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Home » How to buy jewelry » How to buy a Bracelets
How to buy a Bracelets
By Ettagale Blauer

What could be prettier than a circle of diamonds shimmering on your wrist, catching the light as you move your arm, or a slender curve of gold enhanced with rubies and sapphires, coiling around your wrist, drawing attention to your hands and complementing your rings? The bracelet is one of the most romantic and elegant pieces of jewelry. It sets off your wardrobe and draws attention to details in your dress. It adds a flash of color and brilliance that catches the eye in a never-ending display of metal and stones. Sometimes half hidden by the cuff of a sleeve, the bracelet enchants with its ever-changing glint of gems and metal.

There are different types of bracelets as well as styles and materials. The term bracelet usually refers to a flexible piece of jewelry, one that drapes softly around the wrist. A well fitting bracelet should be loose enough to be comfortable and not put pressure on your wrist yet snug enough so it does not slide too far down onto your hand.

Bangles of different colors go great together A bangle is a slender, rigid circlet that seems to float along the wrist as the wearer moves her arm. Bangles are usually narrow and are often worn in pairs or trios. Some women like to collect bangles and mass them together to form a glimmering entity that creates its own music as they clink together. A bangle may be an endless circle or it may be hinged to make it easier to put on.

A cuff is a wide, rigid bracelet that may take the form of a circlet with a hinged opening, or it may embrace only three quarters of the wrist, leaving an opening to allow it to be put on. If you've chosen a wide cuff bracelet, there's a trick to getting it on your wrist. Don't try to put it on from the top of your wrist. Instead, turn your arm 90 degrees so the thumb is facing up. Now place the open end of the bracelet on the narrow part of your wrist and gently ease it on and around your wrist. To remove the cuff, reverse the process.

A striking gold mesh bracelet Mesh bracelets and chain link bracelets as well as free-form floral bracelets are among the many other types of bracelet designs. They range in diameter from narrow to wide and may lie flat against the wrist or have a circular design. They may be fashioned from a flexible, circular mesh that terminates in decorated ends.

Sometimes a 'terminal' is a place to catch a train but when we speak of a bracelet's terminals, we have in mind the details that finish off the open ends of the piece. A bracelet with a flexible shank may be open at the ends, allowing it to be slipped on and off easily, yet still be secure on your wrist. The terminals are a principal design element of the bracelet. In addition to the artistic working of the metal, they may be set with colored gems, usually cabochons. These tips are so pretty, you may want to wear the bracelet with the open end on the upper part of your wrist, to show them off. The other choice is to turn the open ends to the inner part of the wrist, and just let them flash a bit of color as you move your arm this way and that. These terminals may overlap a bit, crossing over each other. Crossover design bracelets sometimes continue all the way around your wrist to form another coil, creating a double or triple bracelet look. The flexibility of the mesh used to create the circlet makes it possible to slip the bracelet on and off.

Bracelet designers have devised a variety of ways to open the bracelet to put it on and then close it securely around your wrist. There may be a clasp or a spring ring; the bracelet may be hinged or have a hidden device that allows you to put the bracelet on and take it off. Whatever method the designer has chosen, the device should be unobtrusive and in harmony with the bracelet. Most bangle bracelets have internal clasps, often a tongue and groove device that is beautifully hidden from view. Flexible bracelets may close with an over-lapping clasp that is integrated into the overall design of the piece. A secure closure is important since bracelets are subject to more wear and tear than any other piece of jewelry.

Choose To Suit Your Style
There's no need to restrict yourself to just one type of bracelet. Different types are suitable for the many different occasions in your life where you're wearing very different kinds of clothes. They cover a wonderful multitude of styles and designs. Take a look at your wardrobe: what kinds of jacket or dress sleeves do you usually wear? If the answer is slim and fitted, your bracelet should be chosen with that proportion in mind.

Do you like blouses with frilly cuffs? Consider a lacy bracelet, or perhaps an antique bracelet from the Victorian era. Are your clothes more tailored? Then choose an elegant bracelet in gold, or flush-set with diamonds. Color, of course, plays a major role in choosing a bracelet. You can match up colored gemstones set in collets and linked together with white or yellow gold.

