Vintage early to mid-1920s trio of lampworked clear glass bangles feature ribbon-striped twists of color: Blue in two of them, and red in the third. Flat facets have been hand-cut into the outer rim of each bangle, increasing its light refraction and visual interest.
Lampworked from rods of glass that were cut into segments, twisted, bent, and joined end to end, they were likely imported from Czechoslovakia to satisfy the early 1920s craze in Western Europe and America for wearing armloads of colorful glass bangles.
The glass bangle vogue in the West mimicked Indian custom and peaked around 1924, with women that year even dyeing their dresses to match their bangles. Some reports claim the trend began with stylish British stage and film actress Gladys Cooper; others simply remark that the “feminine arm” in Paris had become “a cascade--or perhaps a ladder--of glass bangles. Each bangle is a different color, and the effect is bright and noisy”. (By 1926, glass bangles were demodé, displaced by the new Victorian-inspired snake bangles and jet-and-diamante bracelets).
The bangles came on the fashion scene with more than a hint of exoticism, as a 1924 newspaper reports: "These pretty baubles come from India, the home of romance, where the tinkle of her bracelets is all a groom may know of his bride-elect. Where myrrh and incense are real and actual. Where each ornament has symbolism and meaning.”
As to the meaning of the bangles: A 1897 newspaper article (based partly on Rudyard Kipling’s explanation) reports that such bangles were “regarded [in India] as sacred objects. If a glass bangle be accidentally broken, its pieces must be gathered together and kissed three times”. Part of the custom was said to include smashing the bangles with a brick or shoe when a woman became widowed, at which point she replaced them with silver or gold metal versions to signify her (reduced) status.
Though in the earlier 19th century the bangles were of domestic manufacture, by the late 19th century, imports made up an ever-increasing portion of the supply. By the early 1920s, tens of millions were imported annually to India from both Czechoslovakia and Japan, with (for a brief period) Western countries boosting the demand.
A touch under ¼” wide and with a combined digital weight of 1.6 ounces, the bangles have an outer circumference of 9.5”, inner circumference of 7.75”, and 2.5” diameter from edge to edge inside the bangle. They are in excellent condition.
NOTE: When acquired, the bangles (deaccessioned by a NY museum) were marked with red crayon museum inventory numbers, which I have cleaned off.
Proud Member of the VFG Vintage Fashion Guild