Unknotting a Chain
Unknotting a chain is easy when you know the right technique. In fact, this method has been used by jewelers for hundreds (yes hundreds) of years and no one has come up with a better way to get a knot out of a chain.
Important: How Did You Get Here in the First Place?
Let’s be honest, you didn’t take your thin gold or silver chain and consciously tie it into a knot. In fact, chances are good that you picked it up one day, went to put it on and the chain was knotted. Your mind raced, and you immediately blamed (if only in your head) your sister, brother, friend, or cousin who wore it last. They of course denied tying it in a knot and, they probably did not, however what SOMEONE did was roll it up and put it in a pocket, bag, or other “storage” area where it was moving around – and it knotted. Now if this was a rope, nothing would come of it. You’d pull it out and it would be straight and immediately useful, but metal, particularly very thin precious metal chain, is different…
Most of the time a chain does not tie itself in a square knot (right end over left end then through the middle, then back the opposite way). It ties itself into a weird slip knot – meaning that a bit of metal chain has somehow become a loop and then it caught something else in between and tightened.
Knowing the type of knot is really important – because the self-inflicted slip knot type of knot is always easier to unknot that one that was designed to keep a ship attached to a dock during a monsoon!
Rule No 1 – Don’t Force Anything – Do the Opposite of That!
Let’s be honest, you know that you are much stronger than that puny little chain – me too. As a consequence, we often want to let that knot know who is boss! Refrain from doing this, because it will make things much worse and could even result in broken jewelry. You and your mighty self will win the battle but lose the war, so whatever you do, and no matter how much satisfaction you will get when it all comes flying apart, don’t try to rip it open!
Rule No – 2 – Ask someone with 20/20 vision (or a get good magnifying glass) to do “the surgery.”
After about age 40, they eyes begin to go. Not horribly off, but you won’t be threading a needle in midlife without spectacles. The same rule applies here. Wear reading glasses, find a magnifying glass (or a jeweler’s lope) and follow rule No 3.
Rule No – 3 – Get two safety pins and a lot of light and follow these instructions…
First, know that when you want to unknot a chain, don’t do it “by candle light.” In fact, almost no amount of light is too much, and you will get up close and personal, so you might as well see as much as the eye will allow. If you do not have 20:20 reading vision, we recommend a desk lamp with a built in magnifying glass. Our favorite lamp is the Begeer Lighted Desktop Magnifying Glass with Light and Stand and 1.8 X 6X Magnification Lenses (about $22 on Amazon).
Okay, now that you have the rules lets chat about the three steps…
A clean and plain white surface is important because you will be dealing with a nearly invisible rope of precious metal and it will be easy to lose it on a patterned surface (I actually did lose mine during the photoshoot and my wife nearly killed me!). Lay your chain flat and lengthwise across the surface with one end at 3 o’clock and the other at 9 o’clock. Examine the knot – do not tug or pull at it because this will make it worse.
Step 2: Use your two safety pins and bend the faster back so that the pin head is at about a 120-degree angle from the fastener (see picture).
Step 3: Leave one pin in place, pin head down, and gently wiggle/drags the other pin head outward, pulling the knot apart in the process. Keep the second pin head on the flat surface the entire time.
This will probably take two or three gentle tugs because you are taking the strength out of the knot and that rarely happens in one go. You will start to notice a loop opening where the knot once was.
Once loose, don’t try to untangle the knot with your hand even after the loop appears, this will just move the knot and it will retighten further down the chain and you will have to start all over again. Keep gently pulling the knot further and further open until it has come completely undone and the chain looks like it did when you purchased it.