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    

Antique Deco Diamond 32.60ct French Emerald Platinum Wide Bracelet 58.0 Grams NrEstate Baguette 6.00ct Diamond 18k Gold Bangle Bracelet 24.8 Grams NrDiamond 9.20ct Sapphire 18k White Gold Tennis Bracelet 17.5 Grams NrEstate Diamond 7.32ct Sapphire 14k Gold Bracelet 8.0 Grams NrAntique Victorian Sterling Silver Shirt Cuff 1" Wide Signed D&ls BraceletStunning Heavy 4.57 Carat Diamond 18ct White Gold Tennis BraceletVtg 1940's Early Hobe Sterling Silver Flower Leaf Natural Chrysoprase BraceletHearts On Fire 5.00ctw Ideal Diamond 18k White Gold Beloved Line Tennis BraceletAntique Pearl 14k Gold Flower Link Bracelet 28.1 Grams NrStunning Heavy Garrard & Co 1.28 Carat Diamond 18ct White Gold Bracelet, BoxedAntique Victorian Fine 9ct Gold Diamond & Ruby Ladies Bangle BraceletDiamond 8.40ct Pink Blue Yellow Sapphire 18k Gold Tennis Bracelet 25.4 Grams NrAntique Victorian Bohemian Garnet Seed Pearl 1.25" Wide BraceletEstate Diamond 2.58ct Ruby Emerald Sapphire 14k Gold Bracelet 18.0 Grams NrVtg 1950's Mexican Sterling Silver Amethyst Signed Arcoz Wide BraceletAntique Victorian 800 Silver Dark Pink Coral 9mm Bead Bangle Bracelet1882 Antique Victorian Hallmarked Wide Solid Sterling Silver Bangle BraceletHammerman Brothers Diamond Ruby 18k Gold Foxtail Mesh Bracelet 12.1 Grams NrModern 0.88ct Diamond 14k Gold Stack Bangle Bracelet 8.4 Grams NrAntique Victorian Bohemian Garnet Bangle Bracelet Bracelets LotAntique 19thc Victorian 14k Gold Snake W/ Garnets Hinged Bracelet-24.2 GramsVtg Art Deco Sterling Silver Channel Set Amethyst Paste Buckle Bangle BraceletAntique Victorian Pietra Dura Sterling Silver 10k Rose Gold BraceletVintage Chinese Sterling Silver Filigree Export Jadeite Jade BraceletNatural 6.05ctw Canary Yellow Diamond 18k Two Tone Rose Gold Tennis BraceletRare Vintage Art Deco Germany Sterling Silver Enamel Coral Flower BraceletVery Nice Signed Vintage Chinese 24k Gold & Lacquered Wood Bracelet Pure GoldJudith Ripka Diamond Silver 18k Gold Cuff Bracelet 31.6 Grams NrVintage/antique Scotland Specimen Agate Stone Bracelet & Padlock ClaspVintage Ortak 925 Sterling Silver Celtic Weave Bracelet 7" 24g Rare Vintage Margot De Taxco Egyptian Revival Sterling Silver Enamel BraceletRare Unusual Vintage Art Deco Old Mexico Sterling Silver Amethyst Cuff BraceletUltra Art Deco Approx 11ctw Fine Diamond Platinum Wide Link 1930s BraceletEstate Diamond 19.95ct Tourmaline Silver Bangle Bracelet 47.3 Grams NrTwo Vintage Natural 363.50ctw True Color Green Jadeite Jade Bangle BraceletsAntique Victorian Georgian Silver Amethyst Foiled Paste Riviere BraceletAntique English 15ct Gold Curb Link Bracelet Circa 1905 . Not Scrap . 18.6gStunning Heavy 6 Carat Diamond 14ct Yellow And White Gold Bracelet, BoxedVictorian Scottish Malachite And Silver BraceletCartier Juste Un Clou Nail Bracelet In 18k White Gold With Diamonds9ct Gold Heavy 31 Gram Vintage 1970's Bangle Bracelet Hinged 9 CaratAntique Chinese Silver Enamel Bracelet 4 X Jade 45,6 Gr. Wunderful Fine Emerald & Diamond 14ct Gold BraceletAntique Victorian French Silver Rose Gold Flower Leaf Bangle BraceletHermes Paris Authentic Clic-clac White Enamel 18k Yellow Gold Tone Cuff BraceletVtg Taxco 925 Sterling Silver Bangle Bracelet 91Vintage Modernist Erika Hult De Corral Sterling Silver Gold Buckle Cuff BraceletDi Modolo Estate Diamond 18k Gold Link Bracelet 22.7 Grams NrFine Victorian Gold BraceletEstate 1.02ct Diamond 14k Gold Bangle Bracelet 11.7 Grams NrVintage Green Jade Bangle 32.3 Grams 7.90 Mm ThickBeautiful Antique Edwardian Rose Gold Multiple Three Leaf Clover Engraved BangleFine Vtg Sterling Silver Tiffany & Co Elsa Peretti Heart Charm 7" Chain BraceletVintage Designer Natural 1.10ctw Diamond 14k Yellow Gold Link Tennis BraceletVintage 800 And Sterling Silver Art Deco Bangle Bracelet Bracelets LotStunning Antique 15.00 Carat Oval Opal Solid 14 Ct Gold Bracelet & S/chain Victorian Antique Silver Bracelet Tubular Bangle Repousse Chased Scroll DesignEstate Lavender Jade Black Onyx 14k Gold Bangle Bracelet 21.6 GramsVintage Art Deco Japan Sterling Genuine Brilliant Faceted Rock Crystals BraceletVintage 1950's 14k White Gold Filligree Round Diamond Bracelet