I’m making party dressing easy for you this Christmas. Dress down and pile ’em high: a simple shift dress or loose silk trousers and shirt offset with armfuls of bangles. The California casual-cum-Parisian chic layered look has now made its way from cluttered charm necklaces through silky, beady, hippie bracelets to bounteous bangles infused with a touch of Nancy Cunard flair. Jingling, jangling, stacked, mixed or matched, the layered-bangle look is more sophisticated and polished than myriad friendship bracelets, but more relaxed and laissez-faire than a formal cuff. Jewellery lovers are wearing many from a single designer, as well as mixing instantly recognisable classics with something slightly offbeat. Tierney Horne, business partner of jewellery designer Rosa de la Cruz (£1,625), says: “It’s about curating and collecting beautiful jewellery pieces and layering them: combining vintage with new and mixing different materials and sizes – even adding a great watch.”
Italian-born, London-based designer-jeweller Carolina Bucci, who launched her business with woven gold and silk interpretations of the childhood friendship bracelet, is noticing – and fuelling – this layered-bangle trend. “What I’m seeing on my clients’ wrists are a Cartier Love [£4,450] or a Juste un Clou [£4,850] mixed with my Lucky bracelets [from £125] or a Gitane bangle [£930]. The mix and match gives a modern, personal twist.” Even for clients who prefer to stick to one style, it’s how the bangles are stacked – the arrangement of colours, metals and textures – that makes the look individual. Bangles have always been Bucci’s favourite item, and today they still make up 80 per cent of her collections. “Bracelets are my main passion. I like to see what I’m wearing. For me, it’s important that the person wearing the jewellery can enjoy it herself, and play with it during the course of the day.” Her slim, owl-themed Gitane bangles (from £870) hug the wrist; made in yellow, white or rose gold, they are hand-textured with her exclusive “Florentine” sparkly finish, and the classically styled open ends are ornamented with an owl’s wing or eye motif-utilising different stones in harmonised colours, such as turquoise, opals and blue and grey diamonds. They work well with the narrow versions of the Gitane feather bangle (from £870), which have the feather pattern dotted with small colour-harmonised stones. Her personal response to the stacking trend is the new Mirador Lazy bangle stack (from £4,570), 23 layers of slender Florentine-finished bangles in coloured gold designed to “solve her problem” – the noise of jangling, which drives her crazy. “I’m Italian, I use my hands a lot. I like to wear a lot of bracelets – so there’s a lot of sound.” She fastened a mass of slender gold bangles to one long clasp, producing the effect of layers but in one joined stack, thus eliminating the sound annoyance.
Personally, I think the jangling of bangles is part of their appeal – alongside the physical sensation as they sit heavy on the wrist and slide along it. The sound becomes part of your persona, announcing your arrival – like perfume. I particularly enjoy the muted clack of wood on wood – Belmacz has a wonderful wardrobe of wooden bangles (from £630) that reference tribal patterns and look spectacular piled up together, perhaps interspersed with a bangle of mammoth tusk (from £688) or a slender, corrugated Harlequin in oxidised silver or 18ct gold.
But alongside this sensuality is the provocative vision of the feminine wrist enslaved, and it is this that influenced the design of Pomellato’s original 1970s Schiava, with its voluptuous rounded silhouette and hidden clasp. Now a bestselling Pomellato classic, the Schiava has recently been updated in permutations of rose gold and brown diamonds, named the Tango collection (£27,800).
The 1970s vibe doesn’t stop there, though. Take Dina Kamal’s twisted gold ID bangle (£4,675), handmade in traditional style in Beirut and an eminently stackable, rigid version of the 1970s “gourmette” chain. It’s there too in Van Cleef & Arpels’ Perlée bangles (£18,500); created with stacking in mind, the different versions of the silky bands are edged with rippling golden beads taken from the border of the Alhambra motif – another 1970s classic. There’s also been a huge resurgence of affection for Cartier’s industrial-chic Love and Juste un Clou bangles – both also seminal 1970s designs. An update on the former is the new B-Love bangle (price on request) in rose gold with brown and white diamonds, which is cunningly designed as two bangles in one – one thick, one thin – to replicate the stacking effect. Pierre Rainero, Cartier’s style, image and heritage director, explains: “We noticed that many of our clients who’d been given a Love bangle were buying more for themselves in different permutations – other golds or with diamonds and so on. So we had the idea to combine them.” It was a similar story for Juste un Clou; the new, slender version, whose nail head is accented with diamonds, works well with this season’s double‑headed white- or yellow-gold Panthère bangles (from £7,400). Rainero says: “The different versions and finishes make them collectable. Wear them together and the effect is both ethnic and urban, with something amuletic too.”
