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Bah humbracelet. December 26, 2011

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. This was a good Christmas for bracelets. I got a gorgeous amber bracelet from our friend Ben, two silver bracelets from my family, and a beaded bracelet from a friend. I love bracelets, so I was very happy. And very aggravated (a sentiment echoed by the longsuffering OFB).

I don’t know what it is about bracelets, but I wish bracelet designers would realize that those of us who wear them aren’t eighteenth-century ladies with our abigails (personal maids) dancing attendance. Why are bracelets still impossible to put on?!

Take the so-called lobster clasps (please). Named for their supposed resemblance to a lobster claw, to fasten a bracelet using one, you have to push down a pin to open the “claw,” then insert the opened claw into a ring on the other end of the bracelet. It takes OFB, on average, five attempts to fasten a lobster clasp, and that’s with me holding the wretched thing immobile with my free hand. Imagine the hours of entertainment trying to do this by yourself, as the ring end slides off your wrist every time you approach it with the opened claw. Not to mention that holding a lobster clasp open while attempting this is the best way I know to break a nail, since you have to use your nail to hold the claw open. GRRRRRRR!

The older style of this form of clasp, which has a ring, also with a pin that must be held open, and a teensy ring on the other end of the bracelet, is no better. I’ve never had a lobster clasp break (unlike my nails), but have had a number of the old-style clasps break. And of course, the even older-style open hook-and-ring or hook-and-clasp fasteners come open so easily, wearing one is like asking to lose your bracelet. (Something to keep in mind if you hate a gift bracelet, but really, Goodwill is a more generous option.)

Then there are bangles. I say, if a bracelet can go on over your hand, it can also fall off. But the real issue with bangles is how clunky they are. Far from decorating your arm, they hang like shackles over your hand, clacking and clanking every time you move your arm and disguising your lovely slender wrists, especially if you wear several at a time. This is especially true for people like yours truly, with enormous hands and slender wrists. By the time I can find a bangle that will go over my hand, it’s practically big enough to wear around my neck. I love bangles as curtain pulls and stands for circular objects, but I don’t wear them as jewelry.

Cuff bracelets, by contrast, are easy to get on. They also easily fall off, usually when you’re in a busy shopping center, jostling packages and wearing a coat. By the time you get home and take the coat off, discovering to your horror that your beloved bracelet is missing, it’s generally gone for good, no matter how hard you try to retrace your steps. (Take this from one who knows.) The exceptions to this rule are the heavy, flat silver cuff bracelets made by Navajo silversmiths. They are painful to put on, but once they’re on, they’re on. Until you have to risk a bruise or two getting them off.

At the opposite end of the spectrum are the bracelets that are easy for a person to put on with one hand, and they’re comfortable to wear, too. But they’re fragile, and the more you love to wear them, the sooner they break. These include beaded bracelets strung on elastic thread, my favorites for easy on-easy off wear. But you haven’t lived until you have a pearl stretch bracelet break in an airport, strewing pearls everywhere. Gack!!! Memory wire is also easy to put on, but its memory eventually becomes faulty and the bracelet loses its shape.

Speaking of beaded bracelets, the ones with the beaded loop-and-ball fasteners are the worst of all in my opinion. These tend to be flat, elaborately beaded bracelets that fit very close to the arm, so there’s no extra room on the band; the fastener is directly against your arm. And because the beaded loop isn’t elastic, trying to shove the bead that holds the bracelet closed through the (always too-small) loop is virtually—make that actually—impossible with one hand.

The design that, in my opinion, should take the prize for ease of fastening, durability, and comfort is the bracelet that opens in two halves, then fastens close around your wrist. The size of your hands is no longer an issue, as it is with bangles, and the bracelet fits comfortably rather than bouncing around on your arm, crashing painfully into your hand, or, if you wear several, clanking like the chains on Marley’s ghost. I have several antique versions that close with a pin-and-chain mechanism, and a modern one that snaps together.

But this design is also fatally flawed. The pins on the older bracelets inevitably fall out, allowing the bracelet to gape open on your arm. While the chain usually prevents the bracelet from actually falling off, it’s a horrible feeling knowing that your bracelet is hanging open when your arms are (of course) full of books or groceries. Realizing that the bracelet has come open yet again in the middle of a party, business dinner, or event, and not knowing how long it’s been like that, is also, shall we say, disquieting. And the modern version can only take so much snapping before it snaps permanently. (Especially when the person doing the snapping is OFB, who’s become delighted with this new toy and is rushing around the house clicking it open and shut like a castanet. But I digress.)

So jewelry designers, please. Those of us who wear bracelets are not octopi or Shivalike beings with multiple arms to help us cope with your mechanisms. Nor do we enjoy losing our beloved bracelets because they’ve slipped off or broken. And let’s just say that it does nothing for our relationships to constantly be begging for bracelet-fastening assistance. Please, there must be a better way! Find it, and your fortune is assured. Along with our undying gratitude.

           ‘Til next time,