A Very Short History of Bracelets & Bangles
Bracelets and bangles have been coveted and worn, like most jewellery, for thousands of years. A multitude of ancient torque (torc) bangles have been uncovered, buried in old settlement sites or at the bottom of peat bogs, and are now displayed in museums around the world. These early arm ornaments were status symbols; they denoted wealth or nobility or that the wearer was a brave warrior.
Moving forward to more recent history, bracelets were the most coveted ornament of the Victorian romantic period and were generally worn in large numbers on each arm. During the daytime they would be worn against the wrist, and in the evening over white evening gloves, or on the skin between the glove and the elbow.
A typical Victorian bracelet was the coiled snake, with more expensive examples sporting diamonds, opals, rubies or garnets. Jarrietiere or 'garter' bracelets were popular during this period and resembled and strap and buckle in design. Flexible link bracelets were also favourites and often featured a detachable gem-set pendant.
Bangles, during the Victorian era, were often decorated in the centre with clusters of gemstones, in particular garnets, turquoise or pearls. By the 1890s, half hoop bangles set with diamonds, sapphires, pearls and opals rose in popularity. Typical of this time are multi-hoop bangles, where the backs are composed of two or three fine gold wires.
The fashion of wearing three or four bracelets died out at the dawn of the Edwardian era. While women still wore bracelets and bangles, they did so more modestly, and tended to limit one to each arm. Thinner bracelets with a row of calibre cut gemstones or of gem-set decorative links with a chain back become popular, the stones often contrasting in colour.
Linear bracelets were the preferred arm ornament of the era, set with colour contrasting gems in a geometric pattern. Van Cleef and Arpels specialised in the production of bracelets inspired by pharaonic Egypt, where as Cartier chose India as the inspiration for their creations. The 1920s also saw a rise in popularity of commemorative charms hung from chain bracelets.
Art Deco bangles, thin and gem-set, were worn in numbers on the wrists of both arms at night, and during the day hoops carved in jade and other hardstones were popular.