Antique Bracelets and Bangles
Many people do not distinguish between antique bracelets and bangles. Recently I wrote about Indian bangles and explained the difference between antique bracelets and bangles. Bangles are rigid and bracelets are flexible.
Our arms are the most under-estimated part of our anatomy. In fact, they are sensuous and elegant and one of our biggest draws. (Just consider how many 'oppressive' cultures force women to cover up their arms!). It's therefore worth looking at the adornment of our most graceful limbs.
Both antique bracelets and bangles are made of every sort of material from glass to grass; from natural substances to highly industrialized materials. They are often embellished with gems, embroidery, enamel, shells - you name it!
Gem-encrusted cuff – more fashion than fine:
Both antique bracelets and bangles can be wide or narrow. When a bangle is very wide, it is usually referred to as a 'cuff'.
Narrow bangles are very often worn in multiples. Some women wear a set of 7 thin, gold bangles, possibly each slightly different in its surface decoration. The story is that if she has problems with her husband, she can sell one each day until she gets back to her father's house. These are called 'semainiers' - from the French word for 'week' - one for each day.
Bangles and bracelets play a big role in Bridal traditions. The Victorian bride traditionally wore a pair of wide bangles on each arm. Hindu women wore many glass bangles. When the last one broke, the honeymoon was over. There are many other significant associations of bangles practiced by different cultures. We chatted about many of them in the recent article about antique Indian bangles.
As mentioned, many bangles and bracelets were worn in multiples. There are tribes who stretch the neck, arm and legs by continuously adding rigid bangles to the limb. Georgian and Victorian women certainly wore multiples, not only stacked on each arm, but often above the elbow. Large bangles, worn above the elbow were called 'slave bangles'. Bracelets made of cotton thread, gold chain and other materials are very popular today and often worn on the ankle as well as the wrist. There is a style of bangle/bracelet that is linked by chains to a ring or even more than one ring. The most famous of these was that designed by Alphonse Mucha for Sarah Bernardt and produced by Rene Lalique. However, Indian women have been wearing these for generations and the style has been trickling into our own culture.
Bracelets are flexible and usually flop around the wrist. Flexibility is obtained by a series of links or via very fine hinges. Art Deco bracelets look to be solid, but bend easily around the wrist. It requires tremendous workmanship and technical skill to produce this effect.
Many bracelets have a central medallion or other inflexible device, meant to sit on the arm, above the wrist. It may be a gemstone flower, a locket that opens to reveal a miniature painted portrait, a lock of a loved one's hair under glass. #4759.
There are a number of methods of closing bracelets and bangles. We will discuss and show them in another post. Managing the clasp might take some practice, but make sure that you have it securely fastened. Many expensive bracelets come ready with a safety chain that stretches easily over the wrist when you put it on, but will catch if the clasp opens. This helps to prevent loss of a loved and expensive item. If your bracelet does not have a safety chain, it is not expensive or difficult to have one added.
We can't leave the topic of antique bracelets without mentioning the ubiquitous charm bracelet. Often made of 9ct gold to withstand the constant knocking against other bodies. Alternatively, the charm bracelet may be extremely valuable and offers us the opportunity to personalise our jewelry. People collect heart charms, dog charms, sports-related charms, charms from every place visited on a holiday or one for each child or grandchild. The possibilities are endless as are the possibilities of wearing and enjoying your antique bracelets and bangles.
See posts 73 and 77 in Travel for Jewelry about Indian and French bangles and bracelets.