There’s a new trend sweeping social media: permanent jewelry. Usually taking the form of a thin, gold bracelet, permanent jewelry is a piece of jewelry without a clasp. Instead, it’s welded on with a laser and meant to be worn constantly — or at least until it either breaks or the wearer chooses to remove it.
Permanent jewelry sounds like a practical solution for those who struggle to clasp a bracelet onto their wrists everyday or who prefer to never remove their jewelry. But even more than that, it seems that people are drawn to permanent bracelets as a way to commemorate a special occasion or relationship. On TikTok, it’s common to see videos of girls going with friends to get matching permanent jewelry, like a classy adult friendship bracelet — quite the upgrade from the colorful brands of string that young girls tie on each other’s wrists.
It’s impossible not to associate permanent bracelets with tattoos, since they seem to be the jewelry version of a matching tattoo with a friend. However, perhaps the best thing about permanent jewelry is that it’s only permanent if the wearer chooses it to be. The bracelets can be removed easily with scissors if desired, unlike a tattoo.
While stores that offer permanent bracelets are popping up all over, especially in large cities like New York, as of right now there’s only one shop in the Northern Virginia area that provides the service. Shelter, a jewelry store in Washington, DC, is the sole provider of permanent jewelry in the area. Mallory Shelter is the founder of the store and a jewelry designer herself. She calls the products “endless bracelets.”
“They literally have no end,” Shelter says. “It just felt like a nice, symbolic way to summarize what exactly it is.”
Shelter ran her own jewelry business part-time for many years before transitioning to full time. She opened her storefront, Shelter, in 2018. The shop sells fine jewelry, including many of Shelter’s own designs, as well as an assortment of home goods, clothing, gifts, and accessories.
Shelter has been offering her endless bracelet service since 2018, but she says that she’s seen increased interest in the past year. And while clientele used to skew slightly older, now most clients Shelter sees are between 21 and 25 years old. However, the trend isn’t exclusive to one age group.
“We’ve done them everywhere from kids to grandparents,” Shelter says.
While social media has played a role in promoting this trend, it may also be that consumers are craving a more interactive experience after a long few years of social isolation. Permanent jewelry makes the act of purchasing an item into a grander event than simply clicking “add to cart.”
“It’s certainly something that feels more engaging than just going and buying a bracelet. It’s interactive, it’s customizable, you can do it with your friends, your family,” Shelter says. “I think it’s appealing to people because there’s a little more story behind it.”
Shelter only offers endless bracelets by appointment. All bracelets are made of 14-karat gold, either yellow or white, and customers can choose from different styles of chains and charms to attach. Currently, Shelter exclusively offers bracelets because necklaces and anklets can be trickier to weld on and easier to break.
While the bracelets are intended to be “endless,” Shelter makes sure to warn clients that because they are thin and delicate pieces of jewelry, there is always the possibility of breakage. Bracelets can be repaired at Shelter for a fee.
If you’re looking for a special experience to share with a loved one that you’ll both remember for a long time, look no further than permanent jewelry. While it may be a trend, it’s certainly here to stay — on your wrist, that is.
Feature image by Obi Okolo.
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