Before women carried purses, they often relied on chatelaines to keep an array of miniature accessories close at hand. Named after “La Chatelaine,” or the female head of a French household who was responsible for an estate’s keys, chatelaines became a practical accessory for women at a time when pockets were tiny or nonexistent.

During the 16th century, it was common to hang such tools near the waist with a cord or ribbon, but in the 18th century, stylish European chatelaines took over. These chatelaines generally featured a central medallion mounted on a hook or pinback brooch to be attached directly onto a dress. Dangling from this central point could be anywhere from one to 20 chains, each attached to a small trinket or tool.

Many chatelaines included a symbolic key, referencing their original namesake, as well as useful objects like needlework tools, coin purses, notebooks and pencils, or tiny perfume bottles. Often these accessories were produced and sold as a complete set, in styles ranging from utilitarian steel to exquisitely detailed varieties of precious stones and metals. While some of the most stylish versions were simply designed to showcase an expensive watch, others were tailored to specific pursuits, like painting or archery.

As purses grew in size and fashions shifted, chatelaines became less popular, gradually disappearing altogether in the early 20th century. Today, it is rare to find a complete chatelaine with all its original accessories, thus these are the most desirable among collectors.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

The Scrap Album

The Scrap Album

Malcolm Warrington’s The Scrap Album is a handsomely organized site, as you’d expect from an articulate champio… [read review or visit site]

All About Jewels Dictionary

All About Jewels Dictionary

This incredible reference dictionary on jewelry, from Enchantedlearning.com, is both beautiful and comprehensive. S… [read review or visit site]

Ventagli.org

Ventagli.org

Anna Checcoli's homage to the beauty and art of hand fans ('ventagli,' in Italian). Use the left-hand nav to browse… [read review or visit site]

Stevengraphs Bookmarks and Postcards

Stevengraphs Bookmarks and Postcards

Malcolm Roebuck's tribute to the ornate silk picture bookmarks and postcards ('Stevengraphs') produced by Thomas St… [read review or visit site]

Morning Glory Antiques and Jewelry

Morning Glory Antiques and Jewelry

Jewelry collectors, feast your eyes on this internet gem! It's a goldmine of jewelry information featuring all styl… [read review or visit site]

Antiquespectacles.com

Antiquespectacles.com

Dr. David Fleishman's comprehensive spectacles site (over 3500 images), in collaboration with museums around the wo… [read review or visit site]

Cathy Gordon's Jewelry Gallery

Cathy Gordon's Jewelry Gallery

With its vast galleries featuring clear images of jewelry and style, this site really covers it all! Divided up by … [read review or visit site]

