Bracelets are a popular and trendy piece of jewelry dating back to ancient civilizations. Back then, they had less options for materials and styles.
Today, there are numerous types of bracelets in jewelry stores. In this Learning guide you'll learn about:
- What are the different types of bracelets?
- What is the best material for bracelets?
- What is a tennis bracelet?
- What bracelets are good for daily wear?
History of Bracelets
It was originally thought that the Egyptians in the time of Cleopatra were the first to bring the bracelet into the fold, but a discovery in 2008 changed that idea.
A bunch of jewelry was discovered in Siberia, and part of the collection was a green chlorite stone bracelet.
Researchers have now confirmed the bangle bracelet to be 40,000 years old, making it the oldest stone bracelet in the world.
Different Types of Bracelets
We've gone from ancient stone bracelets to a variety of different bracelet styles and types, each with their own benefit.
Bangles are a bracelet made out of a hard material, usually stone or metal. Old bangles were made out of shell, stone, terracotta, glass, rock and other found materials.
They can range in price, depending on materials and width. They have no closure or clasp. When you put on a bangle, it should slip over your hand easily, but not come off as easily.
Most are oversized and slide up and down the wrist. They can either be thin or wide. Thinner bangle bracelets are usually made of 925 silver, steel, or gold. Many people prefer to stack the thinner ones and wear the bigger bangles as an eye-catching statement piece.
These types of bracelets have been very popular in South Asian countries like India and Sri Lanka. Bangles have been worn by practirioners of Hindu and Buddhist religions and are an important staple. In these counties, it's more likely to find bangles made of pure gold.
The downside to bangles is their stiffness. Bangles, bang. On. Everything. Against your desk, against a counter, etc. Some people also don't like the weight and the way it slides up and down. Bangles can get in the way of your everyday tasks and be a lot noisier than you wanted.
If you're looking for a bangle made out of a precious metal, they can become very expensive the wider the bracelet. For bangles that are worn everyday, they will compromise further, creating dents and scratches. This can become costly if you're wearing a 14K gold bangle bracelet. Check out this sterling silver bangle bracelet from Blue Nile below:
- Gorgeous statement piece
- Easy slip-on
- Gets in the way
- Prices jump in gold
Cuff bracelets are similar to bangle bracelets, but they don't cover the entire wrist. They actually rest on the wrist bone, leaving a gap on the wrist.
Originally, most cuff bracelets were wide, but as you can imagine, they get expensive quick if they're in gold or sterling silver at that width. So, there are more cuff bracelets that are thinner.
Cuff bracelets are usually made of hard materials including gold, platinum, sterling silver, and stainless steel. The original cuff bracelet was plain polished metal usually, but engravings and vintage detailing eventually became more popular. Then, gemstones, and diamonds were added to designs, like this criss cross cuff bracelet from James Allen:
When putting on a cuff bracelet, you'll want to outstretch your arm, spreading your fingers. Holding the cuff bracelet in your other hand, you'll want to slide the cuff bracelet over the the thumb side of your hand.
Don't try to stretch the cuff bracelet over your wrist directly. If you do this, it compromises the materials of the bracelet. Adjustable cuff bracelets are a thing, but they should still be put on with care.
A lot of people will stretch the cuff and squeeze the metal to enclose. The metal weakens and it can cause small gemstones or small diamonds to become loose.
- Statement bracelet
- No clasp to fumble with
- Plain cuffs are engravable
- Wider cuffs more expensive in precious metals
Slider bracelets are bracelets that have a sliding enclosure. Instead of fumbling around with a lobster clasp or a tiny O-ring, you can wear it by sliding mechanism along the chain to tighten it to size. There are a few different kinds of slider bracelets, but the most popular is a bolo bracelet.
The slider on a bolo usually is circular, but can be different shapes like hearts for style. The two ends of the chain are already threaded through it and can't be pulled apart. The slider tightens it to fit and loosen it.
The two ends hand out of the sliding mechanism like little tails. In some designs, these "tails" can have gemstones or diamonds on them. Most slider bracelets are made of gold or sterling silver. It's possible to find them in alternative metals, but not as common.
There are some definite positives to buying a slider bracelet, but there's some drawbacks too. For example, if you're buying a high quality gold or platinum slider bracelet, expect it to be pretty pricey, especially if it's solid.
The sliding mechanism itself amounts to needing more of that precious metal, so the price will go up. Other bracelet styles like tennis bracelets will be less expensive because it's got a smaller enclosure, so it uses less metal.
This pretty emerald and diamond bolo bracelet from Blue Nile is one example of how alluring this type of bracelet is.
- Easy to adjust
- Bangle or tennis style
- More vulnerable to damage
- Sliders eventually loosen
Charm bracelets are one of the oldest-known bracelet styles. They're usually worn by the younger crowd and are often the first piece of jewelry owned by children. Charm bracelets are big on sentimental value.
In the original charm bracelet styles, you start with a base chain. The style of chain you'll need will vary based on the types of charms you put on.
One of the most common styles is a link bracelet base. The charms are usually sold separately, unless you're buying a starter bracelet. You can then purchase individual charms to hook into the links on the bracelets.
