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 Victorian Sterling Silver Representational Shirt Cuff 1" Wide BraceletAudemars Piguet 3.15ct Diamond 18k Gold Bangle Bracelet 25.4 Grams NrDavid Yurman 18k Gold Sculpted Cable Cuff Bracelet 80.8 Grams NrAntique Art Deco Marquise 4.95ct Diamond Platinum Bracelet 27.4 Grams NrFine Rare Antique Victorian Gilt Sterling Silver Natural Citrine BraceletAntique? Vintage Solid Silver Filigree Enamel Green Jade Chinese BraceletVintage 14kt Yellow Gold Chinese Carved Coral Lapis Bracelet Elephant Charm 9grVtg Japanese Sterling Silver Open Back Crystal Necklace Bracelet Earrings SetStunning Victorian Style Opal 14ct Gold BangleStunning Victorian Style Opal And Diamond Gold BangleVtg 1920's - 30's Art Deco Silver Filigee Chrysoprase Signed M.j. Co. BraceletVintage 1.21ct Diamond 18k Gold Flower Filigree Bangle Bracelet 25.5 Grams NrVtg 1930's French Art Deco Machine Age Coral Pink Glass Necklace Bracelet SetSuperb Antique Victorian C 1890 Silver Scottish Agate Citrine Bracelet BroochNiels Erik From Danish Sterling Solid Silver Modernist Bracelet 925s N.e.from1966 Heavy Harrods Gold On Sterling Silver Cuff Bracelet Old Vintage Bangle BoxFine Vtg 14k Gold Oval Cut Green Emerald & Diamond Gemstone BraceletVintage Early Art Deco Germany Sterling Silver Rose Flower Chalcedony Bracelet$99~designer 18k Lace Diamond Station 3.75ct G/vs Cocktail Bracelet-$13,800Ultra Diamonds Retired 4.20ctw Diamond Baguette 14k White Gold Tennis BraceletVintage Georg Jensen Denmark Sterling Silver #11 Bracelet Wendel Mark$4,999 Stunning 14k White Gold 3.75ctw G-vs2 Genuine Diamond Tennis Bracelet 7"Antique Mid 20thc Modern Mixed Metal 14kt Gold & Diamond Chain Link Bracelet NrVintage Amber Bangle ~ Three Butterscotch Natural Stones ~ Free Shipping Uk~ Antique Victorian 4 Row Bohemian Garnet Wide Bangle BraceletEstate 4.95ct Diamond 18k Gold Bracelet 22.1 Grams NrVictorian 15ct Gold Moonstone Bangle Circa 1880Retro Vintage 6.00ctw Blue Sapphire & Diamond Geometrical 14k Gold BraceletAntique English Victorian Etruscan Revival 22k Gold Pearl Bangle Bracelet C1890Vintage B. Waatsa Sterling Silver Petit Point Turquoise Cuff Bracelet Signed NrWts Sterling Silver Vintage Dragonfly Winged Bug Insect Cuff Bracelet 29.9 GramsVintage 1940's Signed William Spratling Mexico Sterling Silver Link Bracelet-7"Art Deco Antique Sterling Silver Repousse Flower Wre Richards Wide Link BraceletEstate Diamond 1.10ct Sapphire 18k Gold Bracelet 18.4 Grams NrVintage Tiffany & Co New York Sterling Silver Return To Sender Charm BraceletEstate Italian Diamond 3.92ct Ruby 18k Gold Bracelet 14.9 Grams NrAntique Victorian Rich Red Bohemian Garnet Gold Gilt Bracelet Fine Vintage High Art Deco Sterling Silver Marcasite Carnelian Bracelet Antique Deco 14k White Gold Sapphire & Sim Diamond Fine Filigree Link BraceletVintage 1940s Sterling Silver Huge Leaf Link Heavy 58g Chunky Bracelet Mexican?Gorgeous! 14k Yellow Gold Tennis Bracelet With 4.00 Ctw Round Diamonds! #s4Gorgeous! Vintage 14k Yellow Gold Bangle With 1.71 Ctw Diamonds! Excellent! #g40Chinese Antique Carved Faux Bone / Cow Bone Bangle Circa 1900 Superb Patination14k Solid Gold 7.5" Vintage Designer Hinged Bangle Fancy Bracelet MintEstate Lapis Lazuli 14k Gold Oval Chinese Symbol Link Bracelet 23.0 Grams NrAntique Victorian Bohemian Garnet Genuine Cluster Flower Silver Bracelet VintageVintage 3.00ctw Calibrated Trillion Diamond 14k Gold Geometric Tennis BraceletStunning Victorian Gold Pompeii Shell & Larver Cameo BraceletAntique Victorian 14k Yg 8ctw Natural Carved Scarab Beetle Multi Gem BraceletAuthentic Tiffany & Co Dangle Heart Tag Sterling Silver 7.5" BraceletAntique Victorian Scottish Jewelry Bracelet Montrose Agate UnmarkedEstate 3.03ct Diamond 14k Gold Bracelet 13.7 Grams Nr14k 14kt 585 Solid Yellow Gold 23.9 Grams Garnet Bangle Bracelet From '40sGenuine Antique Victorian Lava Cameo BraceletGorgeous 14k Yellow Gold Bangle With 1.88 Ctw Diamonds! Exceptional # S5Antique Edwardian 18ct Rolled Gold Amethyst Gate Bracelet Unusual Superb Victorian Circa 1890 Sterling Silver Bracelet Heart ClaspC. Co Original Sterling Silver 10k Gold Nouveau Style 50g Cuff Bracelet SignedHeavy! Vintage 14k Yellow Gold Bangle With 0.52 Ctw Opal! Exceptional! # S1Antique Egyptian Scarab Beetle Bracelet