What Is a Slave Bracelet?

by Deb Powers

The term "slave bracelet" conjures visions of exotic Middle Eastern belly-dancing slave girls and Celtic knotted jewelry. No one seems to know the exact origin of today's popular jewelry fashion but there are different references to slave bracelets in fashion history.

History

According to oral historian E.J. Alagoa, Portuguese slave traders often paid for slaves in Portuguese coins called manillas, which the Nigerian traders fashioned into intricate bracelets. Some African traders also bent copper bars into bracelets that were used as money and referred to as "slave bracelets."

Early Fashion

In "Twentieth Century American Fashion," Linda Welters describes "slave bracelets" that were popular in the mid-1920s. According to Welters' description, the flappers' version was a bracelet made of rectangular links, often connected with enameled links. They were often worn in multiples.

Fictional Slave Bracelets

In the Gorean novels written by John Norman, slave bracelets were matching wrist bands, usually made of metal and often highly ornamented, linked to each other by a short length of chain.

Contemporary Slave Bracelets

In contemporary jewelry, slave bracelets consist of a wrist band or chain and a ring linked to each other by a length of chain.

Hand Jewelry

Some jewelry designers connect the bracelet and ring to each other with multiple strands of chains or with chain mail fashioned to ornament the back of the hand. A slave bracelet may also be connected to multiple rings.

References

About the Author

Deb Powers is an avid urban gardener who works with a community collective to promote sustainable urban agriculture and build partnerships between local business owners and community organizations. Powers serves as a social media and marketing consultant for local non-profits and businesses, and is collaborating with a coffee roaster to publish a cookbook highlighting coffee as a culinary ingredient.