Bracelets are the most carefree pieces of jewelry, an accessory for the wrist that often has no up or down, no front or back, no left or right. Unlike a ring, which can signal to the world one’s availability when it comes to romance, or a necklace, which is a favorite armature for everything from personal mementos to public pronouncements of one’s faith, a bracelet is mostly worn for fun.

In Victorian times, popular bracelets included those made from black Berlin iron or gauze-like Silesian wire. Bangles of rolled gold were also common, as were bracelets decorated with red coral (it was thought to protect children from diseases and bad spirits) and tightly woven bands of human hair.

During Queen Victoria’s mourning period, elastic bracelets made of carved chunks of black jet were considered quite fashionable, as were tortoiseshell bangles inlaid with fine lines of silver. Concurrently, pearl and ruby encrusted enameled bracelets celebrated the Renaissance Revival, while cameo bracelets depicted everyone from Roman gods to European literary lions like Dante and Homer.

As gold-plating techniques advanced, more bracelets were made out of the precious metal. Inexpensive gold-filled bracelets were made in great numbers, bringing gold to the masses. Sterling silver was also a favorite—even Queen Victoria wore silver charm bracelets during her reign, making them a popular fashion accessory among noble Europeans. Sterling silver hearts—some set with precious or semi-precious stones, some puffed up in a style called répoussé—were as popular then as they are now.

Teeth and claws were another Victorian adornment for bracelets, as were sterling silver coins. By the Edwardian era, though, diamonds and gemstones had claimed their place around the wrist, as had turquoise and pearls, which were often strung in meshwork grids on platinum wire. But two other parallel aesthetics were also in play: Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau, each of which, in their own way, infused the natural world into all types of jewelry, including bracelets.

By the late 1920s, all of these impulses would give way to Art Deco. Diamonds and gemstones were now firmly in control around the wrist, thanks, in no small part, to their suitability in the geometric patterns that typified much of Art Deco design. Sometimes a single large sapphire or ruby would define the center of a bracelet, but more often the pattern was intended to repeat endlessly, with even the clasp disguised under a blanket of precious stones.

This was the era when well-to-do clients looked to big-name designers like Van Cleef & Arpels and Cartier to adorn their tanned and slender arms. After World War II, more adventu...

One of the most influential bracelet designers of the Mid-century Modern period was Jean Schlumberger, who started creating for Tiffany’s in 1956. Among his many achievements, Schlumberger created Tiffany’s classic bangles, which were such favorites of Jacqueline Kennedy that people called them "Jackie bracelets." It was also during Schlumberger’s tenure that “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” with Audrey Hepburn as the window-shopping waif of indeterminate means, made the New York City store itself a star.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

All About Jewels Dictionary

All About Jewels Dictionary

This incredible reference dictionary on jewelry, from Enchantedlearning.com, is both beautiful and comprehensive. S… [read review or visit site]

Morning Glory Antiques and Jewelry

Morning Glory Antiques and Jewelry

Jewelry collectors, feast your eyes on this internet gem! It's a goldmine of jewelry information featuring all styl… [read review or visit site]

Cathy Gordon's Jewelry Gallery

Cathy Gordon's Jewelry Gallery

With its vast galleries featuring clear images of jewelry and style, this site really covers it all! Divided up by … [read review or visit site]

