What is the difference between a bangle and a bracelet?
Bangles and bracelets are both worn on the wrist or arm and may look similar at first glance, but they have some important differences.
Understanding is empowering
A bangle and a bracelet possess separate origins, lineage and purposes. Celebrating the intrinsic differences between these two accessory powerhouses empowers self-expression and elevates personal style to the next level.
After all, jewelry has a powerful voice that is amplified by a deeper understanding of its symbolism, heritage, purpose, and timeless collaboration with fashion. As Iris Apfel says, “Fashion you can buy, but style you possess.”
Clasping the difference
A classic clue to confirming the difference between a bracelet and a bangle is the clasp. A bracelet always has a clasp. A bangle is rigid or features a hinged opening for a snug fit. Bangles were traditionally made of metal and worn gathered together. Bracelets were conventionally delicate chain-based pieces intended to be worn on their own.
Both bangles and bracelets have been made from all sorts of materials, including shells, beads, gemstones, leather, string, candy, wood, metal, clay, and fabric. Bangles tend to be chunkier, solid representations, while bracelets tend to be finer in detail and feature links and chains.
Ancient lineage, independent spirit
We have been adorning our wrists with amulets and jewels for centuries. The earliest evolutions featured bone, shell, wood and stone. Bangles and bracelets were worn for a variety of reasons including warding off evil and expressions of culture, heritage, health and marital status.
The etymology of each word is different, and they originate from different periods and cultures. "Bracelet" dates back to the Latin "bracchium" and the Old French derivative "bras". Both words mean "arm". The term "bangle", meanwhile, is derived from the Hindi word "bangli", meaning "glass bracelet".
Timeless tradition, enduring symbolism
While both styles share ancient origins, their heritage hails from different corners of the globe. The bangle has its roots in South East Asia and Africa. Ancient Egypt’s famous scarab bracelet is an early example of a bracelet and was worn to represent renewal and regeneration.
The Bulgarian tradition of tying white and red yarn around the wrist denotes their appeal for spring to arrive. In some areas of India, people announce their marital status through the quantity and style of bangles worn. Some South American babies wear an "azabache", which is a gold bracelet (or necklace) featuring a red or black coral amulet in the shape of a fist. The charm is believed to ward off the "evil eye".
A spectrum of style
In today’s jewelry box, we can discover standard statement pieces including the effortlessly elegant diamond tennis bracelet, vibrant beaded sub-Saharan African bangles, medical bracelets and ornamental charm bracelets.
In general, a trio of standard styles of bracelets and bangles feature throughout the spectrum of styles available: hinged, link and slip-on. It’s helpful to understand their different features and uses.
Bangles distinguished by a hinge ensure a snug fit on the wrist. They favor metallic materials and chunky gemstones and are a favorite statement piece. Link bracelets are an elegant option designed to fit the wrist comfortably, allowing the links to fall in smooth succession. Slip-on bracelets, like this Sterling Silver 1/4ct TDW Diamond Bar Bolo Bracelet, are styled as the name suggests, featuring a wide enough circumference to slip easily onto the wrist or an open-ended circumference.
The evolution of arm candy
The evolution of arm candy has witnessed the blurring of traditional rules, such as grouping delicate jeweled bracelets together. Now, people are wearing a few chunky bangles made of wood and plastic featuring beads and crystals. Colorful, dynamic designs, like this Multi-Strands Swarovski Elements Bracelet in 14K Rose Gold, capture the attention of fashion-forward oracles the world over.
Indeed, leading style mavens predict trends for 2021 will include oversized metallic pieces as well as blending textures such as beads, yellow gold and pearls to form dainty pieces. Bangles are predicted to be both bold and beautiful this year, featuring a spectrum of textures, colors, sizes and styles. Expect to see geometric and spherical focused pieces, like this Silver Plated Intertwined Honeycomb Matrix Women's Bangle, adorning the wrists of designer runways, amplifying fashion’s enduring voice.
Today’s trends are intended to inspire and maintain fashion’s forward momentum. Our magpie selves are attracted to color, texture, stones, shapes and metals. We gather shiny trinkets and collect clues. We experiment, and our signature style evolves over time. Understanding the basic differences between iconic accessory staples such as the bangle and bracelet enables us to continuously expand our ability to accentuate our look and express ourselves.