very attractive piece of jewelry. Whether you wear it alone or with a pendant, the simple yet stylish design of the ball chain makes for a great accessory. 

Ball chains look good with circular pendants or dog tags, which is why it’s an excellent choice for those who choose to wear their wedding rings (or other rings) on a chain around their neck.   

What Is the Best Metal to Use for Ball Chains? 

For costume jewelry and inexpensive options, steel is a common metal for ball chains. You’ll often find dog tags and keys attached to steel ball chains. 

Gold ball chains and silver variants are very attractive choices, and also raise the value of the chain.  

As a standalone jewelry item with no pendant, gold is arguably the best choice. For softer looks, white and rose gold is also attractive. 

When Should I Choose a Ball Chain?  

There’s always a reason to have a ball chain in your jewelry box. Choose one when you want a simple necklace. Its easy nature will not attract a lot of attention, but it will – 

  • work with other jewelry 
  • support interesting pendants including rings and dog tags 
  • be a go-to when simplicity is key  

If you want a more luxurious look, ball chains are still great, but opt for higher quality.  

But remember, all chain jewelry breaks easily. Invest in a solid clasp and good chain too. Especially if you’re spending more money on an expensive metal. 

Who Can Wear a Ball Chain? 

Anyone can wear a ball chain. For a masculine look, the simple steel variant, with a novel pendant or with dog tags is perfect. In gold or silver, a ball chain looks more like a jewelry item. This kind is better suited to a more feminine aesthetic.  

Choker ball chains are also a great choice for a feminine look. They can give off a confident, stylish look.  

Where Can I Buy Ball Chains? 

Ball chains are available on most eCommerce sites like Amazon and Etsy. And jewelers will stock ball chains too. As with all jewelry items, check the metal being used, and its purity.  

Wrapping Up 

A simple but effective piece of jewelry, a ball chain can be worn independently or with other adornments to create a very impactful look.  

Traditionally ball chains are inexpensive, but only when made of steel or other non-precious materials.  

By itself, and for maximum impact, the best quality metal should be used. Gold or silver are optimal. If your ball chain is more of a novelty item, then cheaper metals are fine. 

Think about length too. If you’re wearing just the ball chain, then a shorter length such as a choker is fine, but if you’re attaching a pendant, then a longer chain is preferable.  

Overall, a ball chain should be one of the tools in your dynamic jewelry collection, whether worn alone or with a pendant, in steel, silver, or gold, with or without other necklaces.   

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