Choosing a bracelet or bangle to wear during zoom meetings poses some challenges. You don’t want to jangle and you don’t want them to impede typing or mouse use. In warmer months, though, something on the wrist can lift an outfit and add a focal point. First, let’s clarify the difference between a bracelet and a bangle.
Bracelets, bangles, and cuffs are all different styles of jewellery designed to be worn around the wrist and normally grouped under the heading of bracelet. The word ‘bracelet’ originates from the Latin for arm, ‘brachium’. It became ‘bracel’ in Old French, with the diminutive form becoming ‘bracelet’. We have come to use the word ‘bracelet’ to mean a linked or flexible item which is done up around the wrist with a clasp or hinge. The word ‘bangle’ comes from the 18th century Hindu word ‘blangli’ meaning glass bracelet. It refers to rigid bands around wrist, arms and ankles but we use it to refer to wrist jewellery. We have come to use the word ‘bracelet’ to mean a linked or flexible item which is done up around the wrist with a clasp or hinge while ‘bangle’ is used to cover jewellery which is rigid, either able to be slipped over the hand without a closure or joined with a clasp. Some bangles are not joined into a complete circle, like a cuff.
The first bracelet is an early Victorian gold piece comprised of round engraved plaques, graduated in size, with an oval engraved scrolled centerpiece set with a round foiled garnet. Underneath the garnet is a glazed compartment containing braided hair. The original clasp has been replaced by a modern one.
The next is a typical mid-Victorian hinged bangle from the 1860s-70s. In 18kt gold (tested), it has a central elongated star and cross decoration. Both the star and cross are lined with blue enamel. There are four diamonds set into the star, plus a central diamond. The star has a beaded border. The rest of the bangle is plain, with a tongue and box clasp, which closes firmly and has a safety chain. Not surprising, given its age, it has a few tiny dents and scratches to the band.
The next piece, a bracelet, is also a classic Victorian piece, a Scottish agate or Scottish pebble bracelet. The Victorians were inspired by nature, such as shells, wings and teeth, and by beautiful stones, whether these items were valuable or not. Scottish agate in particular was very popular, particularly once Queen Victoria and her young family began to spend time in Scotland, purchasing Balmoral Castle in 1847. At the peak of public interest in Scottish jewellery in the 1870s, over 1000 people worked in the pebble jewellery industry, though many of them were based in Birmingham and much of the ‘Scottish’ agate was being sourced from Germany, India and Italy. The production of Scottish jewellery was also outsourced to Germany.
The bracelet is comprised of five unusually shaped pieces of agate joined by four engraved silver squares. The ends of the bracelet are a hook, as is common with these bracelets, and a ring, and it is joined by a silver set banded agate padlock in the shape of a trefoil or clover leaf, engraved on one side and set with lightly banded rust colored agate on the other.
The next two bangles are Edwardian, from around 1901 to the beginning of WWI. One is an 18ct gold bangle with a central horseshoe motif set with seed pearls, with a foliate design on each side also set with seed pearls. Double bands of gold rails form the rest of the bangle. The bangle is hinged, with a box clasp and safety chain.
Different cultures have considered the horseshoe to represent good luck. In the British Isles, when the horseshoe is facing up with the rounded part at the bottom, it is associated with the shape of a cup and believed to gather good luck. A horseshoe facing down, with the rounded part at the top, and nailed above a door, is supposed to pour good fortune down on any person entering through the door. This bracelet can be worn with the horseshoe facing up or down so you can choose how to interpret the good luck.
The last bangle is a stunner. The top half is set with turquoise, graduating in size, while the bottom half has two gold knife edge bands joined with five thin cross bars. There is a central cluster of turquoise, comprising a flower cluster with three turquoise on each side. There is a gold safety chain with a little turquoise and gold trefoil charm. The bangle has a hinge and a box clasp.