Beyond tattoos and piercings, there’s not a whole lot of permanence when it comes to self expression. Fashion trends come and go, beauty looks fluctuate, and appearances are accepted as subject to change. But now there’s permanent jewelry, a trend that’s been picked up by the TikTok crowd and that’s forever improved the lives of those who are always losing their stuff. Over the last few years, brands like Catbird in New York City and Atelier VM in Italy have catapulted welded bracelets into the spotlight with their delicate designs and in-person zapping (a catchy phrase coined by Catbird). Whether you’re getting one with a romantic partner, best friend, family member, or simply to enjoy as a long-lasting addition to your wrist, these forever pieces are easy to justify, and even easier to incorporate into your daily wardrobe and routine.
If you’re not so familiar with the concept of permanent jewelry or simply want to learn a bit more (like whether or not it hurts to get one attached to your wrist), continue ahead for a guide to this much-buzzed-about purchase, insights from designers who are offering it, and intel on where to do it yourself.
How Permanent Jewelry Came to Be
As a concept, jewelry that’s never taken off is nothing new. Backing all the way up to ancient Egypt, burying Pharaohs with their jewelry was common practice and considered a way to ensure they’d have these adornments for the afterlife. This idea of keeping your jewelry on as protection, a rite of passage, or symbol of identity spans different cultures, religions, and stages of life and it’s not hard to see how it has laid the groundwork and served as a precursor for the permanent jewelry trend to take flight (namely, bracelets without a clasp).
Of course, jewelry you don’t take off and jewelry you can’t take off require different degrees of commitment, with many women leaning into the latter in 1969 when Cartier debuted its now-iconic Love Bracelet, which can only be secured (and taken off) with the assistance of a screwdriver. Fast forward to now, and permanent jewelry’s current iteration — chainlink bracelets welded around the wrist — feels like a modern continuation of jewelry as second skin.
How It Works
Having anything “welded” to your body might evoke a slight panic, but the beauty of the process is that its quick and 100 percent painless. It’s also quite simple: A jeweler custom fits a solid gold or silver bracelet around your wrist (sometimes with a gemstone or charm attached) and welds the two ends together (the actual ‘zap’ takes all of a few seconds). “When we first got lasers in our studio, our jewelers started zapping bracelets on all of us,” Catbird Chief Creative Officer Leigh Plessner tells TZR. “Our Forever Bracelets are all made from solid 14k gold (just like all of our jewelry), which is very low fuss, doesn’t tarnish, won’t turn your skin a color, or lose its gold gleam. I’ve been wearing some of my same Forever Bracelets for five-ish years, and I’ve never done anything to them, aside from occasionally snipping a tangled thread or fuzzy from it.” Just remember: Because these permanent pieces require an expert welder, getting one requires finding a local jeweler or pop-up that offers the service — you won’t be able to safely DIY this at home.
Brands to Know
While permanent jewelry has spiked in popularity on platforms like TikTok, it’s still a service that’s relatively niche (though all but certain to continue in growth). “We tested the concept at a few private events in early 2017 and officially launched our ‘zapping’ services later that same year,” Plessner says. The brand is averaging around 85 appointments per day out of their New York store locations (both SoHo and Williamsburg) and are popping up in Clare V shops in Chicago (August 5 to 7) and San Francisco (August 19 to 21). “The response since our stores reopened has been incredible. It’s really encouraging to know customers visiting New York make zapping and a trip to Catbird a part of their itineraries,” she adds.
In 2020, Stone and Strand launched their Bound Permanent Jewelry. “It was part of a Galentine’s Day event,” Kahane says. “We think of our Bound Bracelets also as a rite of passage — but in the nostalgic summer camp way. Knotting up matching threads for your best friends who promised to never take it off.” Customers can choose from solid gold and solid silver chains that can be accessorized with mini charms, including natural gemstones, diamonds, and gold drops. “This allows our customers to pick and choose different accents that can represent special moments or things in their lives,” she explains. The most popular pick among pals who come in to get welded together are Stone and Strand’s floating sapphire charms in matching colors.
Why Get Permanent Jewelry?
Aside from the innate perks of never worrying about losing your jewelry, there are several reasons why one might choose to weld a bracelet around their wrist. “Jewelry has served as a physical manifestation of emotions since the beginning of time, and I love thinking about how modern interpretations link back to previous eras,” Kahane says. She also sees the connection between contemporary welded bracelets and the classic Love Bracelet, and views them as a minimalist modern interpretation of the Cartier staple. “Instead of waiting for your husband to give you a hugely expensive Love Bracelet as a push present, why not celebrate the many meaningful milestones in your life, with the people who mean the most to you? The simplicity of a permanent bracelet also allows them to be seamlessly worn by all genders and ages.”
The sentimental aspect is perhaps the biggest indicator that this trend will have a long lifespan. “While many of our customers come in for a solo gift for themselves, we’re really seeing groups of friends, inter-generational families, and romantic partners coming in to mark a special moment in their lives,” Plessner says. “Our Zapping customer spans age ranges and genders, come one, come all!”
Kahane notes that It’s been “exciting to see how the understanding of and appetite for permanent jewelry has grown meaningfully since then.” But when she first launched, there was a significant amount of education around the process that was required. If you’re left with a few unanswered questions, browse the common queries below.
Will it hurt?
No, the process of permanent jewelry does not hurt and only takes a few seconds.
Will it cause issues at the airport?
Also no, delicate jewelry rarely (if ever) needs to be taken off to get through security.
Will it affect certain diagnostic medical procedures?
Yes, if you’re getting something like an MRI scan then you’ll need to remove your jewelry. However, many brands offer the ability to get your bracelet re-welded after the fact for a small fee.
How do I take it off?
If you decide to part ways with your permanent jewelry, it can be removed as simply as a scissor snip (if you do plan to re-weld it in the future, Catbird recommends “carefully cutting it with scissors at the small ring that connects the two ends of the chain, to maintain the integrity of the chain.”)