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    

5ctw Old Euro Diamond Platinum Sapphire Genuine Art Deco Antique BraceletEstate Diamond 7.97ct Sapphire 18k Yellow Gold Link Bracelet 28.9 Grams NrEstate 1.90ct Diamond South Sea Pearl 18k Gold Bracelet 46.9 Grams NrFine 9ct / 9k 375 Gold Mesh Bracelet Estate 9.80ct Diamond 18k White Gold Wide Link Bracelet 86.4 Grams NrEstate 5.20ct Baguette Round Diamond 14k Gold Tennis Bracelet 15.7 Grams NrVintage 18k Gold Italy High Fashion 12mm Wide Unisex Chain BraceletVintage 14k Gold Elegant High Fashion Carved Jade BraceletWander France Vintage Heavy 18k Gold Amazing 3.0ct Emerald Hinged Cuff BraceletVictorian Scottish Banded Agate And Silver BraceletVtg Art Deco Sterling Silver Channel Set Sapphire Glass Paste Bangle BraceletVintage Tiffany & Co 18k Gold And Sterling Silver Bracelet 13.8 Grams 7 InchesVintage 14k Gold 5.3mm Pearl Multi-strand Bracelet W/ Turquoise Cluster ClaspEstate 11.54ct Diamond 18k Yellow Gold Bangle Bracelet 28.6 Grams NrVtg Art Deco Sterling Silver Channel Set Amethyst Glass Paste Bangle BraceletItalian 14k Yellow Gold Chevron Bangle Bracelet 26.7 Grams NrSuperb Antique Victorian C 1890 Silver Scottish Agate Pebble Bracelet Brooch PinEstate 14k Yellow Gold Natural Amethyst, Peridot, Topaz Butterfly Bracelet 9 CtsItalian Ronco 1.32ct Sapphire 18k Gold Link Buckle Bracelet 30.7 Grams NrModern Diamond 14k White Gold Filigree Bracelet 8.7 Grams NrAntique Vintage Art Deco 14k Gold Chinese Carved Dragon Bangle Chased Bracelet!Italian 14k White Gold Multi Bangle Bracelet 17.5 Grams NrStunning Sterling Silver Turquoise Inlaid Mexican Vintage Wide Cuff Bracelet Antique Victorian Rose Gold Plated Bracelet/bangle Vintage Solid Silver Clearstone Heavy Art Deco Bracelet 29.1 Grams 16.10 Cts T.w Diamond Bracelet G-h I-1 20.3 Grams 14k Yellow Gold 6-3/4" Estate Retro Heavy 14k Yellow Gold Bangle Bracelet 62.2 Grams NrAntique Retro 14k Two Tone Gold Wide Link Bracelet 42.0 Grams NrItalian 18k Tri Tone Gold Wide Link Bracelet 39.0 Grams Nr$2,999 Estate 14k Yellow Gold 3.00ctw Genuine Diamond Tennis Bracelet 13.4g 7"Modern 52.00ct Turquoise Malachite Sterling Silver Cuff Bangle 82.4 Grams NrAntique 14k Rose Gold 5.95ctw Diamond & Blue Sapphire Hinged Bangle BraceletVictorian Sterling Silver Albertina Albert Pocket Watch Chain Or BraceletVintage 30.00ct Jade Sterling Silver Filigree Link Bracelet 47.4 Grams NrModern 1.28ct Diamond 14k White Gold Tennis Heart Bracelet 11.5 Grams NrVintage Heavy 14k Gold Bright Cut Florentine Finished Hinged Bangle BraceletEstate $1700 10k Yellow Gold Natural Blue Sapphire And Diamond Bracelet 2.80 CtsVintage Art Deco C 1930 Sterling Silver Green Agate Chrysoprase BraceletVintage Sterling Silver Charm Bracelet Loaded With CharmsVintage Sterling Silver Charm BraceletEstate Tourmaline Diamond 14k Yellow Gold BraceletVintage Estate Item Women's 18k Gold And Jade Bracelet!1880's Victorian Ant. Gf Rose Cut Bohemian Garnet Bracelet-132 Blood Red GarnetsVintage Thomas Mann Sterling Silver Techno Romantic Modernist Cuff Bracelet 925Vintage Tiffany & Co Platinum 9 Carat Diamond & Sapphire Tennis BraceletEstate $3000 14k White Gold 40 Brilliant Cut Diamond Tennis Bracelet 0.80 CtsEstate 14k White Gold Oval Cut Moonstone Tennis Ladies Bracelet 9.5g 7"l**estate Green Jade Bangle Bracelet 8.5mm Thick 2" Across 6.25" Inside. 35.0 GModern Milor Italy 14k Yellow Gold Bangle Hollow Bangle 40.2 Grams NrHandmade Vintage 10k Yellow Gold 1.75ct Diamond 7.25" Tennis Bracelet 6.2g #6054Vintage Enamel Puffy Heart Charm Bracelet Sterling Silver 925Fine 9ct / 9k 375 Gold Bracelet Walter Lampl Sterling Silver Puffy Heart Lock & Key Clasp 7" Charm BraceletFine 9ct / 9k 375 Rose Gold And Amethyst Victorian Style Bracelet Fine Quality Vintage Chinese Silver Filigree & Turquoise Panel Bracelet BangleItalian 14k Multi Tone Gold Wide Link Bracelet 46.1 Grams NrVintage 14k Solid Gold 7 1/4" Link Charm Bracelet 28 Grams Not Scrap GoldEstate Diamond 11.26ct Tourmaline 18k Gold Heart Bangle Bracelet 19.0 Grams NrEstate Diamond 3.50ct Sapphire 14k Yellow Gold Tennis Bracelet 11.2 Grams Nr7 1/2" David Yurman Sterling Silver-14kt Solid Gold Accent 6mm Wheat Bracelet