Jewel History

Jewel History

Since March of 2007, readers of Lori Ettlinger Gross’s Jewel History blog have been treated to her weekly (someti… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Antique 1920s D.f. Briggs Co. Compact Guilloche Enamel Chatelaine Dance PurseAntique 14k Gold Black Enamel Victorian Tassel Dance Card Clip Ring ChatelaineAntique Victorian 14k Gold Enamel Tassel Ring Dance Card Chatelaine Clip Holder Fine Antique Sterling Miniature Chatelaine Perfume Bottle Vesta & PencilAntique Art Nouveau Gilt Brass Chatelaine Notebook Pendant Portland Or SouvenirAntique Miniature Cranberry Glass Chatelaine Perfume Scent Bottle W Chain RingAntique Cigar Cutter Victorian Chatelaine Watch Fob Habana Cuba Enamel SilverAntique Art Nouveau Arts Crafts Silver Miniature Perfume Scent Bottle ChatelaineExtremely Scarce Antique Victorian/edwardian Solid Silver Chatelaine Chain 99p Antique Pulse/hour Glass For Nurse Chatelaine * English * Circa 1900Antique 1890s Victorian Solid Sterling Silver Chatelaine Coin Purse French 37grC1921 Tiffany & Co. 14k Yellow Gold Pencil Case Chatelaine PendantSterling Silver Floral Perfume Holder Pendant For Chatelaine Screw On Top 5.2grAntique French Slide Mirror Pendant // Art Nouveau Chatelaine MirrorLa Pierre ~ Sterling Silver Chatelaine Brooch Pin Antique Victorian Nouveau14k Yellow Gold Retractable Toothpick Fob Chatelaine PendantAntique Silver Chain Mail Purse Pendant // Chatelaine Purse // 1900Fine Antique Ep Silver Pierced Spectacles Case With Chatelaine Belt Chain Clasp Used Smoking Pipe Butz Choquin Chatelaine Extra 1132Quality Late Victorian Brass Butterfly Design Skirt Lifter For Chatelaine BeltArt Deco C. Bucherer Sterling Silver Enamel Rose Flower Bow Watch Pin ChatelaineAntique Child's Gilt Metal Needlework Tool Chatelaine Locket Circa 1750Lot Of 2 X Gilt Metal Watch Chain / Chatelaines With Seals C1890Vtg Antique Victorian ~ Thread Waxer ~ Bunch Of Grapes~chatelaine Fob~ Sewing Antique Engine Turned Chatelaine Necessaire Purse Brass Egyptian Revival Two 19th C. French .800 Silver Chatelaine Clips, Belt Hooks, Clavet ClavierSterling Est. Purse Shaped Locket / Pillbox / Trinket Box For Chatelaine 9.6gr Antique Hallmarked Sterling Silver Chatelaine / Albert Chain Charoot Holder CaseAntique Sterling Silver Sliding Pencil With Chatelaine Albert Chain Attachment Sterling Est. Purse Shaped Locket / Pillbox / Trinket Box For Chatelaine 17.2gr Antique Vintage Mechanical Pencil Pen Watch Fob Chatelaine Telescopic Tie BarAntique Sterling Silver Chatelaine Etui Needle Or Pin CaseAntique Vintage Chatelaine Mirror Handbag Vanity Purse Compact On ChainAntique Edwardian Hm Silver & Enamel Chatelaine Stamp Book Locket.only 99p StartAntique Sterling Silver Chain Mail Purse Chatelaine Purse .. France Around 1900Vintage Jeweled Gold Tone Name And Address Book For Chatelaine No Reserve Art Deco C. Bucherer Sterling Silver Enamel Marcasite Flower Watch ChatelaineVictorian German Silver Steel Cut Beads Black Crochet Purse W/chatelaine Clip Vintage Art Deco Bronze Tone Crystal Birds Chatelaine Flying Ducks Geese BroochStunning Antique Cobalt Blue Enameled Perfume Chatelaine Scent BottleAntique Victorian Sovereign Holder Pocket Watch Style/fob Chain/chatelaineAntique Victorian Gold Filled Lady Chatelaine Mechanical Pencil 3 1/4"Vintage Silver Plated - Evening Mesh Clasp Bag 20g - Chatelaine Eq2639Victorian Watch Fob Pin/chatelaine ~ Etched Rose Gold FilledVintage Victorian Chatelaine Bracelet Mesh Purse W/ Locket, Lipstick, & Compact!Antique Victorian Gold Filled & Amethyst Pencil For ChatelaineAntique Victorian Sterling Silver Chatelaine Pen Pocket Knife ~ Art NouveauAntique Mini Scent Perfume Bottle Fob Silver Overlay Blue Porcelain ChatelaineVintage Lot Mens Sterling Lighter, Gold Filled, Chatelaine, Tie Clips, RingsAntique Jewelry Lot Silver 9ct Gold Costume Victorian Acorn Chatelaine NetsukeSigned Kjl Kenneth Jay Lane Airplane Luggage Chatelaine Brooch London Paris RomeAntique Victorian Silverplate Filigree Whimsey Chatelaine Floral On Chain OldUnusual Vintage/antique Cased Propelling Pencil Fob Chain/chatelaineAntique Victorian Silver Chatelaine Pen Pocket Knife ~ Art NouveauAntique English Sterling Silver Chased Needle Case For Chatelaine James Swann Vintage Ketcham & Mcdougall Art Nouveau Pin Chatelaine Retractable Eye GlassesVintage Urie Mandle Harlequin Music Notes Pin Brooch Chatelaine Earrings SetRare Vtg C1950's Puppy Dog W/fire Hydrant Chatelaine Double Brooch Pin W/chainPrimitive Stitchery Kitty Cat Chatelaine The Cream Of Boston Society