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.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

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]

Researching Costume Jewelry

Researching Costume Jewelry

Jewelry lovers, venture through this amazing database of vintage jewelry articles, catalogs, and brochures, as well… [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]

Emerald City Vintage Costume Jewelry

Emerald City Vintage Costume Jewelry

It looks like we're not in Kansas anymore with Elizabeth Rowlands' site on vintage costume jewelry from the 1940s a… [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    

Vintage Sterling Silver Puffy Heart 15 Charm BraceletLoaded Vintage Sterling Silver Articulated Charm Bracelet – 32 Charms 8” 72.8 GrAdorable James Avery Sterling Charm Bracelet W/17 Avery Charms-some Retired! NrAntique Vintage Moving Parts Enamel Heart Lock Clasp Sterling 925 Charm BraceletFancy Vintage Sterling Silver Enamel 31 Charm Jamaica Maine Bear Globe BraceletVintage Sterling Silver Pelican Charm By Georg Jensen, DenmarkAntique 22k Gold American $1 Dollar Coin 1853 Mounted Usa $1 No ReserveCollection Vintage Sterling Silver Puffy Heart Charms Charm Bracelet Lion GarnetVintage Sterling Silver Heavy Heart Key Lock Charm Bracelet By Tiffany & CompanyVintage Antique Sterling Silver Puffy Hearts Charms Bracelet 7 InchVintage-charm Bracelet-sterling Silver-16 Charms-1977-musical Instruments & MoreVintage Lot 3 Sterling Charm Bracelets & 75 Charms Approx 180 GramsVintage 1940s Sterling Silver Puffy Heart Charm Bracelet - 14 Hearts 6.5 LongVictorian Gold Filled Seal Fob Charms Vintage Gold Filled Charm BraceletAntique 800 Silver Enamel Four Aces Lucky Charm Necklace, Bracelet Playing CardsVintage Cuckoo Clock Sterling Silver 925 Charm Pendant (2.1g)Vintage Sterling Silver English Charm Bracelet With 22 Charms - ExcellentVintage Cinderella Opening Carriage Moveable Sterling Silver 925 Bracelet CharmRare German Vintage Sterling Silver Lg Guilloche Enamel Heart W Prayer Charm WowAdorable James Avery Sterling Horned Toad Charm-so Cute!Vintage Loaded Sterling Silver Charm BraceletVintage Sterling Silver Puffy Heart Charms Bracelet. Vintage Massive 70+ Charm Bracelet Sterling Silver Huge Big 140.71g 1 Of A KindVintage 14k Gold Emergency Mad Money Box Charm With Hammer & Dollar3d Vintage Sulton Co. 14k Yellow Gold Figural Clam & Pearl Charm Or Pendant 3.4gVintage Signed Sterling Silver Repousse Turquoise Puffy Heart CharmEstate Find...vintage Etruscan 800 Silver Charm Bracelet14k Yellow Gold Bracelet Charm Man In The Moon ~ 0.6 Grams Scrap Or Not!Vintage Solid 14k Gold Enamel Irish 4 Leaf Clover Charm Ornate DesignVictorian 10k Solid Rose Gold Anvil Gavel Freemason Masonic Judge Charm PendantLot Of 7 Antique Vintage Moveable Wagon Shoe Camera Sterling Silver 925 CharmsVintage14k Yellow Gold Charm Holder With Unmarked CharmsVintage Etruscan 800 Silver 7 Charm Bracelet. 7 3/4". 109 Grams 7.50" Fob OpensAntique Vintage 14k Yellow Gold Cincinnati Tyler Davidson Fountain Square CharmVintage Sterling Puffy Heart Charm With SwanVintage Sterling Silver Floral Etched Book Locket Bracelet Charm Or PendantVintage Tc Sterling Silver Double Link 7-1/2" Starter Charm Bracelet W/ SafetyRare Look Beau Vintage Sterling Silver Enamel *forget Me Not Flowers* Charm 1.8gRare Vintage Sterling Silver Southwestern Faux Bear Claw Turquoise Coral Charm!Vintage Mermaid Sterling Silver 925 Charm Pendant (1.6g)Vintage Tiny Dog Chihuahua Sterling Silver 925 Charm Pendant (1.0g)Vintage Galloping Horse Sterling Silver 925 Charm Pendant (3.4g)Vintage Tiny Abstract Vase Sterling Silver 925 Charm Pendant (2.5g)Vintage State Of California Sterling Silver 925 Charm Pendant (2.1g)14k Gold 1950's Record Charm 1.9 GramsVintage Sterling Silver Loaded Charm Bracelet Bell Canon Shoe Violin Ring 36.19gRare Look Vintage Sterling Silver Working Stanhope Ship 5 Miami Scenes Charm!!Rare Look Walter Lampl Vintage Sterling Silver *pilot Wings & Propeller* Charm!Vintage 800 Silver Enamel Travel Shield Tourist 39 Charms Necklace 18 InchesVintage 900 Silver 3d Greek Roman Column Bracelet Charm Or PendantVintage Tiny Weenie Dog Dachshund Sterling Silver 925 Charm Pendant (0.7g)Vintage Charm Gold Bracelet Nautical Navy Theme 14k 10k Charms 14.2 GramsVintage Sterling Silver Fancy Puffy Heart Bracelet 16 Hearts 14k Gold Windup Music Box Charm Happy Birthday Melody Switzerland PendantAdorable Retired Xrare James Avery Sterling Rocking Horse Charm-no Res!Large Chain Charm Bracelet With Heart Padlock3d Vintage 14k Gold Enamel Cloisonne Asian Slipper Shoe Pendant Charm 1.5gAntique Vintage 14k Yellow Gold Judge Auctioneer Gavel Dangle CharmVintage Sterling Silver Charm Bracelet W/ 3-d Charms Puffy Heart Cross Lock EtcVintage Sterling Silver 2-tone Floral Etched Heart Locket Bracelet Charm Pendant

