A bracelet is an article of jewelry that is worn around the wrist. They can be associated with anything from a simple functional use like holding an identity tag or piece of information, to being worn for decorative or even symbolic purposes.
Bracelets can be manufactured from metal, leather, cloth, plastic, bead, or other materials, and jewelry bracelets sometimes contain jewels, rocks, wood, shells, crystals, metal, or plastic hoops, pearls, and many more materials.
The history of bracelets is long and fascinating and evolved out of the fundamental, and quite practical, needs of early humans. Let’s have a look at the history of one of the most popular jewelry.
The Stone Age
Archaeologists have found bracelets made of beads fashioned from the shells of Nautilus pompilius – a South Pacific mollusc – that date back 42,000 years in a cave on the island of Timor. A Paleolithic bracelet was also found in 2008 by Russian archaeologists from the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology of Novosibirsk. Working at the site of Denisova Cave in the Altai Mountains of Siberia, they uncovered artifacts, including a bracelet, that was carbon-dated to around 40,000 BP.
The history of Egyptian bracelets is as old as 5000 B.C. Starting with materials like bones, stones, and woods to serve religious and spiritual interests. the Scarab Bracelet is one of the most recognized symbols of ancient Egypt. The scarab represented rebirth and regeneration. Carved scarabs were worn as jewelry and wrapped into the linen bandages of mummies. Myth told of the scarab god, Khepri, pushing the sun across the sky.
By the time of the First Dynasty, Egyptians were wearing bracelets made of gold and silver and decorated with semiprecious stones. Skilled goldsmiths of the New Kingdom crafted inlaid designs made of African gemstones. Although bracelets were sometimes buried in tombs as part of the deceased’s possessions, it appears that they were worn as decorative accessories rather than as amulets or ritual jewelry. In Ancient Egyptian tombs, strings of gold beads, hoops, and single, hinged bracelets have been discovered. Many of the bracelets made from plain or enameled metals were unadorned by stones. During the First Dynasty, bracelets worn by royalty were made of rectangular beads called serekhs, with turquoise, gold, and blue-glazed compositions.
Ancient Greece and Rome
In Greece, the bracelet was a symbol of power and strength derived from the ones worn by warriors. Greek soldiers often donned metal and leather cuffs or wraps of leather on their wrists and arms for protection during battle. This was later also used by the Romans and the Celts as well.
Ancient Roman soldiers often were given gold bracelets to indicate their valor in battle and the Etruscans were among the first to create bracelets with separate, hinged panels, a style still popular today.
The Middle Ages & The Renaissance
The Middle Ages saw a decline in interest in bracelets in Europe and this was probably because Christian beliefs discouraged adornments. They were thought to suggest an unhealthy regard for personal vanity and any jewelry worn in medieval Europe was used to reflect the hierarchical and status-conscious nature of society at that time.
The Renaissance focus on humanism prompted a renewed interest in bracelets and other types of jewelry. The Renaissance Age had a passion for splendor. Designs became more elaborate and colorful, and advances in cutting techniques increased the sparkle and brilliance of gemstones.
17th – 19th Century
17th-century jewelry responded to the dramatic changes in fashion. While historically dark fabrics required elaborate gold jewelry, the new softer pastel shades became graceful backdrops for gemstones and pearls.
The 19th century was a period of huge industrial and social change, but in jewelry design, the focus was often on the past. In the first decades, classical styles were popular, evoking the glories of ancient Greece and Rome. This interest in antiquities was stimulated by fresh archaeological discoveries.
During the 20th century, consumers could find bracelets of almost any design imaginable. Bracelets also became more affordable as mass production increased the availability of fashion jewelry. By the 1920s, the ornate designs of the late 19th century gave way to the clean lines of the Art Deco period. Designers added Bakelite and plastics to jewelry in the 1930s and made plastic bangles a wardrobe staple for teen girls. Women and girls adored charm bracelets made of gold-plated brass or sterling silver in the 1950s, but by the 1970s, and until the turn of the century, women wanted variety in their fashion. They wore wide cuffs, slender bangles, beaded strands, and thin chains. Men started wearing bracelets again, usually choosing gold or sterling silver link chains.
Silver became the most common material for link bracelets, cuffs, and bangles. This trend started in the 20th century when manufacturers mass-produced silver jewelry, which was less expensive than gold but still had the sparkle of a precious metal that buyers loved. Finally, today’s young people often wear simple bracelets to support social causes and showcase group identity; their banner can be a colorful rubber band, dangling charm, or even a piece of string.
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