The Jewelry Box Blog

How to Untangle a Necklace Chain

Tangled Necklace

Plenty of jewelry collectors strive to keep their treasures neatly organized and safely stashed away but the inevitable always happens: the delicate nature of most chain necklaces means they’re going to knot at some point, often entangling with other styles (or with the bracelets at the bottom of your jewelry box) in a gnarly, multi-strand ball. Ugh! The problem with a tangled necklace is that the knot makes it completely unwearable. But not for long…


Untangling Your Necklace

Getting rid of said knot requires patience, something that can be in short supply when you’re in a hurry, especially if you’re dressing for work or a special occasion. The more delicate the chain, the more likely it is to tangle and—more bad news—thin, delicate chains are the most prone to breakage if you don’t handle them with care. 

As any professional jeweler will tell you, untangling a necklace requires an absurd amount of perseverance and focus so when faced with a chain you need to untangle, the first thing to do is take a deep breath. Try not to get frustrated. Addressing the problem may take a little time, but once you have loosened the knot and untangled your necklace so that you can once again wear it in all its shining glory, you’ll feel a wave of triumph waft over you. (And then hopefully do everything you can to prevent it from happening again—we’ll get into that later.)


5 Tips to Untangle Your Necklace

So, how do you untangle a necklace? Not surprisingly, there are many ways to skin a cat, as it were, and the method will depend on how complex the knot is. Just know that there’s a solution to the intricate metal “bird’s nest” that has somehow formed from out of nowhere and there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Don’t freak out and start reaching for your scissors, and for very intricately intertwined knots, do not attempt to unravel it until you have ample time to give it your attention. 


1. Unclasp the Necklace

It sounds elementary but trying to wrest your necklace free from a chain snarl without undoing the clasp can make things worse. It’s a critical first step and in some cases, can solve the problem immediately (yes, really). Be sure to remove any pendants that the knot isn’t blocking. If still no luck, any of the tips listed below should be helpful in your quest to untangle your necklace. One more reminder here to stay calm. Put the scissors away. Patience is a virtue. 


2. Spread Necklace onto a Flat Surface

Spread your necklace onto a hard surface, like a cutting board, to isolate the knot and keep the non-tangled parts away from it. A plain, solid-color surface is ideal so that you can really focus in on the construction of the knot (busy backgrounds make this hard). Insert a safety pin, a paper clip, the post part of a stud earring, a toothpick, a thumbtack, a dental floss pick, a screwdriver with a very fine tip, or a sewing needle into the center of the knot. Next, slowly wiggle and move it in a circle to loosen the knot and pull the chain free. The tighter and more complex the knot, the longer it will take to detangle, so don’t be surprised if the poke-and-wiggle method requires a few attempts. 


3. Lubricate the Necklace

Dab some baby oil or olive oil onto the knot using a Q-tip, cotton swab, or your fingers to lubricate the knot. Gently massage it until it begins to loosen. When you have untangled the knot, remove the oil from the necklace as soon as you can with mild soap and warm water, then rinse with clean water, and pat dry with a paper towel or a soft cloth. If you do not want to apply any type of oil, you can substitute baby powder and follow the same procedure.


4. Soak in Soapy Water

A non-scented shampoo or dishwashing soap may also help lubricate and loosen the knot. Avoiding any harsh cleaners, fill a container with warm soapy water and submerge the knotted chain. To untangle the necklace, gently work apart the knot under the water (feel free to use your poking object of choice as a tool). Once detangled, thoroughly rinse the chain and dry it immediately to prevent any dulling of the metal surface.


5. Consult a professional 

If our DIY hacks aren’t helping you to untangle your necklace, bring it to your local jeweler for their expert opinion. The have probably seen much worse and can tackle the task with skills and tools you don’t have (not to mention time!). While you are there, ask the jeweler to also professionally clean your necklace to save yourself another visit. If the jewel has been hiding out at the bottom of your jewelry box, chances are it’s become tarnished and will greatly benefit from some care and cleaning. When you go to pick it up, it will feel like you’re bringing home a brand-new piece!


Preventing Tangled Chains and Necklaces

How do you prevent tangled necklaces from happening in the first place? It’s about proper and careful storage. Below, some tips and products for keeping your necklaces organized and knot-free. 

Jewelry box with hooks 

Hooks prevent chains from twisting and knotting together, and also make finding and selecting the necklace you want to wear easier than if it were lying loosely—or balled up—in a drawer. Choose from styles that open to reveal hooks on the sides or hiding beneath the lid. DIY hack: A wall-mounted key holder serves the same necklace-holding purpose.

Original box 

Keep your chain in its original box after you purchase it. The interior loops or slits hold the chain in place, and keep necklaces safe from impact, especially while traveling.

Packable necklace carrier 

You may also purchase compact and lightweight necklace pouches with protective padding that securely and safely store necklaces in a variety of lengths. These organizers can also provide a permanent home for your chains when you store them in a drawer. 

Clear plastic bags 

It’s how the jewelry trade packages and stores necklaces and you can do it too: Simply drop each chain into a tiny plastic bag with a zip-lock closure, and snap it closed with some of the chain draping down the outside. Even better for both long-stern storage and travel: Plastic bags with convenient hanging holes.

Drinking straws 

For superfine, delicate chains, try using a plastic drinking straw. After unclasping your necklace, feed one end of the chain through the straw. When the chain exits the opposite end, unite it with the other end and secure the clasp. For shorter chains, trim the straw accordingly. If you prefer to store your straw-threaded chains inside a drawer, lay them flat, about one inch apart.

When stored safely, jewelry is less likely to get lost or damaged. Your jewelry should be enjoyed and worn often but can become susceptible to normal wear and tear. That’s why it’s always a good idea to get dedicated jewelry insurance to make sure your necklaces and other fine jewelry are always as good as new. 

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