Most charm bracelets are affordable because they are usually in stainless steel or sterling silver. If you find a cheap gold bracelet, it's probably gold plated over another metal.
You can find pure gold charm bracelets, but they are very expensive, so most people steer clear and buy the affordable ones. But that doesn't mean they don't purchase two-toned gold or solid gold charms to go on the bracelet.
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Charms come in all differents themes and sizes. They make perfect sentimental gifts, letting the wearer have a cute charm that means something to them. It could be a little stethoscope for a nurse, or a dog paw for that doggo mom you love. Charms are usually personal to the wearer and are purchased for holidays or for special events in that person's life.
The downsides to charm bracelets is that there are many different types, so you need to pay attention to the ones you're purchasing. Not all charms on the market will work for your bracelet.
It can get complicated if you don't know how the charms attach and what to look for. Alex and Ani charm bracelets, for example, are stackable bangles that have 1-2 charms on each bracelet. Hookable charms wouldn't work in their case. So, always check the brand and style.
With a bunch of different hanging charms of various little designs, they can get damaged. They can snag on fabrics, pulling against your metal and weakening it. They're also kind of noisy because all the dangly charms hit against each other and anything you put your arms against. So, make sure you wear them when you can afford to cause a little ruckus.
Charm bracelets can also be difficult or expensive to repair because most are made of stainless steel. Steel's incredibly hard to work on, so most jewelers won't touch it.
This charm bracelet made of Italian yellow gold, plus a pearl charm, offers sophistication and classic design.
- Make excellent gifts
- Keep adding on
- Removable charms
- Known to snag on fabrics
- Can be noisy
Beaded bracelets were some of the earliest known bracelet designs. Beading has been part of many cultures and ancient civilizations.
These bracelets have beads made of materials that are strung. The string can be made of elastic, leather, rope, cording, or any material that can be easily threaded through. Usually, these are handmade.
Most beaded bracelets are simple with a single strand. Other beaded bracelets can be complex and intricate, with big widths and beads strung to create a picture.
In early times, beaded jewelry was made of shells and other items from nature. They were used both as ornaments and as talismans.
Beaded bracelets aren't too popular in fine jewelry stores, mainly because most beads are very cheap. The pricier ones may be the more complex and intricate pieces found on Etsy.
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Today most beaded bracelets are either friendship bracelets or gemstone bracelets. Gemstone bracelets are excellent for those who are practicing crystal healing or who are wanting diffuser beads for essential oils.
The downside to beaded bracelets is that the string doesn't usually seem to last. The elastic type loses its elasticity, rope can unravel, and most string can't get wet. It's not the most convenient type of bracelet. Beaded bracelets can also be damaged easier, depending on what your beads are made of.
- Handmade and personal
- Popular for crystal healing
- Less expensive than precious metals
- Can be uncomfortable
- String materials aren't lifelong
If you're looking for a classic sophisticated bracelet, then you'll love the best tennis bracelets. Tennis bracelets are most thought of as diamond bracelets, but they can hold any gemstone.
The term tennis bracelet was coined because of a famous championship match by tennis star Chris Evert at the US Open. Known for her fashion style and chicness, Evert was then wearing an eternity diamond line bracelet while playing in the US Open final. During the match, her bracelet clasp broke and went flying off. She refused to continue playing without her bracelet, so the officials decided to temporarily stop the game until she found her bracelet.
Before that, they were called diamond line bracelets or eternity bracelets.
The majority of tennis bracelets are expensive and set in either yellow gold or white gold. It's possible to find them in rose gold and sterling silver, but majority of the high-end ones will be in the other gold colors.
You can find sterling silver bracelets at Kay's and Zales' with sapphire and other colored gemstones as well as treated fancy color diamond tennis bracelets.
But like all bracelet types, there's a couple of drawbacks. A diamond tennis bracelet is a classic jewelry item, but it's very expensive. Because there are so many small diamonds and a bunch of metal to hold each individual stone, there are a lot of expensive materials there.
Even a 1-1/2 ct sterling silver diamond tennis bracelet from Zales is over $1,200 and all you can see is a tiny stone in the middle of a bunch of illusion plates. Doesn't seem worth it, does it? Thankfully, colored gemstone or simulated diamond bracelets are available for those of us with a tighter wallet.
You'll also want to know your wrist size because most tennis bracelets aren't adjustable. You'd need to go visit a jeweler to actually take part of your bracelet off and solder it to a smaller size. If you have diamonds or gemstones, you'll lose some of that carat weight with your links that have been taken out.
This stunning yet classy tennis bracelet piece from Blue Nile is sparkling with diamonds set in four-prong gold rose.
- Perfect for classy events
- Displays gemstones or diamonds
- Many different styles
- Most can't be adjusted
- Expensive for small diamonds
Link bracelets have duplicated pieces that are intertwined and hooked inside of each other in a repeated fashion. Most link bracelets are chain bracelets, but we'll talk about those further down.
Other types of link bracelets may have links similar to watch links. This will be most popular on wristwatch bracelets as well. Stainless steel link bracelets for men can be made of wider rectangular links that hook into each other.
