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    

French Vintage Heavy 18k Gold Wide 2.0ct White Topaz Bracelet W/ Flower Clasp Fine Vtg 40s Mexican Taxco Sterling Silver Repousse Art Deco Clamper Bracelet Antique C. 1860 Victorian 10k Gold Rebecca At The Well Triple Cameo Bracelet!Fine Chester 1908 Edwardian Garnet Rose Gold BangleStunning Antique Victorian Scottish Agate Citrine Pebble Bracelet C.1880 -broochAustro Hungarian Arts & Crafts Cabochon Chalcedony & Garnet Silver BraceletFine Heavy 1.35 Carat Sapphire 14ct Gold BraceletVintage 1923 9ct Rose Gold Slave Bangle 7.3g Lot 60Tiffany & Co. - Authentic Vintage Lock Charm Bracelet - 925 Silver 18k Rose GoldEstate 12.00ctw Natural Diamond Bracelet In 14k Solid White GoldVtg Walter Lampl Guilloche Enamel Sterling Puffy Heart Charm Bracelet More 27.7g2 Vintage Ladies 14kt Yellow Gold Bangle Cuff Bracelets, 30.7 DwtVintage 14k Yellow Gold Opal Bracelet No ReserveVintage Signed Art Deco Sterling Silver Chrysoprase Glass Enamel BraceletVintage Tiffany & Co Sterling Silver Open Heart Heavy Chain Bracelet 7.75"**triple Strand 14k Yellow Gold Pink Coral Seed Pearl Bracelet 7.25" 46.2 Grams 1883 Victorian Sterling Silver Cuff Bracelet Old Vintage Antique Slave BangleVintage Jade Bangle Hinged 14k Yellow Gold No ReserveFine Heavy Emerald And Diamond 18ct Gold BraceletVintage Beautiful & Heavy Solid 9ct Gold Charm Bracelet & 7 Charms, 27g, C1977C 1925 Vintage S Kirk & Sons Lady's Sterling Silver Thick Cuff Bracelet Nr YqzVintage Heavy 18k Gold Wide Elegant Articulated Link Bracelet 51.8 GramsVtg Signed Hilario Lopez Taxco Mexican Sterling Silver Clamper BraceletVintage Sterling Silver Charm 7" Bracelet 21 Charms 6 Are Movable "nice" Old!Antique C. 1920 Deco 14k Gold Chinese Carved Black Jade Jadeite Bangle Bracelet!Antique Victorian Sterling Woven Silver Snake Bracelet, Garnet Eyes- GorgeousMexico 925 Silver Very Rare 1940's Estate Amethyst Unique Mexican Bracelet 7" Vintage Jade Bangle Hinged 14k Yellow Gold No ReserveVintage Georg Jensen 1964 Sterling Silver Wide Bangle Bracelet Fully HallmarkedFine Georgian 4 Strand Seed Pearl Bracelet With Gold Locket Clasp, Boxed, 1807Tiffany & Co. Vintage Heavy Thick 14k Gold Fancy Curb Link Chain BraceletAntique C. 1860 Victorian 18k Gold Seed Pearl Carved Orchid Flower Bracelet!Antique Victorian, Good Quality, 9ct Gold Ruby & Pearl Set Bangle,Vintage Estate Signed Judith Ripka Cz Sterling Silver Cable Rope Link Bracelet Huge Lot Of Vintage Sterling Silver Charm Bracelet 10 Bracelets Over 70 CharmsFine Black Opal Doublet Gold BraceletVery Nice Estate 14k Yellow Gold Garnet Bracelet Retail $2450Vintage Heavy 18k Tricolor Gold Italy Elegant .54ct Vs1/g Diamond Cuff BraceletDesigner Signed Brev Uno A Erre 14k Solid Gold Woven Braided Mesh 7.5" BraceletAntique Victorian Carved Salmon Coral Wide Link Bracelet~rose Gold Clasp~38.7 Gr***antique Scottish Silver & Mixed Agate Pebble Design Bracelet & Charm C1900***Estate 12.64ctw Natural Sapphire And Diamond Bracelet In 14k White GoldEstate 12.42ctw Natural Sapphire And Diamond Bracelet In 14k Solid White GoldEstate 13.35ctw Natural Red Ruby And Diamond Bracelet In 14k Yellow Gold Estate 28.30ct Natural Ruby And Diamond 14k Solid Yellow Gold BraceletVintage 1970's Dragon Phoenix 20k Yellow Gold Chinese Hinge 14mm Bangle BraceletDesigner Style Ladies Italian 18k Solid Gold 20 Strand Liquid Metal Bracelet NrAntique Vintage Gj Ltd Sterling Silver Padlock Heart Charm Bracelet Georg JensenVintage Solid Silver London Modernist Danish Style Ladies Bracelet BangleVan Gogh Vintage Heavy 18k 2-tone Gold .48ct Vs1/g Diamond Bangle BraceletAntique 42ct Amethyst 14k Yellow Gold Heart Bracelet 40.2 Grams NrFine Georgian Pinch Beck BraceletLapponia Silver 925 Vintage Bangle Bracelet By Björn Weckström 17cm 6.7'' 47gCarolyn Pollack Sterling Turquoise Amethyst Silverado Leather Cuff Bracelet 38grAntique Chinese Export Solid Silver Bracelet- Decorative Charms. Marked. Lovely.Antique Victorian German Silver Compass Watch Fob Charm Bracelet Albert Chain Estate 8.86ctw Natural Colombian Emerald And Diamond Bracelet In 14k Yellow GoldRare Designer Spitzer & Furman Signed S&f 18k Gold Double Bamboo 8" Bracelet NrAntique Edwardian 9ct Rose Gold Albert Chain Charm Bracelet 13.4g Lot 64Vintage Sterling Silver Charm Bracelet 20 Sterling 925 Charms