A curb chain is a chain used on horse bridles with certain types of bits to control the placement of the bit and refine control of the horse. It has a very distinctive design that has been borrowed, along with the name, by producers of jewelry. Several other jewelry designs and styles have their origins in tack and harness for horses. Inconsistent jewelry nomenclature can sometimes create confusion about the type of jewelry people are referring to.
The curb chain is made with a series of twisted links that are designed to lie flat. In a traditional curb chain, the links are oval and they are all the same size. Variations on the design may use circular links or links of different sizes. The curb chain lies smoothly and should not pinch or tear. This ensures that the chain does not cause pain or injury to the horse while it is in use, and the same trait makes this style of chain useful for necklaces and bracelets when there is a worry that the chain might damage the skin.
When used with horses, curb chains are designed to run under the chin of the horse. They secure the bit, keeping it in the right position, and they can also increase control. The chain must be adjusted so that it is loose enough to give the horse an opportunity to respond to light pressure, without being so loose that the bit can slide out of position. If a curb chain is too tight, there is a risk that it could apply pressure to the bit and damage the horse's teeth or palate in addition to causing discomfort.
For jewelry, curb chains are commonly used for necklaces and bracelets that are designed to lie flat against the skin. Ornaments can be attached or the chain can be worn plain, and it can also be used to suspend pendants and other objects. Curb chains are also sometimes used in fashion design on clothing, and can be seen attached to wallets and watches with a clip to keep these objects secured.
Lengths of loose curb chain are available in a variety of sizes and made with an assortment of materials. Gold and silver curb chains are common, as are chains made with other metals that are plated. Prices vary depending on the size, materials, and level of craftsmanship. Jewelry should be securely stored to reduce the risk of scratches and tarnish.