Its name is suggestive both of its tone, which is distinctly bell like, and also the earliest examples, which were made by drummers cutting down a larger cymbal so that only the bell remained.
Bell cymbals vary greatly in profile. In some, there is no bow at all, the entire cymbal is in the shape of a concave downwards cymbal bell, similar to the earliest examples. Others have the shape of a traditional turkish cymbal, with a smallish bell in proportion to the size of the cymbal, and still others are intermediate between these two extremes.
Bell cymbals are most commonly six to ten inches in diameter, but larger and smaller examples are found occasionally.