Are you thinking of purchasing a new bracelet but aren’t sure which style is for you? With more than twenty different styles of bracelet to choose from, it’s not hard to see why the choice is hard.
In this article we’ll take a look at the history of bracelets around the world and reasons for wearing them, as well as introducing both mainstream and obscure styles you might choose. We hope you enjoy learning about different types of bracelet.
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If you are not interested in learning each and every type of bracelet, here is a Quick Navigation for you. Just hit the link and it will take you to the details below.
History – Where did Types of Bracelet Come from
While bracelets these days are usually worn around the wrist, their origin is quite different. The word bracelet comes from a Greek word meaning ‘of the arm’.
An armlet may sound similar, but this arm ring would actually be worn on the upper arm, near to the arm pit. Armlets needed to be tightly fitting to ensure that they didn’t slip down your arm.
Bracelets have been used around the world for thousands of years. Like most jewelry, bracelets are now more commonly worn by women than men. In some cultures, it’s quite normal for men to wear bracelets, too.
In the past, jewelry was often a way to show off your status. If you were rich, you could afford to wear beautiful things. If you had a physical job like working in a field, it wouldn’t be practical to wear such adornments. This is still the case today, with those having manual jobs being encouraged or even forced to remove jewelry for work.
The Ancient Egyptians loved wearing beautiful things, and Queen Cleopatra is famed for having been the most beautiful woman on earth.
Bracelets found in Egypt have been dated back to 5,000 BC. Like much jewelry from that time, Ancient Egyptian bracelets often had a religious or spiritual meaning, and wearers would hope for good luck if they wore certain trinkets.
The Scarab Bracelet is one of the best-known decorations from Ancient Egypt. The scarab beetle was a symbol of rebirth and regeneration. Egyptians would wear golden jewelry to please the Gods and bring themselves good fortune.
Other cultures have attributed strong meanings to the jewelry they wore over the years.
- In both Bulgaria and Greece there is a tradition of tying a red and white string around your wrist. In Greece, this tradition is called ‘Martis’ and is said to protect you from the strong sun in the summer. In Bulgaria, the tradition is known as ‘martenitsa’ and you wear it to make spring come sooner because Baba Marta, the mythical figure who ends the winter, is pleased with you.
- Like many places, in India bracelets have a high significance relating to weddings and marriage. The number of bracelets a woman wears might signify whether she’s married or not. Gold bangles are particularly popular, but different materials and colors can also have significance.
- Bracelets are worn in Latin America to protect from the evil eye. Known as Azabache Bracelets, they are said to deflect envious looks from others who are jealous of you, and are popular gifts for babies.
- In China, bangles made of jade have been popular ornaments for women for thousands of years. The smooth, cold stone is said to have a cooling and regulating effect on the blood, and can bring the wearer good luck and posterity. Many Chinese women never remove their jade bangles.
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Not just decorative
We all know that bracelets make for an attractive piece of jewelry. However, there are many types of bracelet that have a functional use as well as a decorative one.
Bracelets with medical information marked on them can be a vital lifeline with anyone who has a serious medical condition.
Identity bracelets can help the authorities identify someone if they go missing, which is particularly useful for those living with dementia or a disability that means that can’t always tell you who they are.
Some bracelets have special cultural or religious meanings that make them important to the wearer. Finally, some bracelets are designed to raise awareness of certain issues and might be produced as a fundraising campaign.
20 Types of Bracelet
You might be surprised to know that there are multiple types of bracelet you can choose from. Some bracelets differ in the materials they’re made from or the type of clasp they have. Others are differentiated by their significance or function.
While some bracelets might be appropriate for everyday wear, others will be more suitable for formal events. Some bracelets can only be crafted by master artisans, whereas others are fun things to make for your friends.
Read on to discover the many different types of bracelet on offer.
1. Identification Bracelets
Much like the ID necklaces worn by military personnel (often known as ‘dog tags’), the purpose of these bracelets is to tell people who you are.
Some might think that such trinkets have a sinister or unpleasant meaning, as they can be used to identify people who have been in accidents when they arrive at hospital. However, how many children do you know who love having their name embroidered on their backpack or pencil case?
Many people like having items with their own name on, particularly if they have an unusual name. An ID bracelet is a personal piece of jewelry that can be engraved or marked not only with a name, but perhaps also a special date or quote.