This exoticism and casual opulence harks back to India, where bangles are embedded in culture and tradition. Gold or silver versions are amassed as a store of wealth, glass bangles are distributed at weddings, and in tribal areas bangles are an indication of social standing. Sameer Lilani, head of Amrapali UK and Europe, believes that this translates into western culture too. “People want to be part of a tribe, it’s like membership of a club – as with watches.” Over the past two or three years, he has found that clients are far more creative with their bangles, mixing gold, diamonds and coloured stones, or ethnic-Indian with western styles, and often reworking old jewels into modern bangles. Most popular are Amrapali’s “polki”-set bangles (£14,000), their softly glistening, organic-shaped, flat-cut Indian-style diamonds pressed into the gold to produce a rich yet understated exotic look.
So too Bulgari, despite being quintessentially Italian, has subtly referenced Indian jewellery. In its Musa bangles (£5,600), each polished, contoured armband has a vibrantly coloured gemstone – citrine, blue topaz, amethyst – cut in the marque’s signature soft “Tahkti” Indian style. Armenta’s Midnight bangles (from £550), collected fanatically by the brand’s devotees, have a similar sense of ethnicity (although they are in fact made in Texas), expressed through their mix of intricate carved gold and darkened oxidised silver.
Valérie Messika, founder of diamond-jewellery brand Messika, talks of “accumulating”. She too finds that her clients include her bangles in an eclectic mix – such as her Move bangle (£12,800), with its little loose diamonds sliding around an oval opening, or her Spiky bangle (£4,030) with its stud motifs in gold, blackened gold or fully pavéd with diamonds. “Today precious jewellery is worn in a casual way,” she says. “An accumulation of bangles is a very rock ’n’ roll way of wearing serious jewellery.” This season Messika launches a special version of the Move bangle (£14,800), fully pavéd in white diamonds, with three moving pink diamonds.
And indeed there is an abundance of choice for Christmas: a bevy of beautiful bangles as designers and jewellery houses tap into the pick‑and-mix craze. But the art lies in the choice – the personal mix of textures, sheen or shine, colours, metals, stones, widths, shapes, contours and volumes. Also look to the Tiffany & Co T collection, conceived by design director Francesca Amfitheatrof expressly to work with the layered-bangle look. It’s strong, streamlined, architectural and again has that 1970s modernist energy. The bangles, with two “T” shaped terminals, come in rose, white and yellow gold (£4,075; black rhodium will be available next year), in different thicknesses and with a sprinkling of diamonds. Other bangles to throw into the mix are Chanel’s slim Ultra (£4,175), a play on its much-loved black and white theme in ceramic; Boucheron’s famed Quatre (£18,050) in a very slim version; De Beers’ Azulea (£2,275), with its diamonds set into coloured and hand-hammered gold; Boodles’ clean, crisp Jazz bangles (£4,900) in chamfered gold, with or without diamonds; and Astley Clarke’s pair of Inverted bangles (£245), used to top and tail a stack, which adds architectural rigour to the wrist mix.
Some of the best sculpturally minimalist designs can be found at Georg Jensen – in its revival of a fluid, front-fastening Torun (from £325) or the new Dune design (£6,850), with its soaring, curved contours that have an organic quality echoing sand dunes and are edged in cinnamon-toned diamonds. For the warm richness of gold, turn to Buccellati’s Classica bangle (from £9,464), which shows the brand’s celebrated hand-engraved silk finish, embedded with star-set diamonds. Meanwhile, Dior’s My Dior collection weaves its signature gold “cannage” into an openwork cuff (from £6,200). To add a pop of colour, head to Solange Azagury-Partridge, queen of Chromance – the name of her latest colour-soaked collection that includes bangles set on three sides with diamonds (£18,000), rubies, emeralds or sapphires. Or, to play more with gemstones, look at Annoushka’s Dusty Diamonds bangles (£3,500) with their stream of sultry yellow, green or silvery diamonds; or the lively, open, skinny bangles (from $995) by the American design duo Jemma Wynne.
The bangle has also become a vehicle for talisman, sign or symbol; a stack is the new charm bracelet. Istanbul-based brand Bee Goddess, founded by Ece Sirin, updates ancient symbols with contemporary flair: take a look at her honeycomb, arrow or lightning flash (£2,580). Elsewhere, Chaumet tops a thin gold and diamond armband (£3,570) with its Liens cross-stitch; Dior encircles the wrist in its signature Bois de Rose (£2,500), a lilting thorny circle of rose gold; at Chanel a diamond feather (£8,175) alights on the wrist; and for Asprey, Shaun Leane has taken one shapely, floating oak leaf from his charming Woodland collection and settled it on a gentle twist of gold (£4,000). Wearing several of these symbols together creates a personal and unique message.
This season we are what you’d call spoilt for choice. But the choice means it’s easy to make the look your own and reflect your style, loves and life, milestones and memories, says Cartier’s Rainero. “The wrist is the place to express yourself, the richness of your own life.” So prepare to jangle those bangles this Christmas.