Jewel History

Jewel History

Since March of 2007, readers of Lori Ettlinger Gross’s JewelHistory blog have been treated to her weekly (sometim… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Antique Art Deco 8.00ct Diamond Sapphire Platinum Bracelet 15.8 Grams NrAntique 15ct Gold ,pearl, Diamonds & Blue Guilloche Enamel Bracelet & Lovers EyeAntique Diamond Gold Platinum Filigree Bracelet 15.6 Grams NrLa Nouvelle Bague Diamond 18k Gold Enamel Flower Bangle Bracelet 37.1 Grams NrEstate 7.27ct Natural Fancy Yellow Diamond 18k Gold Bracelet 38.6 Grams NrEstate 3.20ct Diamond 14k Gold Wide 3 Row Tennis Bracelet 31.5 Grams NrAntique Victorian 9ct Gold Ladies Old Cut Diamond Sapphire Bangle Bracelet14k Diamond Slide Bracelet Sapphire Aquamarine Emerald Tourmaline Vintage 9.10ctVintage Lavender Jade Bangle BraceletVintage Green Jade Translucent Bangle 9.8 Mm With 14k GoldVintage Solid 500? Grade Silver Unusual Snake Head Bracelet Safety Chain 20.8g18k Jabel White Gold & 1+ Carat Diamond Flower Bracelet, Jeweler AppraisalAntique 9ct Rose Gold Ladies Garnet Seed Pearl Heart Bangle BraceletVintage Designer 1.00ctw Round Brilliant Diamond 14k White Gold Tennis Bracelet Antique Victorian C 1890 Silver Scottish Agate Pebble Bracelet BroochAntique 9ct Rose Gold Curb Link Chain BraceletModern Three Row Sterling Silver Pearl Wide Bracelet 43.2 Grams NrAntique Baltic Amber Natural Bracelet Butterscotch Egg Yolk 31,0 Grams Loook Ȁ$ Antique Vintage 14k Gold 2.58 Ct Diamond Multi Row Cocktail Tennis BraceletAntique Austro Hungarian Silver Filigree Flower Leaf Turquoise Pearl Bracelet40 Multi-coloured Diamonds 18ct Tennis Bracelet, Christie's, Pink, Brown, YellowArt Deco Vintage Old European Diamond Sapphire 14k White Gold Filigree BraceletOrnate Antique 9ct Rose Gold Large Link Curb Link Chain BraceletSuperb Victorian Scottish Moss Agate And Silver BraceletVintage 14k Solid Gold With Diamonds Slide Bracelet Charm - No ReserveFine Vintage 1.44 Carat Sapphire Gold BraceletAntique Coral Bracelet - Italian 'sciacca' Hand CarvedNorwegian Silver Enamel Brooch , Pin , Bracelet Etc.Extraordinary 1950s 18k Gold Ultra Fine Brazilian Emerald Diamond Bracelet14k & Sterling Authentic David Yurman Cuff BraceletAntique Butterscotch Amber Necklace Egg Yolk Amber 60 Grams BraceletEstate 4.71 Ct Si1/f Natural Diamond 18k White Gold Tennis Cocktail BraceletAntique Butterscotch Amber Necklace Egg Yolk Amber 27 Gr BraceletVintage 14k Solid Gold And Emerald "kljci" Slide Bracelet Charm - No ReserveAntique Solid Silver Hallmarked Danish Victorian Slave Bangle Armlet Cuff !!!Elegant Vintage Allco Art Deco Pink Stone Filigree Link Bracelet 1920sVintage 14k Solid Gold Ruby & Diamond "kljci" Slide Bracelet Charm - No ReserveCarrera Y Carrera 18ct Matte Gold Panther Bracelet, Hidden Clasp, 29g, BoxedVintage 14k Solid Gold With Diamonds "kljci" Slide Bracelet Charm - No ReserveAuthentic Tiffany & Co. 925 Sterling Silver 1996 Bamboo Bangle Bracelet Vintage 14k Gold Pink Tourmaline & Diamond "kljci" Slide Bracelet Charm Vintage 14k Solid Gold And Sapphire "kljci" Slide Bracelet Charm - No ReserveLarge Multi-color Lavender & Green Jade Bangle BraceletEstate Diamond 4.50ct Sapphire 14k Gold Tennis Bracelet 11.2 Grams Nr14k Vintage Solid Gold Charm BraceletAntique Hallmarked Rose Gold Rare Shape BangleLarge Multi-color Lavender Brown Green Carved Dragon Jade Bangle BraceletAntique Vtg Old Native American Sterling Silver Hand Made Cuff Navajo BraceletFine Vintage Solid Gold Engraved BangleEstate 14k Yellow Gold 1.25 Ct Round Diamond Vintage Tennis Bracelet Victorian 4 Row Rose Cut Bohemian Garnet Hinged Silver Gilt Bangle Bracelet~mintEstate $8,465.00 14k Solid Yellow Gold Opal Bracelet ~ No ReserveAlbert David 1/4ctw Diamond 5mm Akoya Pearl 14k Gold Milgrain Tennis BraceletVintage Enamel Sterling Silver/german Silver Travel Charm Bracelet W/ 30 CharmsFine Edwardian 1907 Ruby And Diamond Gold BangleRare Victorian Austro Hungarian Flat Cut Garnet & Green Stone Silver BraceletVintage Antique Micro Mosaic Bracelet 7.5" Long B116Scarce Vintage Modernist Wide Sterling Hinged Bracelet, Bent K Knudsen DenmarkFine Heavy Victorian Gold Bracelet With Padlock ClaspEstate Diamond 14k Gold Wide Men's Link Bracelet 30.9 Grams Nr