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 Jewel History blog have been treated to her weekly (someti… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Cetas Vintage Heavy 18k Gold Gemstone Hand Hammered Abstract Bangle BraceletEstate Diamond 18.s5ct Apphire Turquoise Platinum Flower Bracelet 34.8 Grams NrEstate 13.38ct Diamond White Gold Double Row Tennis Bracelet 41.0 Grams NrAntique Edwardian 9.10ct Diamond Platinum Wide Filigree Bracelet 37.2 Grams Nr*estate 14k Yellow Gold 4.40ct Emerald 22pt Diamond Bracelet 6-5/8" Jk I1 8.4g**estate 14k Yellow Gold Green Jade 40pts Diamond Bracelet I-j Si2 6-3/8" 15.2gModern 1.08ct Diamond 18k Yellow Gold Links Bracelet 22.7 Grams NrLadies 4.34ct Brilliant-cut Diamond & 14kt Yellow Gold S-link Tennis Bracelet NrAntique Deco 11.50ct Diamond Gold Wide Bangle Bracelet 43.6 Grams NrHeavy Vintage 14k Yellow Gold 15.27ct Vs Diamond Pink Tourmaline BraceletVintage Asian 18k Yellow Gold 16mm X 12mm Green Jade Link BraceletEstate Ruby Venetian Glass 14k Yellow Gold Link Bracelet 18.3 Grams NrTiffany & Co. Vintage 18k Gold High Fashion 9.9mm Wide Woven Chain Link Bracelet$2,500 Estate 14k Yellow Gold 1.50ct Genuine H-si2 Diamond Tennis Bracelet 7g**estate 14k Yellow Gold Green White Carved Jade Bracelet 7.25" 13x18mm **estate 14k Yellow Gold Lavender Jade Bangle Bracelet 50.3 Grams 2-3/16" 9.5mmEstate Italian 18k Yellow Gold Bangle Style Bracelet 18.3 Grams NrAntique Quality Pretty 9ct. Rose Gold Turquoise Set Curb Link Bracelet*estate Nice Quality 18k Yellow Gold 42pt Diamond 60 Pt Sapphire Bracelet 8.4gCavalli Irma Fu Girolamo Heavy Vintage 18k Tricolor Gold X-wide Link BraceletAntique 14k Gold 585 Cameo Bracelet Greek Roman Gods Zeus Apollo Soldier ShellEstate Diamond 18k Gold Cable Rope Bangle Bracelet 10.4 Grams Nr**nice Quality Estate 14k Yellow Gold 2.20ct Diamond Bracelet I-j I-1 7" X 1/4" Estate Diamond 3.10ct Emerald 18k Yellow Gold Links Bracelet 20.9 Grams NrAntique Victorian 3-row Garnet Bangle Bracelet W/safety ChainSuperb Antique Victorian C 1890 Silver Scottish Agate Celtic Bracelet Brooch Pin**estate 14k Yellow Gold 1.75ct Bangle Bracelet G-h Vs2 13.2 GramsVintage 1960s Heavy 18k Gold Rare Wide Abstract Conical Bangle BraceletStunning Victorian Scottish Silver And Agate Bracelet, Length 7ins14ct Gold 66 Point Diamond & 3.30ct Sapphire Art Deco Design Heavy Bracelet, 585Mc Mossalone Vintage Heavy 14k Gold Elegant Wide Geometric Link BraceletGorgeous Vintage Chinese Gilt Silver Filigree Enamel & Jade Bracelet | Rs AxPretty Edwardian 9ct Rose Gold Bracelet With Amethyst And Seed Pearls, A/f9ct Gold On Solid Silver Substantial 48g Bangle Bracelet Sterling Repair / ScrapEstate Diamond 2.28ct Ruby 14k Gold Bracelet 12.7 Grams Nr**estate Carved Orange Green Jade Bangle Bracelet 52.9 Grams 2.25" 1966 Vintage Antique Hallmarked Solid Sterling Silver Bangle Bracelet Csg&co9ct/ 9k Gold 1/2 Carat Diamond Victorian Bracelet, 375Estate 10.30ct Natural Sapphire & Diamond 18k Solid White Gold BraceletDesigner Hallmarked Vintage Heavy 18k 2-tone Gold 2.0ct Vs Diamond Link BraceletEstate 1.20ct Diamond 18k Gold Tennis Bracelet 13.5 Grams Nr9ct Gold Heavy 29.7 Gram Vintage 1970's Bangle Bracelet Hinged 9 Carat McAntique Retro 18k Yellow Gold Wide Bracelet 53.1 Grams Nr**estate 18k White Gold 2.50ct Tw Diamond 4.5mm Pearl Bracelet 21.5 Grams 6.5"**estate Platinum Chain Bracelet 6.75" X 2.9mm Wide 7.5 Grams $2,899 Estate 14k Yellow Gold 1.00ctw Genuine G-si2 Diamond Tennis Bracelet 10gHallmarked Victorian Style Solid Sterling Silver Heavy Wide Cuff Bangle Bracelet18ct/ 18k Gold Old Mined Rose Cut Diamond Heavy Victorian Flower Bangle, 750Antique 14k Yellow Gold Enamel Bangle Bracelet 6.9 Grams NrLovely Vintage 18ct White Gold 750 Diamond Set Tennis Bracelet 7" 11.3g (7362)Heavy 18k Gold Diamond Pearl Victorian Bracelet Convertible En Tremblant Hairpin1962 Solid Silver Bangle Cuff Bracelet Sterling Full Uk HallmarksElegant Vintage 14kt Braided Gold Bracelet - Crafted In ItalyVintage 7 1/4" 14k Solid Yellow Gold 5 Jelly Opal Bracelet Scrap Or Wear 4g1974 Vintage Antique Hallmarked Solid Sterling Silver Wide Heavy Bangle BraceletVintage 1970s Heavy 18k Gold Elegant Fancy Rope Link Chain BraceletEstate Diamond 20.00ct Sapphire 18k White Gold Link Bracelet 34.5 Grams Nr** Nice Quality Estate 14k Yellow Gold 1.75ct Bangle Bracelet G-h Vs2 13.2 GramsStunning Antique Art Deco Scottish Agate Silver Bracelet By J.c&s- 1935-broochAntique Sterling Silver Heart Padlock Bracelet W/key Lock