A few basic rules also apply in matching up bracelet and wearer. A very slender wrist and arm will look best with a narrower bracelet, or an open-work design that gives a light and airy appearance. An average wrist and arm can support most any style. A wider wrist or heavier arm looks best with a bolder bracelet, one that has enough substance to command attention and balance the size of the wearer's arm and wrist.

There are some signature style bracelets that go well with nearly any type of outfit and just about any woman's personal style. One such wearable wonder is the tennis bracelet, worn memorably by tennis champion Chris Evert, hence the name. This simple yet very elegant bracelet may feature a row of circular diamonds set in prongs or a series of channel set baguette and round diamonds. The tennis bracelet is one of those pieces of jewelry that some women just wear all the time, like a wedding band. It can vary in importance according to the size of the diamonds. For a casual, easy to wear, everyday kind of tennis bracelet, choose small diamonds set in yellow gold. For a major statement, and especially for evening, choose a platinum or white gold bracelet set with large stones. The tennis bracelet is definitely a contemporary classic.

The tennis bracelet made famous by Chris Evert Charm bracelets have been in and out of style through the decades. They were popular with movie stars of the l950s as well as high school girls of that era but they re-emerge periodically to capture our attention. The charm bracelet starts with a classic link, as narrow or wide as the wearer chooses. These links will support the charms as they are added to the bracelet. The charms dangle from the links, spaced out to create a harmonious design. As charms are added, the spaces grow smaller. Over the years, the wearer creates a personal piece of jewelry that reflects the important occasions of her life. Multitudes of designs in the shape of objects or symbols, often engraved with significant dates, spell out the landmark moments of the wearer's life. Charms may be added to any link bracelet. If this is your ultimate goal, choose one with links that are large enough to support the charms and solid enough to balance the added weight and volume of the charms.

Finishing Touches
Whether you choose the classic bangle, a bold gold cuff, or a bracelet set with stones, the surface treatment of the metal is an important part of the overall look. The gold may be bright and shiny, polished to gleam and reflect like a mirror or it may have a softer look with a subtle pattern or texture to the surface. This is achieved in a variety of ways. Working with a texturing machine or by hand, the surface is etched, brushed or cross-hatched until it takes on a rich and more detailed look. One of the techniques is diamond-cutting, the use of a very sharp blade that makes minute cuts in the surface. A simple rasp or file may be used to texture the gold, producing a softer look. These details are an important part of the style of a bracelet and will influence the way it contrasts or coordinates with your clothes.

Gemstones enhance the design as well as the appeal of a bracelet. Small diamonds may be pavé set along the surface of a delicate bangle; they may be set in collets or bezels and then spaced along an open-work lattice design, or they may be prong set and strung together along the length of the bracelet to form a tennis bracelet.

Choose your bracelet in the metal that best sets off your wardrobe and your lifestyle. The cool and sophisticated look of 'white on white', diamonds set in white gold or platinum is very appealing to some while the warmer look of yellow gold creates a quite different feeling. The choice of diamond shapes, too, can change the feeling of a bracelet. Baguettes, square cuts and larger rectangular cuts are very elegant; round or brilliant cuts are warmer and have a bolder in the larger sizes. Your personality and personal taste, your sense of style, can be expressed in your choice of bracelets.

Because bracelets are subject to more wear and tear, take time occasionally to look at the settings of the stones in your bracelets to see that they are secure. As with all fine jewelry, remove your bracelets when you're planning to do dishes or to wash your hands. Soap and cleansers aren't friendly to jewelry; they dull the stones and the metal. And scraping up against dishes or pots and pans certainly won't do the surface of the metal any good. Take that extra minute to take off your bracelets, and your rings, and you'll be rewarded with pretty, sparkling jewels (as well as clean dishes)!

Ettagale Blauer writes about fine jewelry for consumer magazines. Her books on jewelry include Contemporary American Jewelry Design (Chapman and Hall) and Wristwatches: Five Decades of Style and Design (Schiffer). Her latest book is African Elegance, on the arts and crafts of sub-Saharan Africa

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