Today when we think of charm bracelets, the first things that probably come to mind are the modular products of contemporary Italian companies like Zoppini and Unodomani. But charms and charm bracelets have a rightful place in the pantheon of fine jewelry, and there’s no better place to begin than Victorian England.

Queen Victoria wore charm bracelets during her reign, making them a popular fashion accessory among noble Europeans. Sterling silver hearts—some set with precious or semi-precious stones, some puffed up in a style called répoussé—were as popular then as they are now. Hearts with beaded edges were frequently adorned with symbols of love (Cupid’s bow and arrow) or good fortune (shamrocks). Usually one of the hearts on a bracelet would open with a key so the piece could be removed from the wearer’s wrist.

Though not charms in the strict sense, teeth and claws were also favorite Victorian adornments for bracelets. Another practice was to use a bracelet as the armature for a collection of jingling, sterling silver coins.

One of the most highly collectible types of Victorian charms is the mechanical charm. The word "mechanical" refers to any charm with a moving part, such as the legs of Can-Can dancer that kick when you push a lever, or the limbs of a jester that bend when a little chain is pulled.

At the end of the 19th century, charms of all sorts were offered to give wearers a chance to express their personalities. Ride a bicycle? There’s a bicycle charm for you. Into horses? Pick up a gold horse head with a swinging chain below it. And, of course, there were lots of lockets, into which you could put a treasured photograph or some other secret keepsake.

By the 1930s, charms and charm bracelets reflected the Art Deco design sensibility that was in the air. One stunning example that sold recently at Christie’s featured a platinum bracelet studded with diamonds, from which dangled 11 members of a gem-studded band—the straight sides of each cut stone gave the little horn players, guitarist, and other musicians an angular, ’30s look.

Some of the most collectible charms from this period are those created for fraternal organizations such as the Masons, Odd Fellows, and Elks. The Elk charms were perhaps the most...

Less controversial today are the vintage charms made out of plastics such as Bakelite and celluloid. Charms for the latter were shaped into animals (cats, alligators, monkeys, to name but a few), devils and skulls, and mythical creatures (the winged horses are especially nice). There were even charms in the shape of comic-book characters of the day, such as Orphan Annie and Moon Mullins.

One of the many companies that bounced back and forth between fine and costume jewelry was Walter Lampl. Based in New York, the firm was one of the leading producers of charms through the 1950s, when it boasted more than 750 different styles of charms in one of its catalogs.

Lampl charms were made of gold or silver and were often embellished with pearls, rubies and other stones. Lampl heart charms featured enameling and machine-made, guilloche backgrounds, while its mechanical charms were some of the most inventive around. For collectors, Lampl charms are relatively easy to identify because they are one of the few charms with a maker's mark (look for "WL" in a shield).

Indeed, the 1950s was a terrific decade for charms—if you are considering putting together a vintage charm bracelet, you might want to focus on items from that era. Lampl made 14-karat gold charms for the Marchal Company, which sold everything from charms for new moms (storks, strollers, shoes, high chairs, etc.) to charms for high-school students (report cards, school bells, pencil sharpeners, diplomas, and the like). And if that sounds too domestic, choose charms relating to nightlife, such as a lamppost holding up a drunk, an ashtray with a stubbed out cigarette, and a barrel labeled "For Emergency Only" that was designed to hold a couple of aspirin to soften the blow of the inevitable next-day hangover.

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Recent News: Charms and Charm Bracelets

Source: Google News

PANDORA Jewelry Teams Up with National Sports Correspondent Anita Marks ...
PR Newswire (press release), October 30th

The strength of the PANDORA charm bracelet is the detailed design, the high quality and the unique threaded bracelet system (U.S. Pat. No. 7,007,507). The affordable luxury collections include customizable charm bracelets, rings, earrings, necklaces...Read more

Fisher's cake walk raises $340 for Karmanos, October 29th

A local mom from the school, Kara Adamson, was presented with a breast cancer-themed charm bracelet donated by local entrepreneur Afrika Gibson, who was also in attendance with a table set up in case anyone wanted to purchase one of those bracelets ...Read more

Editorials from around Pennsylvania
The State, October 29th

Tynes, who is charged with accepting a $2,000 Tiffany charm bracelet in exchange for her help securing a Traffic Court contract, was one of several officials whose cases were mired in a standoff between Kane and her subordinates. Williams suggested...Read more

Hackettstown man charged with stealing 'Jesus' charm, other jewelry
Daily Record, October 29th

On July 11, Ormen allegedly stole a gold bracelet and a charm bracelet and sold the items for $165. On Aug. 11, Ormen allegedly stole a gold ring and a pair of earrings and sold the items for $20. On Aug. 27, Ormen allegedly stole a gold bracelet, gold...Read more

New Anti-Bullying Charm Bracelet Aims to Combat the Infamous 'Bystander Effect', October 28th

On October 15th, Jan Marten, the owner of Jem Jewellers, launched a Kickstarter campaign to finance the initial production run of a new anti-bullying charm bracelet that aims to combat the 'bystander effect' and promote active intervention in bullying ...Read more

Former traffic court judge charged with accepting Tiffany bracelet
Philadelphia Business Journal, October 23rd

This is the bracelet," said Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams holding up the jewelery during a press conference. "It's a $2,000, Tiffany charm bracelet, the bracelet that Judge Tynes received for promising special access to a businessman who...Read more

Bracelet a lucky charm for Hokitika's new multi-millionaire
Voxy, September 30th

A Hokitika woman is celebrating after winning $2 million with Lotto First Division on Saturday night, crediting her good fortune to her lucky charm bracelet. The winner received the bracelet as a gift last Christmas and immediately decided she would...Read more

Police beat: Pandora charm bracelet stolen
Marion Star, September 30th

Police Beat items are compiled from reports of Marion-area law enforcement agencies. In police, sheriff and Ohio Highway Patrol news, names and addresses appear as they do in the police department and sheriff's office reports. These are arrest reports...Read more