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    

David Yurman Sterling Silver, 18k Gold & Diamond Chatelaine Stud EarringsTiny Little Sterling Silver Match Vesta Case For Chatelaine Robert Chandler 1903David Yurman Sterling Silver, 18k Gold & Diamond Chatelaine Pendant NecklaceAntique 19thc Victorian Engraved Silver Horn Chatelaine Pocket Watch Key C1870sAntique Sterling Silver Chatelaine Scissors & Sheath * English * Circa 1890sAntique Art Nouveau Lady Solid Silver Perfume Scent Bottle Pendant Or ChatelaineSterling Silver Georgian Engraved Chatelaine Vinaigrette 1820-21Antique Sterling Silver Chatelaine Needle Case By Unger Bros. * Circa 1890sNovelty Solid Silver S. Mordan Propelling Pencil For Watch Chain Or ChatelaineSterling Silver Victorian Engraved Chatelaine Vinaigrette 1859-60Antique Silver Pocket Watch Ladies Fob Watch On Chatelaine Chester Circa 1886Antique Embosed Flowers Solid Silver Perfume Scent Bottle Pendant Or ChatelaineAntique Silver Pocket Watch Ladies Fob Chatelaine Very Pretty Swiss Circa 1880Antique Victorian 9ct Gold Retracting Propelling Miniature Chatelaine PencilVictorian Chatelaine Chester H/mk 1888# .925 Silver Clam Scent Bottle French Antique Winged Dragon Very Gothic Purse Chatelaine Coin Holder Mesh Bag Antique Silver Plate Novelty Miniature Warming Pan Chatelaine Compact Pill BoxSterling Silver Georgian Engraved Chatelaine Vinaigrette 1826-27Vintage Solid Silver Cube Perfume Scent Bottle Pendant Or ChatelaineAntique Silver Chatelaine Needle CaseAntique Victorian William B. Kerr & Co. Sterling Silver Chatelaine Compact 2"Antique Unger Bros. Sterling Silver Pierced Scrolls Thimble Case For ChatelaineAntique Sterling Silver Mounted Chatelaine Spectacle Case/holder Antique Solid Silver Propellling Cigar Piercer Tooth Pick Chatelaine PendantAntique Hallmarked Sterling Silver Chatelaine Or Purse Compact Pill Box LocketDimensional Griffin Match Stick Holder Safe Chatelaine 925 Sterling Silver 30gLovely Antique Tiny French Fashion Poupee Doll Chatelaine Silver Book Mop KnifeAntique Sterling Silver Pendant Or Chatelaine Hung Sewing Pencil Dated 1922Antique Vintage Solid Silver Perfume Scent Bottle Pendant Or ChatelaineVintage Solid Silver Perfume Scent Bottle Pendant Or ChatelaineDimensional Fairy Nymph Match Stick Holder Safe Chatelaine 925 Sterling 34.3gExtremely Rare Solid Silver Victorian Chatelaine Chain John Millward Banks 1889Antique Chatelaine Gilded Violets Aide-memoir / Notebook * Circa 1890Georgian English Silver Chatelaine Sovereign Coin Purse Mysers Handbag BagFine Floral Repousse Match Stick Holder Safe 925 Sterling Chatelaine 38.6gAntique Style Climbing Vine Needle Case Toothpick Holder Chatelaine SterlingVintage Solid Silver Bauble Dropper Perfume Scent Bottle Pendant Or ChatelaineArt Nouveau Scroll Style Scissors And Case W/ Chain Chatelaine Sterling 27.8gDimensional Winged Nymph Match Stick Holder Safe Chatelaine 925 Sterling 38.7gVictorian-silver Plated Crocodile Skin Pattern Chatelaine Spectacles Case-c1880sArt Nouveau Floral Style Scissors And Case W/ Chain Chatelaine Sterling 28.9gAntique Style Floral Repousse Pill Box Trinket Holder Chatelaine Sterling SilverVictorian Silver Ribbon Threader Chatelaine Sewing Tool Birmingham 1895Art Nouveau Style Design Pill Box Trinket Holder Chatelaine Sterling 16.4gAntique Silver Chatelaine Clip Stamp Case Magnifier Pinwheel Notepad Button HookGold Filled Chatelaine Mechanical Pencil W/ Lead,vintage, Vgc,w/ BaleClassic Nouveau Style Design Needle Case Toothpick Holder Chatelaine SterlingAntique Style Engraved Flowers Needle Case Toothpick Holder Chatelaine SterlingDimensional Winged Nymph Match Stick Holder Safe Chatelaine 925 Sterling 38.7gAntique Solid Silver Telescopic Chatelaine Pocket Watch Chain Charm ToothpickFine Floral Repousse Match Stick Holder Safe 925 Sterling Chatelaine 38.6gClassic Art Deco Style Design Needle Case Toothpick Holder Chatelaine Sterling Antique Style Leafy Vine Needle Case Toothpick Holder Chatelaine Sterling .925Dimensional Winged Nymph Match Stick Holder Safe Chatelaine 925 Sterling 38.7gAntique Style Leafy Vine Needle Case Toothpick Holder Chatelaine Sterling .925Engraved Leafy Design Needle Case Toothpick Holder Pendant Chatelaine SterlingSterling Silver Aikin Lambert Chatelaine Pencil Antique Style Floral Repousse Pill Box Trinket Holder Chatelaine Sterling SilverDimensional Griffin Match Stick Holder Safe Chatelaine 925 Sterling Silver 30gClassic Nouveau Style Design Needle Case Toothpick Holder Chatelaine Sterling