ID bracelets are often made of metal such as gold, silver or platinum. The bracelet is in the chain link style, with a smooth plate where the name or message is engraved. Some people like to have the message on the upward facing plate, whereas others prefer a secret message that is worn against the skin.
2. Medical Bracelets
Like ID bracelets, a medical bracelet is there to convey information. If you have a medical issue that could be life threatening, you’ll need the emergency services to have access to this information as soon as possible.
If you’re involved in an accident or episode that means you can’t communicate with the paramedics, a medical bracelet can let them know that you require special help.
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The logo on a medical bracelet is known as the Star of Life. It’s a six-pointed star representing the six main tasks executed by rescuers all through the emergency chain. In the center of the star is the snake and staff emblem, usually in the colors red or blue with white.
Wearing a medical bracelet might warn of an allergy or medical condition, including things like epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, asthma, seizure, diabetes or anaphylaxis allergies.
3. Bangle Bracelets
In days gone by, bangles were a common type of bracelet because of their simplicity. Not requiring clasps or any moving parts, a bangle is a circular ring that is solid and slips over the hand to sit on the wrist. Several bangles can be worn together on one wrist, and the sound of them clinking together is similar to that of a wind chime.
These rigid bracelets used to be commonly made of wood, but are now common in plastic or metal. In China, jade bangles are the must-have accessory for women. Glass bangles are a common second choice to traditional gold bangles in India, and the glass comes in a variety of colors with special meanings attached.
A bangle can be thick and chunky, in which case it is usually worn on its own. Alternatively, thin bangles are popular and sometimes several thin bangles will be joined together with a link.
Flat bangles can be personalized with engravings. Some bangles are smooth and others are decorated with hammered metal, twists, set stones or other embellishments. You can also buy bangles that aren’t a complete circle but broken with charms at each end of the gap.
4. Friendship Bracelets
Jewelry isn’t just an appropriate gift to give your loved one – it can also be a great choice when buying a present for a treasured friend.
Friendship bracelets are popular amongst children and teenagers, but there’s no reason why adults can’t also enjoy exchanging bracelets that symbolize friendship.
One typical type of friendship bracelet will come in a pair. The bracelets will both have charms that match up or even fit together like a jigsaw, with one saying ‘best’ and the other saying ‘friend’.
As friendship bracelets are popular with children, it isn’t surprising that they’re often handmade rather than being crafted of expensive metals.
Woven or braided strands of embroidery thread or yarn can be used to make anything from simple to exquisite patterns, such as chevron or diamond pattern.
If you want to make friendship bracelets, think about what your friend means to you and what colors represent them or your friendship.
You can buy special kits or watch Youtube tutorials to learn how to make them. Beads and charms can be added to make the gift even more personal.
5. Charm Bracelets
Another type of bracelet that was traditionally popular with children but which has made a successful crossover into adult fashion is the charm bracelet. These are one of the most individual types of bracelet you can get and they’re completely customizable.
A charm bracelet is typically made from a metal chain and you can attach charms to it, often by linking onto or around the chain. Dangling charms are popular and are often made of silver, embellished with jewels or colored glass.
In Italy, modern charm bracelets are different in that the chain links and charms are the same thing. Links can be joined together and broken apart to change the size of the stretchy band or add in new charms.
The charm is on the flat surface of the link face, and sometimes you can get charms that dangle. With all types of charm bracelets, charms are chosen to signify something special to you and will reflect your personality.
Charm designs might include love hearts to remind you of your spouse, letters to represent or spell out names of loved ones, numbers to represent special days, pictures of your favorite hobbies, your country’s flag, religious symbols, your favorite color or zodiac sign.
6. Leather Bracelets
Are you looking to buy a bracelet for a special man in your life, or perhaps someone who is allergic to metal jewelry? Leather is one of the most popular materials when choosing bracelets for a man.
Also read: Tree of Life Doesn’t Always Mean Good?
Leather can be woven, braided and twisted into interesting shapes and designs. A leather bracelet might just have one style, or there might be several strands of leather linked together.
Sometimes leather bracelets are made entirely of leather with thin strands at the end to tie it onto your wrist, or slipknot ties to fasten it. Others will have a metal clasp, or even metal decorations to add to the look.
7. Link Bracelets
A popular choice of bracelet is the link bracelet because it’s so diverse in the styles on offer. A link bracelet will be made of metal links or chains that join together, and sometimes there will be links made from other materials such as precious gemstones.
