Know Your Antique and Vintage Bracelet Styles

Old Jewelry Made to Adorn the Wrist

Like necklaces, bracelets have been worn since ancient times, and they're more popular than ever today. Find out how much they’ve have changed, and remained the same over time, with this overview of a number of vintage and antique bracelet styles.

  • 01 of 06

    Bangle Bracelet

    Carved Bakelite Bangle Bracelet
    Carved Bakelite Bangle Bracelet, c. 1930s. Photo by Jay B. Siegel for ChicAntiques.com

    Bangle bracelets are popular fashion expressions today, but they actually date back to ancient times. They can be made of any material that can be molded, carved or forged. And while they're round in shape many times, modern artsy versions take a variety of shapes. They come in varieties that can either slip over the wrist, which is more traditional, or those with hinges and clasps referenced as hinged bangles.  

  • 02 of 06

    Cuff Bracelet

    Chanel Gripoix Glass Cuff Bracelet, c. 1980s
    Chanel Gripoix Glass Cuff Bracelet, c. 1980s. Jay B. Siegel for ChicAntiques.com

     Cuff bracelets date back to 9th-century Byzantium, but they’ve been popular through the centuries and with virtually all cultures. While they can vary in width, they always circle the wrist like the cuff of a shirt, and can be open on the underside or be hinged and fasten with a closure. Modern designers have frequently utilized this style in both plain metal and jewel encrusted versions, whether in precious metals and gemstones or costume jewelry varieties. 

  • 03 of 06

    Line Bracelet

    Art Deco Platinum & Diamond Line Bracelet
    Art Deco Platinum & Diamond Line Bracelet, c. 1920-1935. Photo courtesy of prices4antiques.com

    This is a variety of thin, flexible bracelet (as opposed to a rigid bangle as shown above), consisting of a series of square or rectangular links, arranged in a single line, and set with a series of identical stones (or combinations of stones). This style was developed in the early 20th century, it became prevalent in the 1920s, reflecting Art Deco style with its emphasis on linear shapes, machine-like regularity in patterns and lighter, minimalist appearance. They were often worn in pairs with...MORE flapper style dresses.

    The line bracelet faded somewhat in popularity after World War II, but revived in the 1980s, usually with diamonds, as the tennis bracelet. These styles can also be found made with glass stones in sterling silver and plated based metals as well in both vintage and modern versions.

  • 04 of 06

    Slide Bracelet

    Slide bracelet with Victorian-style slides, 14K yellow gold, 1950s.
    Slide bracelet with Victorian-style slides, 14K yellow gold, 1950s. --Lang Antique & Estate Jewelry (www.langantiques.com)

    Originally, any bracelet (of ribbon or metal mesh) that was fastened with a slide, a type of open-frame clasp through which a chain or ribbon can be passed. The front of a slide is often elaborate while the back has one or two vertical bars, similar to a buckle but without the central tongue.

    In more specific terms, slides are now associated with bracelets composed of many individual slides strung on chain in rows of one or two, and usually separated by small metal balls. This type of bracelet...MORE developed in the early 20th century, often using Victorian slides (bejeweled or engraved pieces, tiny watches and even miniature portraits) that had been made out of watch fobs or heads removed from stickpins, and were used to adjust the length of a necklace.

    The slide bracelet saw a renaissance in the 1940s and 1950s. The retro variety is usually large and chunky, often with ready-made, imitations of vintage slides as opposed to recycled fobs and the like those seen in older pieces.

    Note: When referring to the latter type of slide, the term "Victorian slide bracelet" can be a misnomer, as the slides themselves may date from the 19th century, but the bracelet itself is probably younger. The original type of slide bracelet, however, is typical of authentic Victorian jewelry styles.

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  • 05 of 06

    Torc Bracelet

    Iron Age Torc Bracelets
    Iron Age Torc Bracelets. Wikimedia Commons / Photo by Helen Etheridge

    The torc originated as a neck ring (rigid necklace) or armlet that was open-ended. The two ends are typically capped with balls, cubes or a more ornate ornament such as gemstones. They can be made of precious metals or plated base metals with the body of the piece often twisted or braided.

    This is an extremely ancient style, with examples dating from 1800 BC in Egypt, it is typically associated with Celtic jewelry of the Iron Age (1200 BC-400 AD) and was revived in the second half of the 20th...MORE century by designers such as Georg Jensen and David Yurman, whose "torc bracelets" became especially popular.

  • 06 of 06

    Torsade Bracelet

    Cartier coral torsade bracelet
    Cartier coral and karat gold torsade bracelet. - Photo courtesy of Prices4antiques.com

     A bracelet style dating back to ancient Egypt made with a number of strands of beads, chains or other materials twisted together to encircle the wrist. Usually fasten with a clasp, but modern versions can be found strung on elastic that slips right over the hand. Also references a necklace style with the same twisting effect.