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 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    

Antique Art Deco 13.98ct Diamond Platinum Filigree Bracelet 37.7 Grams NrAntique Georgian Early Victorian 14k Gold Lava Carved Cameo BraceletVintage Chinese Gilt Silver Enamel Green White Jade Butterfly BraceletVictorian 9ct Gold Garnet Hinged Bangle - No ReserveVictorian Scottish Solid Silver Agate Pebble Bracelet W Ornate Heart Padlock Vintage Heavy 18k Gold Carved Coral Rose Flower Filigree Link BraceletVintage 1.56ctw Diamond Tennis Bracelet With Flower Clasp Platinum$12500 Vintage Estate Women's 14k Yellow Gold 4.50ctw Diamond V Link BraceletVintage Platinum Beautiful 4.50ct Diamond/ruby/sapphire/topaz Charm Bracelet**estate 18k White Gold 70pt Diamond Bangle Bracelet H-i Si1/2 2.22" 13.1 Grams *gia Certified Grade A Mottled White To Light Gray Yellow Jade Bangle 80.9 GramsFine Antique Victorian Sterling Silver Repousse Chintz Flower Bangle Bracelet**estate 14k Yellow Gold Lapis Bracelet 10.4mm Round 11.9 Grams 7" Fine 18ct, 18k, 750 Gold Large And Heavy Designer Polestra Bracelet Antique Victorian Circa 1890 Silver Scottish Agate Pebble Bracelet Brooch PinExcellent Antique Arts & Crafts Silver & Moonstone BraceletAntique 7.19 Ct Diamond White Gold Bracelet 27.4 Grams NrVintage Heavy 18k Yellow Gold Wide Wavy Bracelet 62.2 Grams NrVintage Green Emerald Platinum Milgrain Tennis Link Bracelet 23.7 Grams NrVery Fine Old Antique Chinese Silver Gilt Bracelet Carved Turquoise Cabachon**estate Large Green Jade Bangle Bracelet 2.60" Inside 14.8mm Thick 75.6 GramsAntique Victorian Solid 9k Gold Lovers Knot Bracelet Diamond Ruby Sapphire CharmMilor Estate Italy 18k Yellow Gold Bangle BraceletVery Fine Rare Old Antique Chinese Silver Enamel Bracelet Carved Jade BangleStunning Antique Mourning Hair Portrait Bracelet Miniature Portrait Pinchbeck Estate 7.95ct Emerald Ruby Sapphire 18k Gold Bangle Bracelet 38.3 Grams Nr14ct/ 14k Gold Diamond & Emerald Art Deco Bracelet, 585Vintage Old Antique Carved Bone Bovine Bangle/bracelet Chinese 7.6 Grams PerfectModern 3.50ct Diamond 18k Gold Hinged Wide Cuff Bracelet 58.8 Grams NrVintage Art Deco Chinese Export Silver Enamel Tigers Eye Bracelet Bangle A Beautiful Antique Victorian Amethyst & Seed Pearl 9ct Gold Bangle BoxedVintage Danish Sterling Silver Modernist Moon Link Bracelet Signed Stig Berg**antique Platinum 14k White Gold 66pt Diamond Bracelet H-i Vs2 5.3 GramsTiffany & Co 18k Gold Russian Braided Weave Wheat Chain Link Bracelet BangleLovely 14k Yellow Gold & Salmon Red Pink Coral Double Strand Bead 7.5" BraceletVintage Signed Estate Natural 21.75ctw Pink Tourmaline Diamond 14k Gold BraceletVintage .925 Sterling Silver Charm Bracelet 25 Charms Variety App 7.5" 39.5gEstate Opal 14k Yellow Gold Enamel Link Bracelet 13.5 Grams Nr**estate 14k White Gold 3.15ct Diamond Bangle Bracelet H-i Si1 2.30" 25.9 Grams Stunning Vintage Ultrafine Quality Apprx 8+tw Diamond Platinum Art Deco BraceletAntique 1908 Edwardian Natural Sapphire Diamond 18k Gold Handmade Bracelet**estate 14k Yellow Gold Multi Colored Jade Bracelet 54.6 Grams 7.75x0.75"**gia Certified Grade A Jade Bangle 14k Yellow Gold Grey/green 59.6 Grams Bangle Bracelet 100% 14k Gold For 6-1/2 Inch Wrist Or Smaller **no Reserve***Estate Opal 14k Yellow Gold Elongated Links Bracelet 8.9 Grams NrA Superb Large 40.00 Cts Deep Blue Topaz 9ct White Gold Bracelet**vintage Platinum 14k White Gold 36pt Diamond Bracelet I-j Vs2 1.7gramsVintage Heavy Chunky Navajo Old Pawn Sterling M. Tahe Coil Cable Rope BraceletAntique Victorian 9ct Rose Gold Hollow Bangle 21.5g By S. Blanckensee & Son LtdEstate 18k Yellow Gold Bangle Bracelet 14.9 Grams NrEstate 14k Yellow Gold 6.75 Mm Saltwater Cultured Pearl Diamond Bangle BraceletBvlgari 18k Gold Disc Astrale Collection Bangle Bracelet 35.4 Grams Nr1.5 Oz 48 Gram 18k Gold 1960s Massive Filigree Bracelet Angelskin CoralVintage Sterling Silver Repousse Puffy Puffed Heart Charm Bracelet 26 Charms LotEstate 13.95ct Emerald Ruby Sapphire 18k Gold Bangle Bracelet 51.5 Grams Nr$4,000 .27ct Antique Diamond Art Deco Bracelet 14k 2 Tone Gold BeautifullAntique Victorian C1860 Sterling Silver Albertina Watch Chain / BraceletCantique Vintage C. 1920 Art Deco 14k Gold Chinese Jade Jadeite Tennis Bracelet!Italian 11.50ct Blue Topaz 14k Yellow Gold Bracelet Bangle 23.5 Grams Nr**antique Chinese Silver/vermeil Tiger Eye Cloisonne Bracelet 51.5 Grams 6.75"