Chainmaille (also referred to as chain mail or maille) dates back to as far as the Etruscans in the 4th century B.C., although there is some evidence of earlier scale armor. The technique of weaving rings together to form armor spread worldwide, including as far as India and China. The Byzantine Empire then brought chainmaille to Europe, and during the Middle Ages it was commonly used as battle armor.
To create chainmaille, wire is wound into coils, the coils are cut into rings, and then each ring is individually opened, woven into a pattern, and then closed. The early European patterns alternated between rows of soldered rings and rows of riveted rings, but after the 14th century all rings were riveted.
When making jewelry, usually soldering is not usually necessary as the rings have enough strength due to their small size (actually, small aspect ratio). I solder any links in my jewelry that will need additional strength and security.
While there are literally thousands of different chainmaille patterns, there are three general types of weaves. The Japanese weaves date back approximately 3000 years. These weaves were created by linking rings in simplistic flat box structures or hexagonal grid patterns, typically using smaller rings than the Europeans. The traditional European weave used is called European 4-in-1, the most commonly seen flat weave. Other European weaves used include the Byzantine, which was a weave used for more decorative purposes. There is also a weave family called Persian, but it’s origins are less clear. It isn’t known exactly when these techniques used for armor began to be used to create jewelry.