Thursday, March 20, 2008

When it comes to jewelry, the wrist often is the lonely stepsister to the neck and fingers.

But this year, the lovely wrist is having a very good season. Bangles and cuffs of all sizes, shapes, colors and materials are everywhere and at every price, which makes them the easiest and most fun spring fashion item.

Designers such as Ralph Lauren, Roberto Cavalli and Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel threw them on models by the armful for their spring ready-to-wear runway presentations, and A-list celebs including Halle Berry, Penélope Cruz and Beyoncé were quick to follow suit.

High-end retailers such as Cartier and Tiffany have always done steady business in gold, platinum and silver bracelets, but this season's best bangles aren't your grandmother's precious heirlooms. If you're going for the Hermès look on a Popeye's Fried Chicken budget, try Express's thin blue enamel bangle with the circle link motif. Don't ask, don't tell, baby!

Nordstrom leads the pack with zebra and giraffe print slip-ons that'll add just the right amount of National Geographic-style pizazz to a warm-weather outfit. Anthropologie, always a great source for colorful quirk, goes for the gold with several variations of the hand-painted, geometrically patterned cuffs, and John Hardy's enamel and citrine stone bangle manages to look vaguely "Midnight at the Oasis" and Uptown Girl at the same time.

Enamel paint bracelets can give a work suit a shiny, sophisticated kick in the pants. J.Crew's gorgeous yellow magnolia cuff with that shock of royal blue is the fashion equivalent of Catherine Deneuve's flirty, ice-blond wink. And Iris Design's wide but light-as-a-kiss cuff is hand-painted inside and out -- making it well worth a lingering sneaky peek.

-- Jill Hudson Neal

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