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Bracelets are articles of jewelry that is worn around the wrist. Their main component is the chain, which can sometimes have a supportive function to hold other ornaments like charms. There are also bracelets that carry details of the wearer like medical or personal information. In some cases, bracelets are worn as part of campaigns like raising awareness of breast cancer or even religious and cultural beliefs.
The term “bracelet” originates back from the Greek work “brachile,” which means “of the arm.” It is believed that the ritual of wearing bracelets started as early as 7,000 years ago. Archeologists found evidence that people in ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, and China actually wore bracelets. Early versions of such jewelry were made of grass, thin tree limbs, shells, as well as metals like copper and bronze. Jewelers started to add silver and gold in bracelets after the Bronze Age. Later on, jewelry became a symbol of wealth and status, so bracelets became more decorative.
Egyptians have been wearing bracelets made of silver and gold since the First Dynasty (2680 B.C.). Meanwhile, in the New Kingdom (1558 to 1085 B.C.), skilled goldsmiths started inlaying designs made of African gemstones. Interestingly, even though bracelets are buried in tombs as parts of a deceased’s possession, it has been said that jewelry was only worn as ornaments rather than as an amulet or ritual jewelry.
Ancient Greeks also wore bracelets on both the upper and the lower arm as decoration. Their soldiers would use wide leather and metal cuffs as part of their armors for protection, a practice that was adopted by Roman Soldiers later on. Well-dressed Romans also took interest in coiled gold bangles that resemble snakes. Mediterranean jewelry designs spread across Europe. However, bracelets fell out of favor as Europe transitioned to the Middle Ages. This was the case especially among men.
In China, cuffs and bangles carved from jade with intricate detailing existed as early as 2000 B.C. The ancient Chinese also had gold bracelets that are etched with elaborate patterns of nature and mythical creatures and animals. In India, gold bangles were the common bracelet style. However, colorful metal strands and glass beads became popular later on.
During the 17th century, the women of Europe revived the practice of wearing bracelets as a form of fashion. They wore ribbons and several thin bangles. Later on, especially in the 19th century, bracelet chains suddenly became trendy and stylish. Designs during this era linked cameos and medallions that were decorated with ivory and coral. During the Victorian Era, charm bracelets adorned with dangling lockets and engraved charms became popular.
By the 20th century, consumers and enthusiasts could already find bracelets that have virtually any design imaginable. They also became quite affordable thanks to increased mass production of costume jewelry. The Art Deco period happened and gave way to designs that feature clean lines and sharp edges. Jewelers started to add Bakelite and plastics to jewelry around the 1930s. Consequently, plastic bangles became a staple for young girls and teenagers.
Then, in the 1950s, bracelets made of brass with gold-plating or sterling silver became trendy. This was brought to the late 1970s, the turn of the century when women started to demand a variety in their fashion jewelry. Along with this trend, wide cuffs, multiple slender bangles, beaded strands, and thin chains became popular as well; so popular that even men started to wear bracelets again, usually opting for gold or silver chunky link chains.
Types of Bracelet Chain
- Cable Chain
- Round Link
- Flat Link
- Twisted Curb
- Infinity / Figure of Eight
- Box Link / Venetian Chain
- Cuban Link
- Ball Bead Chain
- Satellite Chain
- Cardano Link
- Wheat Chain
- Tiger-eye Link
- Mariner / Anchor
- Double Link
- Prince of Whales
- San Marco
- Snake / Star Weave