Some jewellery is intended to signify permanence and commitment on an emotional level; engagement and wedding rings, friendship bracelets — there are plenty of ways in which the jewellery we adorn ourselves with can create a narrative about us as people. So what does it say about a person who opts to get a bracelet permanently welded around their wrist?
he service, which launched last month, and is appropriately named Chained, is a venture by Heartbreak Social Club in Dublin 2, and the first of its type in the country. Ryan Kelly, who owns the tattoo parlour with Ro Graham, first saw the concept in action in 2019, while working as a tattoo artist in New York. Kelly had been toying with the idea of introducing the service, and when the online craze was brought to his attention, he knew there was a clock ticking on the idea. “When I saw how popular it was, I knew I needed to act now,” he said.
The machinery itself consists of a specialist arm costing €6,000, which is used to weld the clasp of the bracelet shut, meaning it cannot be taken off without a scissors. The bracelets, of which there are six options — four gold and two silver — can be worn by themselves, or as Kelly demonstrated when pulling up his sleeve, can be layered with multiple bracelets. A length of chain is custom measured to the wrist and a laser is used to weld the bracelet directly.
The bracelets are fine enough to remain on during an x-ray, and are fine for things like airport security, but will have to come off in the event of an MRI. This can be done by cutting the piece at the welded clasp with a scissors; it can be re-welded at a later date. The bracelets, which are made from 14k filled gold and sterling silver are high enough quality to withstand longterm exposure to water. Kelly tested out multiple materials when developing the range of six options. “We tried out real gold but it was too soft for the machine,” he said.
Kelly chose a chain for me and started the process of measuring the length of chain to my wrist. The whole process from start to finish took less than 10 minutes, and is a totally painless procedure. The bracelet is fine enough not to cause agitation as a piece you wear all the time, and three weeks later, I’m a fan of my dainty, metal companion.
The trend took over TikTok last year, with users sharing their experiences of getting the bracelets welded on, most commonly in London and New York. Many people would book the service in pairs, couples, friends and parent and child duos being common customers. Kelly is not too bothered with the virality of the trend, but hopes to create a long-lasting addition to the store, with new chains and the options of charms coming later this month. He does, however, appreciate the power of social media, especially for a new and novel venture such as this. “I spoke to a customer recently who said she flew over to London for a day trip in a group of 10 girls to go and get the bracelets,” he said.
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Kelly doesn’t see the addition as a gimmick or fad, but rather as an addition to their pre-existing jewellery offerings. Heartbreak Social Club have their own jewellery line, so Kelly is no stranger to the complexity of selling custom jewellery. “It’s a tough market,” he said.
Friends and UCD students Julia Weyndling and Juliet Duffy went under the laser, so to speak, the same day I had my bracelet put on, and had no gripes about the commitment they were making. The international students, from New York and Colorado respectively, got matching bracelets after seeing the service launch in Ireland on social media. Weyndling said it was a very popular trend in New York and they saw plenty of it online too. When asked what exactly provoked them to get the bracelets together, neither were adamant it was a nod to their friendship, but more so a keepsake from their time in college.
“We’re both in our final year now, and because the accommodation situation is so bad in Dublin we might not be here next year, so it’s nice to have something from Dublin,” she said.
Neither have any issue with the added complexity of the potential need to cut the bracelet off and have it welded back on. Weyndling said she never takes off any of her regular jewellery anyway, and Duffy, who has had MRIs before, said she wouldn’t have a problem in cutting it off and having it reattached.
There is absolutely an element of gimmick for some people opting in to have these bracelets put on. It will get views on social media if that’s your bread and butter, and it’s easy to sensationalise when talking to friends. It’s less about the quality of the jewellery; you could likely get a similar product for a lot less, but the pull of this type of bracelet is the fact that you have gone to the bother of having it welded onto your body.
The true value in the product lies in its sentimentality — it’s a great idea for a mother and daughter, a couple, or friends to do together, or to commemorate something like a graduation or new job. So, when someone asks you about it, it’s less about the fact that it was welded together and can’t be taken off, but that it acts as a reminder of a person or fond memory.