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]



Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Fab Victorian Solid Silver Rare Blue Colour Enamel & Seed Pearl Bangle9ct/ 9k Gold 2.35ct Diamond Heavy Tennis Bracelet, 37518ct/18k Gold Exceptional 6ct Baguette Cut & Round Diamond Heavy Bracelet, 750Antique Vintage Deco 14k Gold Chinese Carved Dragon White Jade Jadeite BraceletVintage Old Pawn Navajo Sterling Silver Turquoise Cuff Bracelet** Estate 14k Yellow Gold Pearl Bracelet 7.9 Grams 5.7mm 6.25" Long 9ct/ 9k Gold Star Sapphire Art Deco Heavy Bracelet, 375Fine 9ct / 9k 375 Gold And Diamond Snake BraceletVtg 18k Yellow Gold Akoya Pearl & Salmon Red Natural Coral Strand Bracelet DmbFine 1ct Diamond 18ct Gold Bracelet 18k 750Fine Sterling Silver 925 A Mon Edingburgh 1952 Enamel Bracelet Antique Vintage Deco 14k Gold Chinese Carved Black Coral Dragon Bangle Bracelet!**estate 14k Yellow Gold Orange Jade Hinged Bangle 42.2 Grams 8.5mm Thick **estate 14k Yellow Gold Green Jade Hinged Bangle 43.8 Grams 8.9mm Thick Fine Sterling Silver Art Deco Set Tinted Blue Moonstone Bracelet**estate 14k Yellow Gold Multi Color Jade Bracelet 9.1 Grams 6" Long 14x6mm Beautiful Vintage Art Nouveau Solid Silver Carved Coral Rose Jewellery BraceletVintage Proper London Hallmark Sterling Silver Cabochon Garnet BraceletAntique Vintage Deco 14k Gold Chinese Carved Dragon Red Jadeite Bangle BraceletWk Sterling Silver 925 Multi Pearl Flower Heavy Cuff Bracelet 7" (57.1g) 554405Vtg Art Deco Sterling Silver Channel Set Wide Blue Glass Paste Bangle BraceletSterling Silver Puffy Heart Bracelet 16 Heart Charms And Lampl Padlock Clasp1940's Sterling Silver Bracelet W/23 Charms 11 Moveables (sam & Lew) 53.82 GramsDiamond Tennis Bracelet 2ct 14kt Vintage 1990's No Reserve Auction !!! $ave $Antique Vintage Victorian 8k 10k Gold German Bohemian Garnet Estate Bracelet!Vtg Art Deco Sterling Silver Channel Set Paste Glass Emerald Green Bangle BracelAntique Victorian Gold Gilt Hand Carved Cameo Scenic Wide BraceletGenuine 1.50ctw Diamond 14k Gold Classic Vintage Tennis Bracelet 7 Inch 14k Solid White Gold Filigree Tennis Sapphire & Diamond Bracelet 7" 7.4g 554343Antique Victorian Bohemian Garnet Bracelet Gilt Metal W/ Gold ClaspVintage Hans Hansen Denmark Art Modern 925 Sterling Silver Hoop Bracelet, NrAntique Vintage Victorian 18k Gold Carved Salmon Coral Tennis Estate Bracelet!**estate Green Jade Bangle 33.6 Grams 10.58mm Thick 6.5" Inside. Circ Artisan 14k Gold Repurpose Victorian Slide Charm Bracelet,diamond,amethyst,pearlSterling Silver Mythical Dragon Heavy Bangle Ruby Bracelet 6.25" (93.8g) 554323Antique Bohemian Czech Garnet Hinge Bracelet No ReserveVintage Sterling Silver Toshikane Japan Porcelain Bracelet Orchids MumsRobert Little Navajo Sterling Turquoise Cuff Bracelet Pawn Original Price $175Vintage 1920s Art Deco Sapphire Glass Paste Sterling Silver Line BraceletVintage 1940’s Mexican Sterling Silver Amethyst 1.25” Wide Bracelet**estate 14k Yellow Gold 3.64ct Multi Colored Gemstone Bracelet 11.1 Grams **estate 14k Yellow Gold White Jade Hinged Bangle 34.4 Grams 8.26mm Thick Sterling Silver Vintage 925 Flower Cluster Marcasite Bracelet 7.25" (40g) 554333Didae Sterling Silver Vintage Carved Flower Panel Link Bracelet 7" (22g) 554490Antique Chinese Export Silver Filigree And Enamel Bracelet - Carved Turquoise Antique Victorian 9 K Gold 17 Blue Sapphires Bneautiful Antique Hinged BraceletVintage Chinese Gilded Silver And Enamel Barrel And Cage Charm Bracelet Estate Mikimoto Large 8-7.5 Mm 7.5 In White Akoya Pearl Bracelet Silver #002Vintage 1940's Puffy Heart Engraved Charm Bracelet Sterling Silver 19 CharmsLoaded Vintage Sterling Silver Charm Bracelet 22 Charms / 48 GramsSigned Retta 1987 Sterling Silver Dog Hunting Foul Repousse Cuff Bracelet Dmb Vintage Old Pawn Navajo Sandcast Sterling Silver Turquoise Cuff BraceletBeautiful Retired Double Layer James Avery Sterling Bangle Bracelet-cool Design!Vtg Art Deco Sterling Silver Channel Set Paste Glass Green Bangle BraceletNice Victorian Bypass Bangle With Shield Shaped PadlockVintage Solid Silver Sterling Bangle Bracelet Birmingham Hallmarks Dated 1979Antique Vintage Art Deco 14k Gold Diamond Blue Sapphire Tennis Estate Bracelet!Designer Signed Marksz Palm Beach Sterling Silver Blue Topaz Cuff Bracelet DmbExquisite Antique 14k Gold Mughal Emerald, Round & Faceted + Pearls- BraceletAntique Vintage Deco 14k Gold Chinese Apple Green Jade Jadeite Tennis Bracelet!