Sophia Wu and Rachel Fulton, who are best friends, met in 2013, on their first day of freshman year at New York University. A little over eight years later, on Nov. 5, they selected matching Forever Sweet Nothing Bracelets to be welded around their respective wrists — a literal bond to celebrate their emotional one.
“It’s very simple and dainty,” Ms. Fulton, 26, said of her wrist piece. “We’ll want it forever, and it matches with anything.”
Ms. Wu, a student at the George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C., had made a weekend trip to cheer on Ms. Fulton during the New York City Marathon and exchange holiday gifts.
“I thought we would do an early Christmas present, and it’s also something to keep reminding her that I’m thinking about her during her 26.2 miles,” Ms. Wu, 26, said two days before the race.
Ms. Fulton, who works in fashion sales and lives in the East Village, and Ms. Wu got their welded bracelets at the SoHo location of Catbird, a jewelry brand established in Brooklyn in 2004. The company said it does 70 welding sessions each day.
Customers choose from five gold, clasp-free chains that cost $98 to $334, before a custom fitting and getting “zapped” (a one-minute welding, without skin contact).
“What we see a lot is people coming in to mark an occasion or to have it be a reminder of a triumph or tribulation, or as a friendship bracelet,” said Leigh Plessner, the chief creative officer at Catbird.
Rony Vardi, the founder and chief executive of Catbird, said she and Catbird studio jewelers started experimenting with the idea of welding jewelry around their bodies in 2016. “It seemed like an evolution of the style of jewelry that we have always trafficked in. It’s always about effortless jewelry,” Ms. Vardi said. “I never take off any of my jewelry.”
They tested welded necklaces and anklets too, but concluded neither worked as well as bracelets. “Anklets stretch out pretty quickly and can catch on stuff,” Ms. Vardi said, “and necklaces also can be pretty tricky and catch on hair.”
The brand’s first pop-up welding event was in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn in spring 2017. To date, Catbird says it has zapped 26,000 bracelets, 90 percent of which took place in the SoHo store.
There are pragmatic motives, too. “Whatever mechanism is being used to fasten an item like a necklace or bracelet is often going to be the weak link in a piece of jewelry,” said Jeffrey Cohen, the president of Craft Lab Grown Diamonds in New York. “By eliminating the clasp and creating the seamless effect, you are likely making the item more secure.”
Many permanent bracelet videos can rake in hundreds of thousands of likes on social media. “It has become so popular because of TikTok videos,” said Lindsey Bishop, the owner and head metalsmith at Lackadazee, a handcrafted jewelry company in Louisville, Ky. Her store offers silver and gold permanent bracelets with and without charms. “We saw a huge influx of people,” she said.
Leah Belford, the owner of Leah Alexandra, a jewelry brand in Vancouver, British Columbia, began offering permanent bracelets after seeing welding equipment at a trade show. Two and a half years later, her business Spark Studio bonds about 800 bracelets each month.
During a weeklong pop-up at the Shangri-La Hotel in Toronto in September, Ms. Belford said two welding technicians serviced 800 customers, some of whom, she said, drove four hours. Spark Studio sells 15 varieties of silver, gold and white gold bracelets that cost $60 to $250 (including welding).
Often women in their 20s arrive in pairs and groups, but there are customers outside that demographic as well. “We started to see couples coming in to get it together. I’ve never seen a man come in and resist it,” Ms. Belford said. “I had three generations coming in at one time, with a 2-year-old. We did a 100-year-old one time.”
The life span of a welded chain depends on an individual’s lifestyle and activity. If people change their minds about permanence (or require an M.R.I., for example), the claspless bands can be easily snipped off using a pair of household scissors.
Alternatively, sturdier permanent pieces can require tools for fastening and removal. Since 1969, many Cartier Love Bracelets have been sold with a screwdriver (including the original design). “I keep one in my bag for tightening” about twice a month, said Ted Gibson, 55, a celebrity hairstylist and namesake of Starring by Ted Gibson in Los Angeles.
Mr. Gibson wears three Love Bracelets on his right wrist: one in rose gold that he bought 10 years ago in Cannes, France, and two (one gold, one white gold) that were given to him by his husband when he turned 50. The bangles have never been removed.
“I would be buried in the Cartier bracelets, but I’m going to be cremated, so that wouldn’t make sense,” Mr. Gibson said. “I want them to go to somebody in my family.”