It’s quite common to find link bracelets with designs that incorporate a repeating pattern, such as a link of decorative metal with gemstones either side. Link bracelets can be simple or highly decorative depending on what you’re searching for.
8. Beaded Bracelets
Do you remember threading beads onto a string as a child? Beaded bracelets aren’t just for children, and if you like the idea of making your own jewelry there are plenty of high-quality materials on the market for making beautiful beaded bracelets.
Beads with letters on are popular for making personalized jewelry. You can spell out your name, or perhaps an inspirational word such as ‘love’, ‘dream’, ‘wish’ or ‘hope’. Beads can be made from plastic, wood, gemstones or metal.
Beaded bracelets can also include charms. For a stunning accent, choose a beaded bracelet with just one special charm dangling from it.
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The beads can all be the same, or they could be different sizes and colors. Different beads can be used to tell a story. For example, a solar system beaded bracelet has beads of different shapes and sizes to represent all the planets – the perfect gift to show someone that they mean the world to you.
Christ’s Story bracelets (also known as Salvation bracelets) have beads to tell a story about the life of Jesus Christ, with a fish charm representing his name as ‘the fisher of men’ and a dove charm representing the holy spirit.
9. Stretch Bracelets
Are you worried about breaking or losing your jewelry? Some people are put off buying bangles that can easily slip off their wrist, or from buying rigid bracelets that could easily shatter and break. If this sounds like you, how about buying a stretch bracelet?
Rather than featuring a metal chain that could break, a core that could become dented or a rigid structure that could come apart, a stretch bracelet has beads or charms sitting on an elasticated band.
Easily to put on and take off, the bracelet can stretch over your wrist without breaking, and then contort to fit nicely without the worry of coming loose.
Another great factor of the stretch bracelet is that you don’t have to fiddle around with a clasp. Ever spent ages trying to put on a bracelet where the clasp is tricky if you’ve only got one hand? A stretch bracelet has no such clasp and you can slip it on instantly. No more fussing when you’re getting ready for a night out!
10. Shamballa Bracelets
If you like the look of beaded bracelets but don’t want charms clinking and jostling together on your wrist, a Shamballa bracelet can be a great alternative.
With a woven band instead of a metal chain or bangle, the beads are held in place as they are woven into the integral design of the bracelet.
Shamballa bracelets originate from the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. Beads are knotted together and so symbolize strength. Wearing a Shamballa bracelet represents the spirit of Buddhism – love and mercy.
These bracelets have been popular in the Western world for a long time, particularly with young women and traveler types. The typical beads will be spherical and covered in gems such as Swarovski crystals. Beads are available in a variety of colors and have different associated meanings.
11. Slap Bracelet
While out of fashion these days, many people will remember the popular ‘slap’ bracelets of the 1980’s and 1990’s.
Metal strips were covered in a soft material such as felt, and curved in such a way as to either be straight and rigid like a ruler, or curled up. Slapping one of these bracelets onto your wrist would cause it to curl around your wrist.
Decorated in bright colors or emblazoned with logos or mottos, these can still be bought for children but an adult market for these bracelets doesn’t really exist.
12. Gemstone Bracelets
If you love precious gemstones, why not buy a bracelet that incorporates some into the design? Available in a variety of styles, you can find gemstone beaded bracelets, bracelets with gemstone charms, bangles with decorative inlaid gemstones, gemstone links and many more.
A popular choice is to find a stretch beaded bracelet with the beads made of your favorite gemstone. The stones might be smoothed into spherical beads or irregular in shape.
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You can get bracelets with a variety of stones included, but we prefer bracelets where the beads are all made of the same stone.
If you want a gemstone to represent a certain meaning, here’s a list of some popular gemstones and what they mean:
- Rose quartz – love and beauty
- Citrine – wealth and happiness
- Jade – wealth and prosperity
- Lapis Lazuli – wisdom and creativity
- Amethyst – spirituality and creativity
- Tiger’s Eye – fortune and optimism
- Turquoise – healing and luck
- Moonstone – destiny and fertility
- Garnet – health and passion
- Clear quartz – energy and passion
13. Toggle Clasp Bracelets
If you struggle with tricky clasps, another one to consider is the toggle clasp. This sort of bracelet could be beaded, link or woven, but the difference is in how you put it on.
The bar and ring thread together to hold the bracelet in place. This sort of clasp is slightly more likely to come undone and fall off, but on the plus side it is far easier to put on than a traditional clasp.
