Bracelets and bangles have been worn for centuries to adorn people and bring attention to their wrists and hands. The difference being that bangles are rigid and bracelets are flexible being made of an ornamental band, loop or chain.
It was thought for years that the Egyptians invented the bracelet, being crafted from stone, bone and wood but the history of wristwear goes back further, and in 2008 a collection of jewellery was found in a cave in Siberia which included a green stone bracelet carbon-dated to be 40,000 years old.
Bangles and bracelets have been found in many civilisations including ancient Mayan, Roman, Indian and Mauryan ruins and have been worn by many cultural groups for different reasons.
In China bangles and bracelets made from jade have been given to children from their parents for years as jade is thought to protect them. The ancient Chinese also valued bracelets with intricate carvings of animals and nature.
In Eastern culture, different types of bangles are worn and it is common to see a new bride wearing glass bangles at her wedding. Bracelets and bangles today are more popular than ever with the mass production of fashion-led pieces made of cheap materials, however, gold and silver bracelets are still hugely valued and adored.
During the 20th Century, bracelets overall became more affordable due to mass manufacturing techniques. By the 1920s, the elaborate, ornate designs of the Victorian period gave way to the structured lines of the Art Deco period, and then in turn to the curved, flowing lines of the Art Nouveau period. More plastics were added to jewellery in the 1930s, making bracelets more accessible for children and teenagers. Charm bracelets became extremely popular in the 1950s. Then, by the 1970s, there was more demand for variation. All kinds of styles were worn such as thin chains, statement cuffs, and delicate bangles.
Many bracelet designs, styles, and trends have continued into the 21st Century, such as the introduction of silver as the most common material for bracelets. The preference for silver as an alternative to gold or platinum is successful in large part due to it being comparatively inexpensive. As more and more people are becoming involved in the eco-friendly movement, there has been more demand for bracelets that are eco-conscious, for example, vintage or antique bracelets. A lot of people today wear bracelets that might have some meaning behind them, such as a social cause or something to signify friendship or commitment. All of which can often be crafted out of inexpensive materials. Although, of course, archetypal ornate gold bracelets enhanced with gemstones are still very popular today.
There are many different kinds of bracelets including Belcher Bracelet, Cuff Bracelet, Bangle, Curb bracelet and Charm Bracelet.
In 1896, a young newlywed couple named Estelle Arpels and Alfred Van Cleef started a jewelry house that would eventually become one of the most successful and innovative of all time – Van Cleef & Arpels. In 1933, they developed their innovative “Mystery Setting”, an entirely new kind of setting that eliminated any visible prongs to hold the gemstones in place. The first iteration of this patented technique was only used for flat surfaces until five years later in 1938. Van Cleef & Arpels found a new way to set the stones invisibly that allowed for movement, curves and twists. Any piece of jewellery created with this method had the ability to cascade effortlessly across the wearer’s wrist or neck.