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, 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 Deco 5.22ct Diamond Emerald 18k Gold Filigree Bracelet 26.8 Grams NrIppolita 18k Gold Tapered Hammered Bangle Bracelet 13.9 Grams NrAntique Diamond 14k Gold Blue Enamel Bangle Bracelet 30.3 Grams NrEstate 5.07ct Diamond 14k Gold 4mm Tennis Bracelet 10.8 Grams NrEstate Italain 14k Gold 2 Tone Oval Link Bracelet 9.4 Grams NrEstate 6.25ct Diamond 14k White Gold Tennis Bracelet 14.1 Grams NrGorgeous Vintage Translucent Jade Bangle Bracelet With 14k Gold Italian 14k Gold Mesh Wide Bracelet 17.8 Grams NrAntique 6.32ct Diamond Pearl Platinum Gold Wide Bracelet 59.8 Grams NrEstate 2.00ct Diamond 18k Gold Roman Style Link Bracelet 34.6 Grams NrEstate 3.80ct Diamond 14k White Gold Link Wide Bracelet 25.3 Grams NrGorgeous Vintage Carved Lavender And Green Jade Bangle Bracelet With 14k GoldMovado Diamond 1.65ct Sapphire 18k Gold Bangle Bracelet 34.5 Grams NrVintage White And Orange Jade Bangle Bracelet With 14k GoldFine Heavy Ruby Eyed Gold Snake BangleEstate 14k Gold Italy Round Link Bracelet 15.9 Grams NrStunning Victorian Art Nouveau Sapphire & Seed Pearl 15k Gold BraceletRare Antique Georgian Silver Scottish Pebble Agate Mourning Bracelet Circa 1830sItalian 14k White Yellow Gold Link Bracelet 16.1 Grams NrVintage Round Jade 14k Gold Chinese Bracelet 21.3 Grams NrVintage Carved White And Green Jade Bangle Bracelet With 14k GoldEstate 5.08ct Diamond Sapphire 14k Gold Link Bracelet 25.7 Grams NrDesigner Italian 14k Gold Cuff Bracelet 16.7 Grams NrAntique 9ct Rose Gold Curb Link BraceletMassive Rare Trifari Lotus Flower Emerald Rhinestone Bracelet 2" WideEstate 14k Gold Italy Wide Link Bracelet 39.8 Grams NrVintage Mayors Birks 4.00ctw Diamond Baguette 18k Yellow Gold Tennis BraceletVintage George Jensen Sterling Silver Bracelet - 38 Grams {no Reserve}Fine Art Deco 4.75 Carat Blue Zircon & White Sapphire Gold BraceletLate Victorian Silver & Scottish Agate Specimen Bracelet 1880'sDesigner Suzanne Wilson 14k Gold Filigree Cuff Bracelet 19.9 Grams NrVintage Lady's Solid Very Pale Greyish Lavender Jadeite Bangle Bracelet Solid Vintage 15ct Gold Silver Diamond Line BraceletVintage Carved Translucent Mottled Jade Bangle BraceletEstate Italian Onyx 14k Gold 2 Tone Wide Link Bracelet 21.8 Grams NrFine 26 Point Diamond Gold BraceletEstate Diamond Bangle Bracelet 18.5 Grams NrDesigner Milor 18k Gold 5 Strand Chain Bracelet 11.3 Grams NrItalian Designer 10.00ctw Sapphire And Diamond 14k Yellow Gold Tennis BraceletAntique 9ct Rose Gold Ladies 4 Strand Charm BraceletEstate 14k Italy Stitched Wide Bangle Bracelet 25.2 Grams NrStunning 72 Point Diamond 18k Gold Flower BraceletFine Antique Chinese 14k Yellow Gold Carved White & Green Jade Bracelet Antique Retro 15.60ct Diamond Platinum Wide Bracelet 37.4 Grams NrKitsinian 14k Gold Italy Wide Link Bracelet NrVintage 14k Solid Gold And Emerald Slide Bracelet Charm * Excellent Condition18k Diamond Sapphire Bracelet Vintage Victorian Box Antique Regal 6.45 Carats Hammerman Brothers Colorless Diamond Akoya Pearl 18k Gold 3 Row BraceletLovely Unusual Vintage Egyptian Silver Scarab BraceletArt Deco Geometric Style 2.00ctw Diamond Pave 18k White Gold Tennis BraceletVintage Translucent Jadeite Jade Bangle BraceletVintage Mikimoto Tokyo 14k Gold And Pearl BraceletItalian 14k Gold Multi-strand Circular Link Bracelet 9.2 Grams NrTiffany & Co. 925 Sterling Silver Box Chain Link Bracelet Authentic 8"Antique Vintage Sterling Silver Moving Compass Fob Charm Pendant Or Bracelet Uk1978 Tiffany & Co 925 Sterling Silver Italy Elsa Peretti Bone Cuff Bracelet NrAntique 9ct Rose Gold Curb Link Chain BraceletModern 14k Gold 5 Strand Round Link Chain Bracelet 9.1 Grams Nr1939 Chester Vintage Solid Silver Bangle Bracelet Sterling Smith & EwenEstate 48.00ct Citrine Sterling Tennis Bracelet 20.1 Grams Nr