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Perhaps this sounds like a trivial question, but I don't understand how a maester can wear a chain when it is formed of just one link; even five links would surely not be enough to fit around a man's neck. Do they not wear the chain until it can physically be worn? Do they tie string from the front chain to the back chain?

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possible duplicate of How long does it take to forge a Maester's chain? – Valorum Jun 9 '14 at 18:28
You aren't a maester until you have enough links to form a chain. Until then, I assume you just keep them in a pouch. – Valorum Jun 9 '14 at 18:30
To whoever wants to close this as a dupe: the question linked to is different. It focuses on what period of time a maester needs to work to earn his chain. This question addresses the practical aspect of wearing the chain before it's fully forged. – Leo King Jun 9 '14 at 23:01
Also, first post with over 1k views :). Didn't think something so minor would be interesting to people. – Leo King Jun 9 '14 at 23:04
Anyway, I repeat: I don't think a question should be closed as a dupe for having the same answer as another question. I've browsed meta SE to look for a policy addressing that issue, and a diamond mod on this question appears to agree. – Leo King Jun 9 '14 at 23:46
up vote 16 down vote accepted

From the Wiki of Ice & Fire:

A student-maester with a link is known as an acolyte until he has a full chain; The student-maesters do not wear the chain until it is full; it is not until he has completed extensive study in various subjects and has earned enough links to form a chain (to be worn around the neck) that he is considered worthy of advancement to the title of Maester, no longer a student but a peer.

They have to earn quite a few links to form a full chain before they can wear it, and be considered full Maesters.

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So while we presumably don't have an exact number of links, a student becomes a maester when their chain has enough links to be worn around the neck? Makes sense. – Leo King Jun 9 '14 at 13:19
Is that actually a quote from the book or just a case of poorly chosen formatting? – Anthony Grist Jun 9 '14 at 13:32
If you're going to repost from the wiki, it's considered good form to actually reference the original author; – Valorum Jun 9 '14 at 23:07
Does this mean that if you have a thicker neck, you'll need to study harder? – Alex Siri Jun 15 '14 at 21:20
@AlexSiri - There's mention of an overseas Maester who wears his necklace like a choker, rather than dangling. I'm assuming once you're in the club you can wear your chains however you like. – Valorum Jun 15 '14 at 22:35

Maesters wear a chain around their necks composed of various substances to signify their personal expertise. Each link indicates a different field of study. There are hundreds of recognized fields each with a different representative substance. Maesters are expected to wear their chains at all times, even when sleeping.

While there were seven known metals used, several fields shared their metals with others. One didn't became a maester without studying and mastering scores of fields first thus even a novice maester has a chain of considerable length.

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Where is this quote from? I've read ASOIAF many times, and never seen it mentioned that maesters must wear their chains even when sleeping. – TLP Jun 9 '14 at 15:14
Master Aemon is woken one night and he is wearing little but his chain. – nnnn Jun 9 '14 at 16:00
I think the only lengths mentioned explicitly in the books for novices were up to 7ish. – Mooing Duck Jun 9 '14 at 16:50
Can you find any support for that, @MooingDuck? :) – Leo King Jun 9 '14 at 21:14

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