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.
-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 Stone, some puffed up in a style called répouss 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.