Western or Southwestern bracelets are almost always made in a solid-piece construction, such as a cuff or bangle. A cuff bracelet is usually rather wide, and shaped like the letter C. The opening on the piece allows it to be easily put on and adjusted for size and comfort. Bangle bracelets are typically thin and circular, and often worn in multiples. Bangles are made large enough to fit over the wearer’s hand, but not so large as to slip off while being worn.
Stretch bracelets are another style that has become popular in recent years. These are made with multiple pieces of metal (sometimes wood or stiffened leather are used as well), and connected with hidden pieces of elastic that encircle the wrist. The bracelet can stretch to be put on, and fits snugly on the wrist.
Silver is highly associated with Western style. Silver was abundant in the American Southwest, so it was the logical choice for adornments, and that association has stuck. Silver also is a perfect neutral accent, blending in with any other colors it’s paired with, adding sparkle and shine while allowing the other materials to take center stage. Western jewelry is also available in gold and copper tones, as well as even more precious metals such as platinum, but silver is the, ahem, gold standard. Skilled silversmiths all over the country specialize in Western styles and construction.
While some bracelets and other jewelry may be made strictly of precious metals, gems and stones are often a part of these items as well. Turquoise is common, for the same reason as silver – it was abundant in the Southwest. It is also an example of a striking and unique color, with distinctive markings on each stone. Every piece of turquoise is unique, which is a highly prized attribute to many who choose it. Other gems and stones are also used, from simple polished quartz to freshwater pearls, and even including precious stones such as rubies and sapphires.
The most distinctive part of a piece of Western jewelry is its use of motifs. The cowboy scenes depicted on bracelets, pendants, buckles, and other jewelry are instantly recognizable, and beloved by fans. Animals such as horses and eagles are very popular, as are symbols and wording associated with religious beliefs, especially Christianity, and patriotic sentiment. Another type of motif that is commonly used are stylized shapes and designs. Hearts, horseshoes, clovers, flowers, and simple swirling designs are all familiar motif designs in this style of jewelry.