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 JewelHistory blog have been treated to her weekly (sometim… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Fine Rare Antique Victorian B1897 Solid Sterling Silver Chatelaine Chain & ToolsSuperb Rare Antique Victorian C1880 Solid Silver & Glass Chatelaine VinaigretteComplete Ornate Antique Silver Sewing Chatelaine * 1892 Sterling Silver ThimbleAntique Etui Chatelaine Sewing Thread Thimble Gold Gilt Case / Holder - Gm N29Rare Antique Victorian L1876 Sampson Mordan Solid Silver Chatelaine Pin CushionAntique French Cow Bone Chatelaine Clip With Purse C.1900Blue Guilloche Enamel Silver Telescope Chatelaine NoveltyAntique Solid Silver Mappin & Webb Card Case Chatelaine PurseSterling Silver Match Vesta Striker Matchbox Case Birmingham 1903 ChatelaineAntique Silver Flintlock Pistol Pocket Watch Key & Drafting Compass ChatelaineVictorian Chatelaine Sterling Silver - Compact, Lipstick, Pencil, Note PaperFrench Sevres? Signed Bronze Chatelaine Painted Porcelain Portrait Hand MirrorSterling Silver Enamel Perfume Bottle For Chatelaine19c French 14k Yellow & Gold Filled Perfume Brooch Or Pin Chatelaine W/ EnamelAntique Miniature Ruby Red Enamel Chatelaine Perfume Scent Bottle Circa 1880Sterling Silver Propelling Pencil Chatelaine Sampson Mordan & Co C1900Amazing Antique French Mirror Slide Pendant // Chatelaine Pendant // 1900Superb Rare Gothic Antique Victorian 1872 Solid Sterling Silver Chatelaine ChainRare Antique Chatelaine Skirt Lifter €Antique Art Deco Sterling Silver Picture Locket Hand Engraved 1923 ChatelaineAntique Art Nouveau Or Victorian Chatelaine Aide Memoire Note Pad W/ Orig Paper Quality Antique Fancy Skirt Lifter On Chatelaine Chain With Belt HookVintage Sovereign & Half Sovereign Holder Leather Purse Chatelaine C1910A Fine Antique Solid Silver Chatelaine Note Case/ Aide Memoire, Birmingham 1892.Vintage Advertising Tyzack Shefield Chatelaine Holder & Folding Scissors 1930'sAntique Japanese Octagonal Cat Scratch Vesta Match Holder Chatelaine Case.Antique 1926 Sterling Silver Chatelaine Pill Box / Compact-chrisford & NorrisFrench Ribbons- Bronze Chatelaine Pendant Painted Portrait Doll Size Hand MirrorAntique Victorian Miniature Brass Postal Scales-chatelaine Locket-c1880-regd No.Antique Chinese Silver Needle Case Chatelaine - Dragon Motif - Pencil Holder Antique Sterling Silver Advertising Folding Scissors Utensil Chatelaine / ChainAmazing Antique French Mirror Slide Pendant // Chatelaine Pendant // 1900Antique Solid Silver Hand Worked Chatelaine Card Case,williams, Birmingham 1912Victorian Miniature Scent Perfume Bottle For Chatelaine Brass Mother Of PearlUnusual Sterling Silver Miniature Mesh Bag-chatelaine AccessoryDavid Yurman Chatelaine Double-drop Earrings With Guava And AmethystAntique Silver Amber Chatelaine Miniature Cheroot Holder 1907Antique Victorian 12k Gold Fill Mourning Locket Chatelaine Fob Necklace PendantA Pair Of Antique Folding Chatelaine Lorgnettes With Vacant Cartouche On Case English Black Velvet Purse W/ Sterling Silver Clasp & Chatelaine Hook~circa 1894Antique Dutch Solid Silver Chatelaine Signed Pocket Watch Chain Key FobOriginal Ww1 Bretagne Battlefield Souvenir Chatelaine Pencil Sweetheart.English Sovereign Coin Holder Case Nickel Plated Brass 1800s Chatelaine Silver Chatelaine Perfume Bottle Repouse-antique (?)David Yurman Chatelaine Earrings With TurquoiseAntique Victorian Chatelaine Silver Beaded Mesh Coin Purse True Vintage Antique Silver Hallmarked Tooth Pick Chester 1917 Pocket Watch Chain ChatelaineAntique Chatelaine Watch Brooch Gold Fill Amethyst Glass Leaf Accents As IsDavid Yurman Chatelaine Double-drop Earrings With TurquioseVintage Miniature Chatelaine Gilt Perfume Bottle Pendant W/ Cabochon Black GlassVictorian Gold Filled Sword & Sheath Letter Opener Watch Fob ChatelaineVictorian 18k Gold Toothpick Pendant - For ChatelaineAntique Silver Button Hook For Chatelaine - C1897 - Levi & SalamanInteresting Round Beaded Silk Chatelaine Wrist Bag Purse Patented Sept. 8, 1890Antique Gold Tone Etui Needle Case Chatelaine With Thimble AustriaFine Old 19c Antique Chinese Sterling Silver Filigree Chatelaine Card Case Nice Antique Lapel Watch Chatelaine, Solid Silver & 18k Gold Pattern On BackCoro Pegasus Lady Walking Dog Chatelaine Pins Brooches 1940's 99 Cent AuctionAntique Edwardian Chain Mail Mesh Chatelaine Coin Purse German Silver VictorianUnique Art Deco S.j.rose 9k Solid Gold Chatelaine Retractable Drink Stir Stick