One of the most popular categories of jewellery at Corazon Latino is our silver bracelets. They range quite dramatically in both styles and prices. The bracelet has come a long way since it conception, and I wanted to talk about the history of the bracelet and how it has come to be one of the most beloved types of jewellery in the history of the human race.
The History of Bracelets
Bracelets can be found in recorded history across almost every civilization in every time period. They have served as objects of great religious importance, worn to express power and wealth, and given as gifts between family and friends as they hold great symbolism.
The word “bracelet” traces back to ancient Greece and roughly translates to “of the arm”. Although the exact history of the bracelet was been long lost to speculation, it is known that bracelets can trace their roots back before written text. In fact, it is theorized that early humans wrapped animal hides around their wrists as trophies. However, this is still up for debate amongst scholars.
In the quest to find the oldest bracelet, scientist found archeological evidence that the Ancient Egyptians, Sumerians in Southern Mesopotamia, and civilizations in ancient China all wore bracelets as early as 5,000BC, but this was soon beaten by another significant discovery was made in 1995. An obsidian bracelet was found in Turkey and it dated all the way back to 7,500 BC. Scientists were astonished at the level of craftsmanship in the piece that lead scientist to believe that the civilization that made it had crafted these pieces for quite some time.
A majority of bracelets made during this time era where crafted from stones, wood, shells, followed by copper and bronze. It wasn’t until the bronze era that artisans started crafting bracelets of silver and gold and it was then that bracelets became a status symbol.
In 2008, Russian archeologists made a staggering shift to this number. They were excavating the Denisova Cave in the Altai Mountains in Siberia when they stumbled across a treasure trove of jewellery. To their surprise, they found a bracelet that was carbon dated to be around 40,000 years old! Given the track record of finding increasingly older bracelets, I wouldn’t be surprised if an older bracelet will be found in the near future.
Bracelets from Asia
Going back to China, as early as 2000 BC, the ancient Chinese carved intricate cuffs and bangles from jade. Also, gold bracelets were etched with elaborate patterns of animals and mythical creatures and were very valued at the time. Gold bracelets were also a very common site in India, but in recent times, this has shifted to glass beads and colorful metals.
Bracelets from the Mediterranean
As I mentioned before, the word bracelet traces its way back to Ancient Greece in which bracelets were very popular for various applications. The Greeks wore cuffs on both their upper and lower arms as decorations, while Greek soldiers used a metal variety as a part of their armor to aid in protection during battle. This practice was later adopted by the Roman army. Speaking of the Romans, well to do citizens wore gold coiled bracelets that resembled snakes on their arms, but this type of jewellery soon lost favor, particularly among men, as Europe transformed into the Middle Ages.
Bracelets in the 17th Century
During the 17th century, the use of bracelets among women in Europe made a huge revival. They often wore thin bangles and bracelets made of ribbon, often several at a time. By the 19th century, bracelet chains became a popular accessory and the designs linked medallions and cameos were decorated in ivory and coral. Later, the Victorian era brought about charm bracelets and dangling lockets.
Bracelets in the 20th Century
By time the 20th century rolled around, bracelets were being mass produced and could be found in almost every design imaginable. The 1920s moved past the ornate nature of the 19th century and gave way to the clean lines of the Art Deco period. In the 1930s, plastic bangles and bracelets were common fashion accessories for teenage girls. The 1950s brought charm bracelets made of gold plated brass and sterling silver, but it wasn’t until the 1970’s that women demanded a wide variety of designs to be used as fashion accessories. It was at this time that men’s bracelets came back in fashion, most notably in sterling silver link chains.
The Bracelets of Today
Over the past decade, silver has become the most popular material for cuffs, bangles, and link bracelets. This trend took hold in the 20th century when silver bracelets became mass produced as was became very popular because silver is less expensive than gold, but still gives off a brilliant shine of a precious metal. There are still a handful of skilled artisans that do create handmade silver bracelets, and Corazon Latino takes pride in the fact that we only purchase our pieces from these types of artisans.
The history of the bracelet traces back further than written record, and even today, the trend of wearing bracelets is as strong as ever. The bracelet has had a profound impact on modern jewellery as we know it and they are not going away any time soon.