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 JewelHistory blog have been treated to her weekly (sometim… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Art Deco 35.00ctw European Diamond Colombian Emerald Platinum Filigree BraceletTiffany & Co 18k Yellow T Design Bangle Bracelet 25.3 Grams NrRare And Heavy 18 Ct Solid Gold Bracelet Links Are Solid Gold Vintage 4.50ctw Natural Round Diamond 14k Yellow Gold Two Row Tennis BraceletDavid Yurman PavVintage 1940s Retro Heavy Solid 14k Pink Rose Gold & 36 Cttw Moonstone Bracelet1970's 14k Yellow Gold Green Jadeite Necklace Chinese Character Bracelet & RingMing's Of Hawaii 14k Yellow Gold Carved Flower Choker / Double Wrap BraceletAntique Victorian 1/2" Wide Bohemian Garnet 4 Row Bangle BraceletVintage Estate Natural Untreated Light Dark Green Jadeite Jade 14k Gold BraceletScrap Gold 9 Ct Victorian Pink Rose Gold Buckle Shape Bangle 1970's 14k Yellow Gold Hinged Carved Green Jadeite Bangle With Dark Green SplashAntique Art Deco Chinese Sterling Silver Enamel Salmon Coral Butterfly BraceletEstate 2.25ct Diamond 14k White Gold Tennis Bracelet 15.5 Grams NrLadies 1928 Bulova 14k Solid Gold 6 Sapphires Watch + Orig. Box & Gold Bracelet Vtg Victorian 14k Multi Tone Gold Ornate Hinged Bangle BraceletVictorian 9ct Rose Gold BraceletLadies Tiffany & Co Sterling Silver Heart Link Bracelet & Earring Set With BoxVtg Chinese Sterling Silver Filigree Jade BraceletVictorian 9ct Rose Gold BraceletVintage Designer 1.10ct Natural Colorless Diamond 18k White Gold Tennis BraceletRare Ktf Trifari Art Deco €Antique 9ct Rose Gold Curb Link Bracelet With Padlock Heart Catch 16.4 GramsVintage Solid 9ct Gold Bracelet With Padlock Heart Clasp 17gramsVtg Art Deco Signed DiamonbarAntique Art Deco Chinese Sterling Silver Repousse Jade Buddha Lotus BraceletVtg Mexican Los Ballesteros Sterling Silver Armadillo Wide Cuff Mexico Bracelet14kt White Gold 1.28ctw Diamond Tennis Bracelet 7Vtg Chinese Sterling Silver Filigree Turquoise Coral Enamel Finger BraceletAntique Victorian Nine Natural Gemstone Amethyst Gilt Bracelet UncleanedVintage Silver Helter Skelter Opening To Little Girl Bracelet Charm PendantVintage Solid 900 Grade Silver Multi Gem Stone Set Bracelet Bangle Scandinavian?Very Pretty Victorian 9ct Gold Turquoise & Seed Pearl Set Knot BangleEstate Diamond 4.10ct Ruby18k Gold Flower Link Bracelet 24.3 Grams NrHamilton 3.32ct Diamond 14k White Gold Ladies Watch Bracelet 23.3 Grams NrAuthentic Signed John Hardy Jh Sterling Silver Wheat Bracelet 23 GramVintage Silpada Sterling Silver Ball Accent Chain Bracelet 9"(68.8g) -416881Antique Natural Butterscotch Baltic Amber Loose Beads Bracelet Necklace $2,699 Victorian 2.70ctw Diamond, Aaa Gem Pink/red & Blue Sapphire Bangle 14.5g Estate 3.70 Ct Diamond 14k Yellow Gold Tennis Bracelet 11.2 Grams NrVintage 24.35ct Garnet 18k Yellow Gold Bracelet 20.2 Grams NrEstate Diamond 5.18ct Sapphire 14k Yellow Gold Bracelet 9.6 Grams Nr3 Michael Dawkins Snakeskin Pod Sterling Silver 925 Bangle Bracelets Heavy 66.3gJames Avery Curb Link Sterling Silver Bracelet With Double Heart & Tree Charms Vintage Gold Filled Sterling Gemstone Victorian Heart Locket Charm Bracelet Vintage Angel Skin Coral 18k Yellow Gold Bracelet 16.1 Grams NrRare A Heavy Hall Marked Gold Bracelet Set With Garnets Angela By John Hardy 14kt Yellow Gold Sterling 925 6ctw Cz Cuff Hinged BraceletMiguel Melendez Vintage Taxco 68g Sterling Silver Mexican Modern Wide BraceletVintage 925 Sterling Silver Charm Bracelet 7.5" 29.1g Dy130Vintage Carved Translucent Green Jade Bangle Bracelet In 14k Gold W@w!!!14k Diamond Tennis Bracelet Vintage Fine Wide Estate Huge Sparkling 10.75 CaratsE.i.f. & Co Victorian Hand Engraved Floral Gf Hinged Bangle Bracelet 26.2gVintage Tiffany & Co. 14kt Yellow Gold Baby Sea Pearl Rope BraceletMassive Ming's Of Hawaii Multi Color 14k Yellow Gold Bi-color Jade Hinged BangleSuperb Vintage 9ct Gold Wide 7 Bar Gate Bracelet 7.5" LongVintage 1920's Chinese Turquoise Enamel Sterling "vermeil" Filigree BraceletVintage Sterling Silver €Vintage Milor 925 Sterling Silver Rolo Chain Bracelet 8'' (24.7g) - 416529Tiffany & Co, "return To Tiffany" Round Tag / Charm Bracelet (7")