Bracelets - alone or in clusters - are one of the most popular forms of jewelry. Present since the earliest times, a hinged hoop bracelet inlaid with gems was found in the tomb of the Egyptian Queen Ashhotep. A 1750 B.C. statue from India depicts a dancer whose arm is covered with bangles from wrist to elbow, and gold serpents to coil around the wrist appeared in the 3rd century B.C. Ancient Andean peoples became fine jewelers, and Chavin culture masterpieces still inspire Peru's contemporary designers. In Mexico, the Mixtecs crafted superb silver bracelets. Silver was the medium of choice in Africa, but Ashanti tribal chiefs had private workshops for gold jewelry.
The handmade bracelet probably evolved from talismans. Fashionable in the 1950s, they recently experienced a revival and the charms are usually personal or symbolic. Handmade leather bracelets vary from braids with sterling silver to wide leather bands that communicate a sense of power.
Today's beaded bracelets are traditional but also may include ceramic globes, gemstones and even beads made from recycled magazines. The simple elegance of tennis bracelets makes them a perennial favorite. And unusual materials like brass, palm fibers, bamboo and wood each have an informal beauty all their own.