Recent News: Charms and Charm Bracelets

Source: Google News

Stephanie Pratt Talks MeMe London, 'Made In Chelsea' And New Memoir: Exclusive ...
Fashion & Style, July 31st

The two girls that started the line reached out to me to design a charity charm bracelet and they told me, “You can choose a charity and you can design the bracelet. I was like, “Oh my god, I'd love to.” We found this amazing, amazing charity called...Read more

Experience the wonders of Cinderella Ball
Kokomo Perspective, July 31st

During the event a silent auction and a raffle will be held for items such as the princess tiara, Cinderella's glass slipper, a crown jewel and Cinderella's charm bracelet all provided by Strickler Jewelers. We will also sell Shirley Temple's in a...Read more

Mother asks for return of stolen charm bracelet containing murdered son's ashes
The Denver Channel, July 30th

Mother asks for return of stolen charm bracelet containing murdered son's ashes. 8:06 AM, Jul 30, 2015. 14 mins ago. shannon paolini | ashes | el paso county sheriff's office. Previous Next. The bracelet with the ashes can be returned, no questions asked...Read more

Police seek jewelry stolen from Sidney home
Press & Sun-Bulletin, July 29th

State police are investigating a theft of jewelry and gold coins from a home in the Town of Sidney. Investigators say the stolen valuables include an antique gold charm bracelet with five large heart-shaped gold charms that may contain inscriptions on...Read more

St. Michael principal has unique, classic style
The Courier-Journal, July 24th

Signature accessories: Pearl earrings that were my mother's, my charm bracelet, and a variety of bracelets that I have bought at street markets in NYC. I also never leave home without my Brooks running shoes and workout clothes. You never know when you ...Read more

Artists spend a Saturday at Pocket Park
Deming Headlight, July 19th

They are custom designed with the same principles of a charm bracelet. Visitors to the park were impressed by her jewelry and the local artists who exhibited their work. Foot traffic was steady from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The park is located at the 100...Read more

Power up with the Avengers Assemble Charm Bead Set
Chip Chick, July 9th

ThinkGeek has had Avengers charms for a while, but hey, it's a lot easier when they all assemble for you. To make things a little easier on your mouse-clicking index finger, ThinkGeek is now selling one charm bracelet that comes with all six of their...Read more

Mine: The charm bracelet
Washington Post, February 13th

When she died and we cleared out her apartment, I found her charm bracelet. As I fingered the four baby booties with our names almost worn off, the telephone charm whose rotary dial turned, the mementos from states she'd visited, mysteries surfaced...Read more