Hey Ralph, what is the strongest jump ring?

Hey, Ralph, what is the strongest jump ring? I wish there was a quick, easy answer, I would stock many fewer types of jump rings!  The reality is that there isn’t one best, strongest jump ring. There are a number of properties that go into making a jump ring strong, or weak and they include gauge, diameter, shape, material, temper, joint, design, budget and physics.

First, let’s discuss gauge. It is logical that a thicker gauge will produce a stronger ring. There are 2 points that can lead to confusion here the first being that there are 2 gauge systems: AWG (American Wire Gauge) and SWG (Standard Wire Gauge). AWG is used worldwide by jewelry makers. SWG is used primarily by North American and British chainmaillers.

The second is that the numbers can be confusing if you don’t remember that the smaller the number, the thicker the gauge, regardless of which gauge system you are using. Here is my AWG gauge chart.

Wire Gauge Chart

Diameter: A smaller diameter is going be stronger than a larger diameter ring of the same gauge. Why? Because the larger diameter jump ring will allow more leverage and will require less force to move.

Shape: There are 2 aspects to shape, shape of the wire and shape of the jump ring. Square wire has 30% more volume than the same gauge in a round shape so it will inherently be stronger. An oval shaped jump ring with the joint on the long end will be stronger than an equivalent sized round ring as the joint will never move to the point of most tension. With a round jump ring that can freely move, there will be a time when the point of most tension and the joint will line up.

Design: In many chainmaille designs, jump rings are doubled up, meaning that there isn’t a point in the design where there is only 1 jump ring in a connection. There are almost always multiple connections and multiple jump rings. For example, a 1 into 1 simple chain, is not going to be as strong as it would be if you add a second ring creating a 2 into 2 chain.

Physics: While a thicker jump ring will bring a stronger joint, there may be other components in the design that limit the size – for example, a charm may have a 1mm hole so a 1.2mm thick jump ring is not going to fit through. That 1mm hole may not even allow a 1mm jump ring if the jump ring has a small diameter.  The component may be thick as in the case of sea glass, so the jump ring may fit, but it has to be opened so wide to go into the hole that it is permanently deformed and can’t be closed properly

It is possible to make a jump ring so strong that it can’t be closed. I have made 10 gauge 8m ID jump rings which look like donuts and even in dead soft copper, they can’t be closed without leaving deep marks in the jump ring.

Budget: Soldered joints are of course more secure than unsoldered joints but the time, cost and logistics involved can be prohibitive.  The target expense for a project may also prohibit the use of the ideal jump ring.

Joint: There are also 2 aspects to this, the first being how the joint is made or how the jump ring is made. There are various methods used to make jump rings but they all involve cutting wire (unless they are created by casting) with some sort of tool or machine. A slitting saw with a 0.008” blade will produce the smoothest joint and remove the least amount of material. It will be easiest to align and you will have a near perfectly round jump ring.  Machine cut or snip cutting jump rings will not leave a smooth joint. The resulting jump rings will be prone to deformation. A jeweler’s saw can be used to cut a jump ring, which leave smooth joints but it will remove a large amount of material, leaving the jump ring slightly oval.

The second aspect to the joint is how the jump ring is closed. Closing the jump ring poorly is akin to a machine cut in that it will deform easier. Here is a great video that my daughter made that describes the A, B, C’s of closing jump rings.

Material: Metals inherently have different tempers. The temper of the wire is also influenced by milling process and some of this can be manipulated by the jewelry maker. There are several points in the process where the designer can easily influence the temper of the materials.  The first opportunity is before the jump rings is made. Some metals can be work hardened. There are a number of techniques that can be used including hammering, bending and straightening. Some metals can be softened. This process is called annealing and involves heating the wire. The next opportunity is in the jump ring making process. The manipulation that is required to make jump rings will also work harden it. It is also possible to work harden jump rings by tumbling them after they are made, but the difference is not appreciable. One commonly used material, Argentium Sterling Silver, is unique in that it can he heat tempered. Heat tempering Argentium is usually done after the jump rings are made, or even after the piece is complete.  The last opportunity to influence temper is when the jump rings are being closed. Moving the ends of the jump ring back and forth when closing them will increase temper.

Here is a temper chart. This is a relative reference.

Temper Chart

So, when you ask me, “What is the strongest jump ring”, what you really mean is, what is the strongest jump ring for your specific situation, taking into consideration all of the above.

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