Brittany Thompson and her friends are linked for life.
The 26-year-old and 10 of her BFFs had thin gold metal chains welded shut around their wrists and ankles during Thompson’s bachelorette party in Reedsburg, Wis., last year.
For Thompson, the shiny bracelets and anklets she’s still wearing months later represent the sisterhood she has with her friends.
“Whenever I see them, we all look at our bracelets. It makes it more meaningful to have it done with your closest friends — it reminds me of friendship bracelets,” Thompson said. Besides, she added, “It’s not like a tattoo. If you get sick of if you can just cut it off.”
So-called permanent jewelry seems to have started in New York City and spread nationwide, said Larissa Loden, who offers services for permanent jewelry in her eponymous St. Paul store. To make bracelets and anklets and sometimes rings, fine metal chains are welded in a circle just tight enough so they don’t slip off.
“We take a tool called an arc welder and it takes a very small burst, pinpointed burst of heat to close it and the customer doesn’t feel anything,” Loden said. “It’s a very precise spark.”
Loden started occasionally offering permanent jewelry after her staff received a flurry of calls requesting it. As of January, the store will offer it every Saturday.
Business has also been ramping up for Hattie Nottleman of Eagan, who welds permanent jewelry at private parties and pop-up events around the Twin Cities as part of Link x Lou, which offers permanent jewelry at private parties and pop-ups in 30 states.
As with many trends, Nottleman had assumed that most of her customers would be young women. But that hasn’t been the case.
“It appeals to a wide variety of people — men, women, old and young,” she said. “I’ve done all types of people from a 4-year-old to my 98-year-old grandfather.”
Types of metals vary by store and many offer gold variations to prevent rust. Loden offers jewelry made of sterling silver or a “gold fill” option which consists of a thick plate of gold on a base metal, which can withstand heavy wear better than standard gold-plated jewelry. Bracelets start at $30 and go up to $50 for gold-filled options, according to the store’s website.
Link x Lou offers bands in yellow and white 14k solid gold and prices vary between $75 and $375, according to Nottleman.
As seen on TV
The permanent jewelry trend was fueled in part by its appearance on the most recent season of Netflix’s “Love Is Blind,” which dropped on Oct. 19. The popular reality show is centered around several couples who meet and get engaged — all without seeing one another. Once they are allowed to see each other, they’re expected to meet one another’s family, friends and eventually hold their own marriage ceremony.
On the show, contestant Bartise Bowden proposed the idea of getting permanent bracelets with fiancée Nancy Rodriguez to show his love for and commitment to her. When Bowden (warning: spoiler alert!) suddenly rejected Rodriguez at the altar, she ripped the bracelet off her wrist.
“I have a lot of people who reached out to me and said they found me after they saw it on ‘Love Is Blind,’ ” Nottleman said. “Even though she ripped it off, there’s still a lot of couples that get it and it’s a fun, sentimental thing.”
Oh, and if you do need to remove your permanent jewelry, because of a romantic rift or an MRI scan, all you need is a sharp scissors or a wirecutter.
For Thompson, on top of the sentimental value of getting the jewelry with her friends, the idea of having permanent bracelets and anklets felt like a low-maintenance way to wear jewelry on a daily basis.
“I’ve never been one that takes my jewelry off; I’m the girl who sleeps with everything on,” she said. “I liked the idea of not losing them. They’re also really dainty-looking and it’s not super-gaudy so it matches with every outfit I have.”
With the pandemic on the wane, people are craving experiences they can have with their friends, said Lindsay Puckett, who works in public relations and partnerships at Link x Lou.
“Because it’s such a special in-person experience it’s something that will continue to grow,” she said. “People just really want to grow to their collections or commemorate memories.”