While technically these bracelets do form a chain, they're aren't really classified as chain bracelets. These link bracelets are heavier and bulkier, and usually wider. Link bracelets can be different colors and have carbon fiber inlays or diamonds in the channel.
If you're choosing a diamond stainless steel link bracelet, know that jewelers don't usually replace diamonds on steel because of the difficulty and how expensive it is.
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These link bracelets have a couple problems too. They are heavy and bulky, so people who aren't used to wearing bracelets probably won't care for the weight. Stainless steel also gets scratched really easily and won't be able to be restored like gold or sterling silver could.
This link bracelet in white gold will suit the taste of someone looking for a timeless design.
- Perfect for alternative tastes
- Most popular men's bracelet style
- Requires more cleaning
- Can pinch between tight interlocking links
Chain bracelets are the main type of link bracelets, but there's lots of subcategories. These bracelets are the most common bracelet type purchased by men.
In a chain bracelet, the chain links are looped into each other and fashioned into a clasp. The links come in a variety of sizes The most popular metal chains are set in yellow gold, as you've probably guessed from every rapper music video ever.
But, if that's a little outside your budget, you can find affordable stainless steel or sterling silver chains. Gold chains are usually thousands of dollars because of their weight, depending on the style.
Curb chains are among the heaviest style, so if you're looking for dainty, I'd stay away from this one. Other chains have smaller and more lightweight links, so they won't cost as much.
Gold plated is an option, but not a good one. The plating will fade in different areas and cause your bracelet to look dingy.
Chain bracelets in women's jewelry are usually made of smaller chain links, usually cable chains. These are very dainty and lightweight. Most of the time, they are adjustable with the end of the chain having multiple larger loops to hook into when fitting it to size. The chain will hang down maybe an inch or two. Some may have little charms or small diamonds on the loose tail.
Chain bracelets also have their grievances. In the bigger and heavier chain bracelets, they are a magnet for dirt and grime. Because the links are all set close to each other in most cases, dust and dirt gets trapped between the links and grooves.
You'll want to make sure you're cleaning it after each use. And if you have a white gold bracelet, remember it will need rhodium plating in order to retain its silvery appearance.
With the dainty bracelets, they're really fragile. They're known for accidentally getting hooked on fabrics or getting caught and broken. If you're purchasing a gold bracelets, I'd definitely consider getting one with a lifetime warranty that covers routine maintenance.
- Links can be adjusted
- Staple item in jewelry collection
- Most popular men's bracelet
- Women's chain bracelets catches objects and breaks easily
- Expensive and heavy for men's chain bracelets
Wrap bracelets initially were designer bracelets made by Chan Luu. Luu is famous for his jewelry collection of bead and leather bracelets.
These bracelets that are usually embellished, and they wrap around the wrist multiple times. How many times and what colors vary depending on the design. Most wrap bracelets are made of either rope or leather.
In more modern times, wrap bracelets made of magnetic beads became popular. These magnetic bracelets wrap around the wrist, laying side by side as it wraps. The whole bracelet magnetizes to itself with no other way to close.
Wrap bracelets are perfect for that boho jewelry statement look. They shouldn't be worn with other bracelets since they give off the look of multiple matching bracelets. Beaded wrap bracelets are great for those practicing crystal healings as they often contain multiple stones.
Be careful with wrap bracelets with gemstones and beaded leather wrap bracelets. While beautiful, cheaper bracelets like these will have stones and beaded falling off like crazy. Hit it against a few surfaces at just the right amount of pressure and you can lose it. You might find yourself gluing your bracelet back together.
You also want to make sure you avoid water when wearing leather bracelets.
This chic wrap bracelet perfectly exude that boho vibe.
- Looks like many bracelets
- statement piece
- crystal healing benefits
- Hard to clean
- Not waterproof
Our last bracelet type for this guide is the classic and sensible bracelet, the pearl bracelet. Pearl strands are usually talked about in necklaces, but high-quality pearl strands are very high in price.
Choosing a pearl strand bracelet is a great option for cutting cost without compromising the beauty and quality your pearls.
Pearls are considered gemstones, but they're not minerals. A pearl is what happens when an irritant gets inside the shell of certain mollusks. In an effort to get it out of its shell, the mollusk covers the irritant in layers of nacre, aka mother of pearl. This is how pearls get that beautiful iridescent luster and sheen. They can come in different sizes and different colors, depending on the type of pearl.
Perfectly round pearl bracelets are going to more expensive than baroque, or misshapen pearls. Cultured pearls are usually cheaper, but color has an impact too.
These bracelets can be the perfect staple for the holidays, religious occasions, or at any time where you want to add a bit of sophistication.
Pearls are difficult to take care of, so if you're someone who doesn't want to spend a lot of time on upkeep, or are tough on your hands, I'd avoid them. Hitting your wrist on stuff throughout the day repeatedly will damage them.
Just make sure that you're conscious of your activities when wearing pearls.
This lovely Blue Nile bracelet offers a classy look with its two strands of pearls of varying hues and a white gold clasp of floral filigree.
- Available in cultured or natural
- Perfect for classy functions
- Multiple colors
- Different grades of pearl
- Natural pearls can be expensive