There is a photo by Cecil Beaton of Greta Garbo working in her garden that seems to magically appear anytime someone says the words “gold link bracelet.” In the picture she is dressed for the job at hand—except for the Verdura bracelet on her arm. The defiant glimmer of gold from her wrist testifies to the eternal glamour of Garbo, but also to the everlasting allure of what is otherwise a rather simple jewelry design. The chain link—like the now equally iconic Aldo Cipullo nail bracelet and his screwdriver-inspired Cartier Love bracelet—is an ingenious elevation of the everyday.
From the beginning, even in ancient Mesopotamia, the instinct to adorn was present, proto–chain links included. The style and craftsmanship became more sophisticated during the Renaissance. Next time you’re wandering around a portrait gallery, count them. Rembrandt, who kept a chest of costumes for his sitters handy, had some great jewels tucked away in it, and he seemed to pull out a chain link necklace anytime he wanted to make sure you knew the person in the picture was a big deal.
So, yes, there is the immediate telegraphing of status, but the chain link holds another kind of allure. The decadent utilitarianism of the style, simple links rendered in precious metal, offers an irresistible combination of subtlety and strength, and that has made it one of the building blocks of a collection (and wrist stack). There seems to be nothing frivolous about it, except there you are, wearing gold in the garden.
Tip 1: Learn the language
The chain link was inspired by exactly what you’d think, and it has been a constant in jewelry design. As goldsmithing evolved during the Renaissance, so did the chain link.
Tip 2: Identify your idols
DVF’s oversize H. Stern (above) launched a thousand credit card swipes, and the style shows no signs of stopping. There they were again on Gucci’s spring 2023 runway.
Tip 3: Exercise grand gestures
Give them advance warning before you enter the room. Wear your chain link against other bracelets—and let their clinking against one another do the talking.
& In Practice…
This story appears in the November 2023 issue of Town & Country.