A historical brief on who were the first to wear mens bracelets.
Men's and Women's bracelets date back to Biblical times. In fact, there are a number of references to bracelets in the Old Testament of the Bible.
The first occurs in the book of Genesis 24:22, when the servant of Abraham is sent to Abraham’s home village to find a wife for his son, Isaac. The servant asks for divine intervention in the selection of Isaac’s wife, and is ultimately led to a woman named Rebekah.
As soon as the servant realizes that she is the one selected by God, he gives her a gold ring for her nose, and two gold bracelets weighing 10 shekels for her wrists. Ten shekels is the equivalent of four ounces. At today’s gold prices, those two (24K) bracelets would have been worth about $4,000. Think about what the bracelets were worth 5,000 years ago!
The servant is invited back to Rebekah’s house to meet her family, and there he presents more gifts of silver and gold jewelry to Rebekah, and other ‘valuable gifts’ (10 donkey-loads, we’re told) to her mother and brother, but the jewelry gifts appear to have been just for Isaac’s future bride.
Fortunately, Rebekah’s father, Laban, agrees to the marriage, and Rebekah returns with the servant to meet her future husband.
This story illustrates the use of jewelry, specifically rings and bracelets, as a token of love and promise of future support dating back to the very earliest of times.
The next reference to bracelets comes in the book of Numbers 31:50. God has commanded Moses to wage war on the Midianites, and to annihilate them because they had led the Israelites into idolatry. Twelve thousand of Israel’s best troops go into battle, and by the end of the war, all of the Midianite men have been killed, but there were no Israeli casualties.
After the soldiers divide the spoils, the army commanders come to Moses and present a thank offering to the Lord consisting of bracelets and other silver and gold jewelry valued at $300,000 (in Moses’ time). So, from this we learn that bracelets and other jewelry could be used as a payment, or tribute, because of its value.
But, it isn’t until the book of 2nd Samuel that we discover that bracelets weren’t just worn by women back in old testament times. They were also worn by kings and other wealthy men. In 2 Samuel 1:10 we learn that Saul was wearing bracelets when he died on Mount Gilboa. The Amelekite who killed him brought Saul’s crown and one of his bracelets to David.
Interestingly enough, there are no references to bracelets, mens or womens, in the new testament, and only three or four references to jewelry of any type.
Men’s bracelets didn’t become very popular in the United States until the middle of the 20th century, when Photo ID bracelets were introduced by the Speidel Corporation of Providence, Rhode Island. Men typically wore a watch and a wedding ring (if married), cuff links, and a tie bar (or tie tack), and that was it for men's jewelry! But, during the 1950’s and early 1960’s, ID bracelets became popular with teens, and the ID bracelet craze spread to grown-ups. Soon, it was common to see men wearing bracelets. And, not just men. There were women’s ID bracelets and children’s ID bracelets as well.
What was very different between these bracelets and the ones that might have been worn by King Saul, of course, is that these had individually cast links that were chained together, and the bracelets were made of base metal with a silver plate. King Saul’s bracelet was probably all one piece, what we would today call a bangle bracelet, and it was no doubt made of pure 24K gold. King Saul’s bracelet was probably also engraved with an intricate design. We learn from the description of the building of King Solomon’s temple that engravers and engraving existed even in the time of Solomon.
But, men’s ID bracelets started to disappear from the scene by the end of the 1960’s, and although different manufacturers tried several different approaches to try and revive men’s bracelets in the 1970’s, the market continued to fade.
We have the Italians to thank for reminding us in the 21st century that men’s bracelets can be stylish and trendy, and the Chinese for introducing stainless steel link ID bracelets for men, and men’s titanium bracelets. The Italians introduced machine-cut links to give a multi-faceted look to a men’s bracelet, and their recent introduction of stainless steel with leather bracelets and rubber with stainless men’s bracelets has re-inspired men to want to wear bracelets again. Several manufacturers, including Speidel and Colibri, have introduced new lines of trendy and even retro men’s and women’s ID bracelets, and the result has been that bracelets are back on men’s wrists.