14. Cuff Bracelets
Like a cross between an armlet and a bracelet, a cuff bracelet is a larger piece of jewelry and can take up anything from a quarter to one third of your wrist.
Styles vary, from woven and textile cuffs to open bangles and linked bangles. These are easy to put on, but some people find their rigid form uncomfortable to wear.
15. Loom Bracelets
Another type of woven bracelet that’s easy to make as a gift, Rainbow Loom was invented in 2010 and quickly became a popular jewelry for young girls.
You use small rubber bands and weave them together on the loom to make colorful bracelets. Over 8 million rainbow looms have been sold (as of 2014). This crafty activity became particularly popular at summer camps and similar events for children and teenagers.
16. Wristwatch Bracelets
Want to combine the look of a chic bracelet with the practicality of a wristwatch? This style of bracelet is both decorative and useful, enabling you to tell the time as well as wearing a gorgeous piece of jewelry.
17. Multi-Strand Bracelets
A single clasp is used to hold together multiple straps and strand, giving the appearance of many pieces of jewelry but without the hassle of all those different clasps to do up.
The nicest multi-strand bracelets incorporate a variety of styles – beads, chains, jewels, braids and more.
18. Tennis Bracelet
A name coined by Chris Evert, a USA tennis player from the 70’s and 80’s, these trinkets are slender and lightweight, meaning they can be worn by a sportsperson without hindering their game.
A continuous link of diamonds that flow with your body as you move, it’s a great choice for an active or sporty woman who wants a bit of glitz.
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19. Sports Bracelet
While not the most attractive option, sports bracelets are made of silicone rubber which means that they’re durable when playing sport.
Popularized by Nike and the cyclist Lance Armstrong, these days silicone rubber bracelets are often linked with awareness ribbons and will be printed with information about a certain cause, such as breast cancer, autism or veterans.
A more modern sports bracelet is smart fitness tracker band. Stylish and cool, it monitors your heart rate, count your steps and calories. Some models also tell you time and weather, track your sleep and even remind your SMSs.
20. Omega Bracelets
Fastening with a toggle clasp or hoop, omega bracelets are made of metal chains which are rigid but not tight fitting on the wrist.
They got their name as they imitate the omega wristwatch band and are produced by the same company. That said, many other jewelry industry players have joined the team after the style goes popular.
Where to Buy Those Types of Bracelet
There are numerous ways in which you can buy bracelets and once you’ve identified which type of bracelet you want to buy, it will make it easier to search.
You might want to buy your bracelet in person if you’ve chosen a style that will need to fit you exactly – for example, a Chinese jade bangle will be impossible to get on if it’s too small. However, most types of bracelet are fine to buy online, just make sure that you double check the sizes listed before purchasing.
If you want to shop online and want something unique, Etsy is a great place to start. Known as ‘the global marketplace for unique and creative goods’, Etsy is a fantastic place to find unique, handcrafted bracelets as well as vintage and antiques. Get a personalized, bespoke bracelet made just for you and support an artisan in the process.
If you like charm bracelets, there are numerous companies that put together bespoke packages so that you end up with the bracelet of your dreams. Pandora charm bracelets come in a variety of styles, from bangles and chains to leather and sliding designs.
Their high-quality charms both dangle and clip on, with decorative spacers available to accentuate your main charms.
An Italian style charm company to keep your eye on is Nomination. Their composable bracelets feature flat links that can be swapped with charms of your choice in a variety of colors and designs.
If you’re looking for affordable online shopping but want plenty of choice, here are a few top retailers to get you started. Baublebar is friendly on the wallet but has designs suitable for so many occasions, gorjana is a great choice is you love power gemstones, and H&M is an affordable choice with top trending designs.
If you want to shop more sustainably, try Ebay for a one-of-a-kind find that’s recycling, too.
Shopping in Person
Supporting local jewelry shops where you live is a great way to stumble across something surprising, and the great thing about buying locally is that you will also have a contact if you ever need your jewelry repaired.
If you like shopping for jewelry on holiday, here are some topic locations that are famed for their exquisite trinkets. Santa Fe in New Mexico is a hotspot for turquoise bracelets, and Marrakech in Morocco is a great place for silver in the bustling markets.
For luxury bracelets, visit Paris (France) and if its jade bangles you’re after, you’ll find retailers and markets across China. Traditional bangles can be bought in Jaipur in India, and you can grab a bargain from the markets of Bangkok, Thailand.