An armlet is a piece of jewelry worn around the upper arm much as a bracelet is worn around the wrist. Archeological discoveries and artwork have shown armlets have been worn for thousands of years and were parts of many ancient cultures. Sometimes also referred to as an arm ring or armband, they are typically made from fine metals such as silver or gold and can be either wider with elaborate designs or narrower bands of delicate shapes or features.
While worn most commonly in more recent times by women, historical works have often depicted both men and women wearing armlets. In some cultures, such as Sri Lanka, some men still wear a traditional armlet on the day of their wedding. Many Eastern and Middle Eastern cultures also have a great deal of art showing heroes and deities wearing armlets. Kandyan drummers can be seen wearing armlets while performing, even in the 21st century.
Typically, however, an armlet is worn as a piece of jewelry by a woman. Usually this will be worn with a sleeveless garment to show off how the metal contrasts with her skin, and because the binding nature of the jewelry typically accentuates a woman’s features with a slimming effect. This is similar to how a bracelet can draw someone’s eye to the narrowest part of a woman’s wrist or ankle and have an overall slimming effect. An armlet can draw a viewer’s eye toward an attractive arm and give a woman a more striking appearance.
An armlet can be an ornate work of art or a simpler metal band. Many armlets will also have a particular style or motif, such as a Celtic knot pattern or a serpentine texture and sculpted snake head. Such pieces can often be popular as costume jewelry, especially when a person wishes to appear like an ancient Egyptian queen, Arabian dancer, or Greek goddess.
The term armlet is also used in British English to refer to what is known as a brassard in American English. This is a piece of cloth worn around the upper arm as an armband. Such articles are typically worn as part of a uniform to indicate rank or status, or to indicate that someone is part of an organization such as the American Red Cross or the government agencies of various different countries.