A cuff is a wide, usually rigid bracelet that’s slipped onto the wrist through an opening at its ends. Beginning in the 19th century, Navajo and Zuni silversmiths produced cuffs for tourists traveling west on the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad, which made several stops in the Southwestern United States en route from Chicago to Los Angeles. Large pieces of turquoise dominated many of these cuffs; others incorporated smaller stones as accents or in tight grids. William Spratling and his company of Taxco, Mexico, silversmiths also designed cuffs. Early pieces from the 1930s and ’40s are often set with amethysts, while vintage Taxco cuffs from the 1950s and ’60s include common stones like quartz and obsidian.
Postwar modernist jewelers in New York City such as Paul Lobel and Frank Rebajes liked cuff bracelets because they offered these artists wide surface areas for their designs. The same motivation probably inspired Scandinavian jewelry designers from Georg Jensen to Jacob Hull, as well as contemporary Americans like David Yurman and venerable jewelers such as Tiffany and Van Cleef and Arpels, whose gold cuffs were favorites of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.
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