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What Is A Belcher Chain?FAQ IndexChard 24 Carat Home Page

Oval Belcher Link Chain
Round Belcher Link Chain
Lightweight Open Oval Belcher Link Chain
What Is A Belcher Chain?

Everybody Knows
Belcher is a very popular and well known style of chain, particularly in Britain, although we note that belcher chain is readily available from American jewellers, and is also made by Italian, German and other manufacturers.
Nomenclature of jewellery styles tends to be fairly inexact, and varies from region to region. We wanted to know precisely what features of a chain makes it a belcher link rather than any other link.

But Nobody Really Knows
Some years ago when attempting to classify chain styles, we turned to a dictionary for a definition of belcher, and were surprised to note that the only meaning given, apart from "one who belches", was a type of scarf or neckerchief. There was no mention of belcher as a style of chain.
We tried jewellery magazines, different dictionaries by Collins, Webster's (we also understand American), Chambers, encyclopaedias, the NAG training scheme, and found no relevant reference.
In our copy of "An Illustrated Dictionary of Jewellery", by Harold Newman, containing 1530 terms relating to jewellery, we found the following references:-

Although the belcher chain definition is helpful, it is not completely clear. Does the reference to "equal length" mean the each link is equal in length to every other link, of that the length of the link is equal to the breadth of each link?
There are chain styles universally recognised as belcher link, which are not from a D-section wire, but from a hollowed out, U-section wire.
The reference for trace chain in the Dictionary specifies that trace chain uses oval links, therefore belcher links m8ust accordingly also be oval, yet there are many cahins universally recognised as belcher link, which have round links rather than oval ones.
There is no etymology in the Dictionary to explain how the name belcher came about or when it was first used.
It is clear to us that the definition given, although the best we can find, is less than adequate.
Where then can we find a better definition...?

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED)
Having just acquired a copy of the second, and probably last edition of the OED, probably one of the greatest works in the English language (or should that be the English language in one of the greatest works?), the very first word I searched for was, naturally, "belcher".
Imagine my surprise to find no reference whatsoever to a belcher chain, link, ring, or other jewellery item.
For those unfamilar with the OED, it comes in 20 large volumes, and is generally regarded as the ultimate authority on the English language.
The OED entry includes the following:-

As belcher chain is not listed in the OED, where else can we turn for information?

Sheffield Assay Office Library
We asked Mrs. Jackie Richardson, the librarian at the Sheffield Assay Office Library. Her first stop was the OED!, but she managed to find a few jewellery trade catalogues which were helpful, and an article about the boxer Jim Belcher. I had told her that I believed he may be connected.
These were the sources:-

Conclusions
We believe that the name belcher relating to a type of chain link comes from the association with Jim Belcher.
Here are our arguments for this conclusion:-

You may wish to visit some of our other pages:-
Allergies to Gold Jewellery
Gold Alloys by Weight & Volume
Hardness & Durability of Gold Alloys
What is White Gold?
What is Green Gold?


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