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    

Antique Victorian Bohemian Garnet .75" Wide Bangle BraceletFine Heavy Cultured Pearl 18ct Gold 5 Strand BraceletEstate 8.81 Ct Vs1/f Natural Diamond 18k White Gold Tennis Cocktail BraceletButterscotch Amber Egg Yolk Amber Necklace Bracelet Antique 27 GramsVintage 22k Gold & Natural Jade And Pearl Bracelet Estate Diamond 10.40ct Ruby 18k Gold Tennis Bracelet 15.8 Grams NrVintage Norwegian Silver Enamel BraceletAuthentic Tiffany & Co Jewelry Sterling Silver Toggle Charm Link Bracelet HeartPretty Edwardian Silver & Turquoise Set Bangle BraceletVintage 18k White Gold With Imperial Jade And Diamond BraceletCivil War Era Victorian Antique Mourning Hair Jewelry Bracelet Cameo Gold YqzVintage 14k Gold & Translucent Natural Jade Bangle Bracelet Fine Rare Georgian Paste Set Gold Plated BraceletButterscotch Amber Egg Yolk Amber Necklace Bracelet Antique 68 GramsVintage 1970's 14k Yellow Gold Melon Green Jadeite Jade Hinged Bangle BraceletEstate 14k Gold Wide Rolo Link Bracelet 12.8 Grams NrLadys 10kt White Gold Blue-purple Sapphire Gemstone Tennis Bracelet, NrVintage Large White/green Translucent Ice Jade Bangle Bracelet Vintage 14k Yellow Gold Turquoise Cuff BraceletButterscotch Amber Egg Yolk Amber Necklace Bracelet Antique 27 GramsSterling Silver And Spectrolite Kaunis Koru Scandinavian Finland Bangle 1990Vintage Margot De Taxco Sterling Silver Enamel Snake Bracelet Jointed Mexico Nr18k Diamond Tennis Bracelet Vintage Fine Estate Huge Vs Sparkling 7.55 Carats Chic Chunky Bold Retro Vintage 1940s Modernist Napier Sterling Silver BraceletItalian 3.25ct Diamond 18k Gold Wide Cuff Bangle Bracelet 66.0 Grams NrVtg 50s-70s 31 Sterling Silver Enamel State Maps World Travel Charm Bracelet LotEstate 14k Gold Wide Snake Wide Bangle Bracelet 24.3 Grams NrArt Deco Old European Mine Cut Natural Unheated Ruby And Diamond Bangle BraceletModern 13.50ct Semi Precious Stone 14k Gold Link Bracelet 11.7 Grams Nr Rare Vintage Sterling Silver Charm Bracelet Nuvo No ReserveStunning Art Deco Silver Snake Bangle14k Victorian Gold Turtle Bracelet Necklace Slide Charm Antique TurquoiseAntique Silver Carved Lava Cameo BraceletN E From Vintage Modernist Sterling Silver & Crystal Bangle,20.5 G,denmark,1970sVintage G.f. Love Bracelet By Charles Revson & Cipullo After Cartier In BoxTiffany & Co. Sterling Silver Infinity Pearl Bracelet!!! Antique English 9k Gold Pearl Amethyst Peridot Suffragette Bangle Bracelet C1900Beautiful Vintage 1946 Extra Wide Sterling Silver Finely Hand Engraved Bangle Vtg Native American Navajo Turquoie Arrow Symbol Sterling Silver Cuff BraceletHeavy Victorian 61.9 Gram Chinese Or African Bone Carved Ivory Colored BangleVictorian Carved Faux Ivory Colored Wide Bangle Bracelet- Heavy 60 Grams!!!!!!Vintage Signed Chunky Turquoise Indian Style Modernist Sterling Silver Bracelet Vtg Antique Art Nouveau Sterling Silver Poppy Flower BraceletPretty Vintage Moonstone Silver Bracelet Blue Colour$5,999 Victorian 14k Gold/925 Sterling 10.00ctw Rose Cut Diamond Bracelet 25.5gEstate 45.00ct Pink Quartz 18k Gold Chain Bracelet 25.9 Grams NrSilver Thomas Sabo Bracelet With A Charm Superb QualityRare C1890 Solid 9ct Rose / Pink Gold Dog Clasp Albert Or Any Chain BraceletAntique Victorian Bohemian Rose Cut Red Garnet Hinged Bangle Bracelet C.1880'sAntique 9ct Rose Gold Enamel Charm BraceletVintage Antique Deco Jade 10kt Yellow Gold Bracelet Vintage Sterling Silver 1940's Puffy Heart Charm Bracelet-12 HeartsVintage Silver Filigree Irish Moss Agate BraceletVictorian Whitby Jet BraceletVictorian Lava High Relief Cameo Bracelet Vintage Estate RareVintage Silver 15ct Gold Diamond Ladies BraceletOld Vintage Unisex Stamped Sterling Silver Snake Serpent Bangle Wrap BraceletVintage 1970s Heavy Ladys 14k Yellow Gold Mutton Fat Jadeite Jade Hinged Bangle Vintage 14ct Gold Chinese Green Jade Ladies BraceletVintage Sterling Silver Heavy Chain Link Design Bracelet (56.6g) - 322263