The History Behind West Indian Bangles

Posted by Khadijah Alexander on

Growing up in Trinidad and Tobago, bangles have been a part of my life since I can first remember. West Indian bangles, or Bayras, have a long history in my family.

I grew up watching my father create Bayras, and he grew up watching his own father do the same. My grandfather started our family jewelry business in the 1940s. My father learned from him, and he taught me the same jewelry crafting methods islanders have been using for a century to create the jewelry.

But West Indian Bangles have a much deeper history extending even beyond the decades my family have been hand making them.

For centuries West Indian Bangles have been particularly important for families with newborns. The small silver bangles and gold bangles are often gifted to newborns and young children as a reminder of their West Indian heritage.

West Indian Bangles

Historically, bangles were also used as a form of currency in West Africa, particularly during the slave trade era. Because the pieces were often made with gold or African “red gold,” a form of copper in West African companies.

This largely fizzled out after the slave trade ended, but West Indian Bangles were still worn as a status symbol in both West African and West Indian Islands. The more gold bangles a woman had, the more her husband made, giving the family more clout in the area.

Subsequently, with the movement of Indentured Persons from India and other parts of South Asia, the bangles that you see today were introduced to the Caribbean cultural environment. Adopting local motifs like the cocoa pod and nutmeg further served to cement the iconic status of the West Indies Bangle.

What are bangles used for today? Today bangles are still a common accessory for those who grew up in these areas of the world and for those who didn’t. They’re now seen in sterling silver, gold and other metals and the designs vary as much as the men and women who wear them.

I absolutely love seeing so many people taking the time to learn about West Indian culture and the history behind the jewelry they’re wearing. It gives me pride that the popularity of these beautiful pieces of jewelry has exploded over the years.

I’m also proud to continue the tradition of hand crafting Bayras for my family. Each piece I create reminds me a bit of home, and I hope they help you keep the Caribbean spirit with you at all times.

*Edited for accuracy on 29 June 2020. With thanks to those of you who give us the opportunity to improve.


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  • I thank you for continuing the heritage of your family and the islands. I was given as a new born, bangles by my stepmother. She was from Trinidad. Growing up I received a pair every year. While in college all of my bangles were stolen. I had a large timeless collection that can never be replaced. Before my sister died she gave me a set of her gold bangles she received when she was 1 years old. I cherish them for 2 reasons. They were hers and the heritage they represent.
    I could never find bangles with the similarities of those I had until I found your site. I thank you. Now I am, and have been collecting and replacing my collection. I am 65 yrs young now and my sister’s bangles are over 85 years old and I never take them off. Neither do I take the others off either. Both arms are full but I will continue to collect.
    Please don’t stop.

    Sharon Lewis on
  • I’ve been looking for these for years! I remember as a young girl receiving my first set of bangles, and as an adult it’s really wonderful to know it’s history! My family are from the islands and I’m fascinated learning my historical background! Thanks for being a part of it.

    Michelle Mayo on
  • Very informative read. Thank you for taking the time to enlighten us more. I am from Trinidad and Tobago and I also learned something new today.

    Darnel on
  • I am so happy to have stumbled onto your site. My father’s family were from the Barbados, and as children my sister and I were given bangles that we were proud of, but we always lost them while playing outside. As an older adult, I am drawn back to these beautiful pieces, and want to honor my heritage by wearing the bangles again. Your pieces are beautiful and reading about how your family got into the trade of making such beautiful pieces is heartwarming. Best of luck to you in the future, and thank you to your family for continuing to honor West Indian culture.

    LaVerne Weekes on
  • I Recently received my Heavy Cocoa Pod Bangles with the Diamante Pattern. WOW! I was speechless .They are So Beautiful! I immediately put them on.

    Adrienne on
  • The Hibiscus Bangles with the Diamante Pattern is Unique & Breathtaking! I am waiting for the matching short earrings to purchase.I just love Hibiscus Flowers!

    Adrienne on

  • I am so excited to have found your site! I grew up in Jamaica, Queens but I have West Indian ancestors. I have bangles that i have worn since I was 9 years old and I am now in my 60s. I cannot imagine being without them. As a young teen I gave away some of them to boyfriends to wear as proof of a budding relationship. I still have the mates to those I gave away. I see some of the designs that I would love to add to the bangles I love so much. This is the first time that I felt like these bracelets are authentic. I will be purchasing some for my sister’s birthday.

    Regina Young on
  • A great article! I’m interested in learning more – could you share some of your sources?

    Sal on
  • I absolutely love these gorgeous, beautifully hand crafted solid silver bangles! I have many from Bermuda and Bahamas and some since childhood and I am very happy to have found your website to order more for myself family and friends ! Keep up the great work and keep them coming!!+

    Patricia Shehu on

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