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    

Vtg Antique Art Nouveau Sterling Silver Poppy Flower BraceletLadys 10kt White Gold Blue-purple Sapphire Gemstone Tennis Bracelet, NrAntique Retro 2.00ct European Diamond 14k Gold Wide Bracelet 70.4 Grams NrVintage 18k White Gold With Imperial Jade And Diamond BraceletVintage 14k Gold & Translucent Natural Jade Bangle Bracelet Vintage 22k Gold & Natural Jade And Pearl Bracelet David Yurman 925 Sterling Silver & 18k Gold Crossover 6.5" Cuff Bracelet (24.4g)Victorian 15ct Gold Faceted Citrine Ladies Bangle BraceletEstate 5.80ct Diamond 14k Gold Tennis Bracelet 14.1 Grams NrEstate 14.17 Ct Vs2/f Natural Diamond 14k White Gold Tennis Cocktail BraceletEstate 14.50ct Princess Diamond Platinum Link Bracelet 68.8 Grams NrVintage Lavender And Green Jade Bangle Bracelet Vintage 1960's Ming's Hawaii Large 14k Gold Brown & Celadon Green Hinged BangleVintage Sterling Silver 1940's Puffy Heart Charm Bracelet-30 Hearts-60gms!Estate 14k Gold Wide Rolo Link Bracelet 12.8 Grams NrEstate 3.85ct Emerald Sapphire Ruby 18k Gold Chain Bracelet 18.0 Grams NrEstate 1.60ct Diamond Black Resin 18k Gold Silver Cuff Bracelet 69.1 Grams NrAntique 9ct Gold Amethyst & Pearl BraceletAntique Victorian Hair Mourning Bracelet With Miniature Portrait ClaspArt Deco Sterling Silver Emerald Green Crystal Rhinestone Buckle BraceletVintage Tiffany & Co. 18kt White Gold Link Bracelet Germany Not ScrapFinest Vintage Norwegian J Tostrup Two Piece Bangle/bracelet - 60 Grams Antique Vintage Chinese Silver Filigree Coral Rattan Bamboo Bangle BraceletMilor Designer 14k Gold Wide Link Bracelet 14.0 Grams NrVintage Large Carved White/green Translucent Ice Jade Bangle Bracelet Rare Very Unusual Link Antique Vintage Solid 9ct Gold Bracelet Flowers Flat Curb Antique Vintage Wide Chinese Gilded Silver Rattan Bamboo Floral Bangle BraceletGorgeous 14k Yellow Gold Bracelet With 0.63 Ctw F/vs Diamonds! Stunning!Vintage Signed Sterling Silver Amethyst Chunky Wide Modernist Cuff BraceletLovely Victorian Aesthetic Period Engraved Sterling Silver Cuff Bangle Hm 1884Massive 3.50ctw Gen. Diamond 14mm White Black South Sea Pearl 14k Gold BraceletVintage 14k Solid Gold And Emerald With Diamonds Slide Bracelet Charm Vintage Tiffany & Co. 14kt Yellow Gold Baby Sea Pearl Rope Bracelet Not ScrapVintage 14k Yellow Gold & Diamond Tennis Bracelet 4.2 Tcw 9.4 Dwt No ReserveVintage 14k Gold & Natural Lavender Jade Bangle Bracelet 1970 Huge Heavy Harrods Gold On Sterling Silver Cuff Bracelet Old Vintage Bangle Antique Vintage Chinese Silver Double Loop Rattan Bamboo Dragon Bangle BraceletVintage Lavender & Green Carved Jade Bangle Bracelet With 14k GoldEstate 18k Gold 3-color Mesh Bangle Bracelet 27.8 Grams NrVintage 14k Gold & Natural White Jade Bangle Bracelet $18,999 Victorian 321.28ctw Rose Cut Diamonds & Tanzanite Bangle Bracelet 93.8g Beautiful Victorian Sapphire & Seed Pearl 9ct Gold Etruscan Style Buckle BangleVintage Large 18k Gold Green Jade Bangle Bracelet Lapis Stones$3,000 Victorian Yellow 18k Gold 6.40ctw Kashmir Blue Sapphire Bracelet 5.7gVintage Natural Green Jade Bangle Bracelet Not Dyed Or TreatedVintage 1970's 14k Yellow Gold Dragon & Honeydew Green Jadeite Plaque BraceletEstate 1.22ct Diamond 18k Gold Bangle Bracelet 8.5 Grams NrVintage Sterling Silver Enamel Jade Turquoise Fabulous Bracelet Jewelry $.99Estate 14k Gold 2 Tone Color Heart Lock Oval Link Bracelet NrVintage 14k Yellow Gold Bangle! Exceptional Piece! 14.2 Grams! Art Deco Germany Fahrner ? Sterling 34.7gr Marcasite & Chrysophase BraceletStunning Vintage Art Deco Silver Snake Wrap Around Bangle Bracelet Very Beautiful Old Yellow Metal Set - Necklace - Bracelet - Earrings - Amber ?Antique 9ct Rose Gold Ladies Curb Link Chain BraceletV. Fine Vintage Or Antique Chinese Translucent Emerald Green Jadeite Jade BangleAntique 9ct Gold Puffy Heart Charm For Bracelet Pendant Jewellery Ladies9ct Gold Charm Bracelet 61 Grams-bloodstone Watch Fob 1886. Half Sovereign Etc..Estate 14k Gold Double Link Bracelet 15.3 Grams Nr1970s Vintage Solid Sterling Silver Charm Bracelet + 25 Quality Charms,122 Gms,Antique...victorian.....sterling.....scottish Agate Padlock For Bracelet