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The bangle is back

Laura McCreddie-Doak
April 15, 2024
4.5 min

It’s official: women no longer wish to dress like milkmaids. The quiet luxury of Succession is still on our minds after the show’s ending. Gwyneth Paltrow’s ski-accident trial wardrobe left us taking jury notes. And even John Lewis has declared the floral midi dress to be well and truly over. In this atmosphere of purposeful simplicity, no one has time to style a stack, let alone untangle a mess of bracelets before even placing them on the wrist. Enter quiet luxury’s jewellery equivalent: the statement bangle.

The style has been around for millennia, with Egyptians wearing theirs adorned with precious stones and with hieroglyphs engraved inside; in ancient Greece, they came in leather and metal and were worn on the upper arm as well as the lower; in China they were made from jade as far back as 2000 BC. In pop culture, Wonder Woman’s accessories house her superpowers – the character’s Bracelets of Submission were reportedly inspired by a particular pair worn by creator William Moulton Marston’s research assistant and lover Olive Byrne, with whom, along with his wife, Elizabeth Holloway, he was in a polyamorous relationship throughout the 1940s (evidence of the potential for a singular bangle to exude power, confidence and single mindedness if ever there was one).

Chanel's Bouton collection combines the cuff with a secret watch

“With the last several years behind us, women have emerged with a fresh confidence and sense of style tailored to their individuality,” explains Jim Haag, managing director of Verdura. The story of the fine jewellery house, founded in 1939 by the impressively named Fulco Santostefano della Cerda the Duke of Verdura – Verdura for short – began in the late 1920s, when Coco Chanel asked Verdura to redesign her personal jewellery collection.

The fast friends bonded over a dislike of jewellery featuring huge solitaires: Chanel is quoted as saying “one might as well tie a cheque around one’s neck” about the style. This is why, when he developed his now iconic Maltese Cross cuffs, without which Chanel was rarely seen, Verdura instead used a kaleidoscope of precious stones. When arranged in a haphazard stained-glass window style against the background of a precious-metal Maltese Cross, the iconic statement bracelet was born. “The Maltese Cross cuffs (can be) customised to reflect the personalities of their wearers,” continues Haag of the style. “Eternally modern, they are the perfect combination of history, tradition, strength – and a certain edginess that sets women apart.”

From left to right: Chanel Tweed Royal Bracelet, Cartier Baignoire watch, Van Cleef & Arpels Perlée Toi & Moi secret watch, Piaget Limelight watch, Verdura Malteses Cross cuff

They may have originated in 1934, but Verdura’s Fulco cuffs have endured. Today, they remain a staple inspiration for many of Chanel’s collections: most recently the cuffs of the Mademoiselle Privé Bouton collection – which contain hidden watch faces – as well as its new Tweed high-jewellery line that includes a bracelet of yellow and white gold, set with diamonds and rubies that is in fact two connected cuffs (they can be worn as one piece, or transformed into two separate designs). It’s not just Verdura’s classic cuffs that have seen a resurgence. Elsa Perretti’s Tiffany & Co Bone Cuff, first introduced in the 1970s, has been worn on red carpets recently by Hailey Bieber and Venus Williams, as well as appearing in 2020’s Wonder Woman 1984 on Diana Prince as a witty nod to her Amazonian alter ego.

Elsewhere, there are some exciting emerging contenders betting on the trend. With their sights set on the market portion dominated by Cartier’s Love bangle, Tiffany & Co has released its own gender-neutral line of bracelets – the first genderless style in its nearly 200-year history. In 18-carat yellow, rose, or white gold, with optional diamonds, the Tiffany Lock is a modern reimagining of the brand’s signature padlock and features a clasp with an innovative swivel mechanism. Speaking at the launch, Alexandre Arnault of Tiffany & Co described this new design as an icon, obviously hoping it will occupy the same sartorial and emotional space as Cartier’s Love (one of the most searched for pieces of jewellery on Google).

Dior has also stepped into this space with its Gem Dior collection – a line of elegant, subtle diamond- set bracelets, with matching rings, that have been created to complement the Maison’s geometric stone-dial watches. While Victoire de Castellane designed her bracelets to accompany the house’s watches, some brands are alternatively incorporating watches into their bracelets. At this year’s Watches and Wonders, Piaget unveiled a stunning capsule collection of cuff watches. They had exquisitely hand-engraved bracelets, all with different finishes, out of which the stone-set dials emerged as if they had been excavated from rock.

Cartier is also playing the combination game with the 2023 relaunch of its Baignoire. Originally conceived in 1912, it was renamed “baignoire” in 1970 not after the French for bathtub as previously thought, but after VIP seats at the opera. Its elongated oval has now been placed on an elegant gold bangle as a nod to Cartier’s provenance as a jeweller as well as a watchmaker. “Cartier was a jeweller before being a watchmaker,” says Marie-Laure Cérède, creative director of jewellery and watch making at the Maison. “A Cartier watch blurs the boundaries between these two founding crafts and makes it possible to capture the best of both.”

Coco Chanel believed that adornment, and by extension jewellery, was not only egotistical but altruistic – because “its pleasure is (also) designed for others”. A statement bangle reflects that philosophy perfectly. The choice made between a bold cuff or It-bangle reflects your personality. How you wear it, is for the delectation of everybody else.