When you picture those classic, thick gold chains in your mind, you are almost certainly envisioning a Cuban link chain.
The Cuban link chain, used to make Cuban necklaces and bracelets, is a bold chain made of tight, twisted, interlocking links. In fact, this little baby is so iconic that the Jewelers Circular Keystone Magazine named it one of three must-stock chain types according to the royal chain group.
If The Royal Chain Group thinks it’s a must-have staple, us non-royal jewelry lovers should probably have these chains on our radars, and in our jewelry boxes too.
They Are Not Actually From Cuba
Okay, then why are they called that and where are they from?
Well, these bracelets and necklaces were made in America, but with a little bit of Cuban flavor.
Chunky link chains, like so many other great trends, have their origins in the hip-hop movements and culture of the late 1970s and 80s. Not coincidentally, due in part to the Mariel boatlift of 1980, the Cuban population in the United States was largely expanding at that same time.
Like so many who immigrated before them, Cuban immigrants of the 1980s often found their way to large cultural hubs like New York and Miami, where they began blending their culture with that of their new home.
While it’s not clear exactly when and where the Cuban chain style developed into what we know and love today, it’s often attributed to those very same cultural hubs.
In truth, the style we think of as a Cuban necklace, bracelet, or chain is also often referred to as a Miami Cuban link because it’s become such a large part of South Florida fashion and culture. So, if you and your bestie are heading to South Beach on spring break don’t forget to pack sunscreen, bikinis, and your Cuban link bracelets and necklaces.
They Come in Different Sizes, Styles, and Materials
Versions of Cuban chains popularized by rappers and hip hop artists can often be seen on the red carpet, in music videos, and on TV. But the true beauty of this adaptable link is that it can be worn as a versatile daily piece and used to fit any style clean-cut, boho, masc, or femme.
Cuban bracelets and necklaces can be made big, chunky, and built to hold the weight of gemstone encrusted pendants. They can also have links large enough to hold diamonds or gemstones directly. The links can be textured or even engraved to add detail.
When you pictured that chain earlier, I bet you pictured one that was big, bold, and gold. Maybe you’re an overachiever and even added some bling. Of course, that’s one version of a Cuban chain necklace, but it’s certainly not the only one.
One of the most customizable aspects of the Cuban chain, which can change the feel entirely is it’s sizing. Just like finding the perfect place to brunch with your bestie, it’s all about the right fit. So here’s some info that might help you figure out what’s right for you.
First, the links themselves are measured in millimeters, and the length of the chain is in inches.
Typical link widths range from 4mm - 12mm.
Ranges from 4mm to 8mm have traditionally been recommended for a dainty or more femme look. While the higher range of 8mm - 12mm will give you a bolder possibly more masc feel.
Like most necklaces, the length of the chain measured in inches will depend on where you’d like the chain to fall. Below is a basic guide.
- 14 - 16” - will fit snugly around your throat or the base of your neck.
- 17 - 18” - should fall right at or below your collarbone.
- 20 - 24” - will likely fall below your collarbone, and graze your bust.
Color & Material
Another important piece of the puzzle: color and material.
As many classic pieces do, Cuban bracelets and necklaces look amazing in both gold and silver. It’s important when you’re choosing jewelry though that you know what’s going into it. Find a retailer that only uses high-quality materials and fine precious metals.
If you enjoy a white/silver look your best bet is a trusted favorite: .925 Sterling Silver, made from 92.5% pure silver. It’s strong like your bond with your bff, super shiny, easy to clean, and way less expensive than white gold or platinum.
If gold is more your thing you have a couple of good options.
If you are royalty, go ahead and spring for “solid,” AKA 24 karat gold, but if you’re looking for something more affordable 14 karat gold should be just right. It’s super low maintenance, lasts forever, and will catch the light for just the right amount of sparkle.
Another great option is gold vermeil or gold plating. This is basically a strong base of sterling silver which is then thickly coated with gold. It won’t last forever, but with a little love and care it should hold up for 5-10 years.
They Have Unique Characteristics that Make them Different From Other Chains
Cuban bracelets and necklaces may come in different colors, styles, and materials but they have distinct characteristics that make them unique, just like you. So while they’re easy to individualize they’re also perfect for mixing and matching.
Cuban chains consist of flat, twisted links that sit tightly and uniformly within one another creating the appearance of contiguous twirled loops. This simple yet classic design combines some of the best features of your favorite timeless pieces.
- They have all the beauty and strength of a tight box chain or boyfriend chain necklace.
- The elongated glistening surface area of a snake chain necklace.
- The bold chunky vibe of a rectangle link necklace.
Basically, you get the best of all worlds with a Cuban bracelet or necklace! It's no wonder this style has become a jewelry box staple for men and women over the last forty years.
The very things that make it unique, also make it versatile. Because it draws on clean classic styles it becomes the ultimate layering piece, and the strength of the tight links allows the chain to support even heavy charms and pendants.
Pair a Cuban necklace with almost anything your heart desires, a cable chain, a bar necklace, even your beau. The possibilities are truly endless.
Cuban Necklaces and Bracelets Are IN and They Are Not Going Anywhere
The brilliant part about a classic piece of jewelry is that you can always count on it to come back with a vengeance, and that’s exactly what’s happening with bold chain jewelry right now. The Cuban link chain is the next classic to become a trend, celebrities are sporting Cuban link anklets poolside and shoe companies are releasing Cuban link chains to adorn special edition sneakers.
All of this is no surprise considering the steadfast way this jewelry staple has stood the test of time. Just like your best friendships, it lasts forever.
The strong silhouette of a classic Cuban necklace or bracelet is the perfect statement piece. It meets this moment, but more than that it endures. These sleek, shiny, and bold pieces can be worn alone, layered, or adorned with charms in a way that allows you to be as safe, playful, or fearless with your fashion as you want.