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

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How Kate Middleton Revolutionized the Royal Christmas
Daily Beast, November 26th

There is also the possibility that George will be wearing a charm bracelet this Christmas, if Kate takes her mother's advice and creates an advent calendar where each day the kid gets “a delicate charm” that builds up to create a bracelet. In another...Read more

Stumped on what to buy the lady in your life?
Fayetteville Observer, November 26th

Your gift doesn't have to be as serious as an engagement ring or as expensive as a new car. From a simple charm bracelet to the elegant diamonds, jewelry can fit any budget, says Ashely Washington, a spokesperson for Rhudy's Jewelry Showroom in ...Read more

Shop All Your Gifting Needs Here! Check Out Some Awesome Items For The 2015 ...
OK! Magazine, November 25th

Tis' the season… to buy Alex and Ani bracelets! Everyone's favorite brand is providing holiday-themed bracelets, such as the Gingerbread Man Charm Bracelet! Alex and Ani will even donate 20% of the purchase price to Dana-Farber Cancer Institute to...Read more

Three fun places around Kansas City to escape Black Friday — together
Kansas City Star (blog), November 25th

My friend Ally picked out a charm bracelet project and started digging through the drawers to choose from endless options of gems and charms and even dice and Scrabble letters. I made a terrarium necklace ($24 including the hourly rate). I couldn't...Read more

Woman reunited with lost charm bracelet, thanks to 8News coverage
WRIC, November 21st

Thanks to our coverage, a 14 carat gold bracelet that was lost for months is now back with its owner. Friday night, 8News Reporter Claudia Rupcich introduced you to David Thomas, an employee at Land's End at Chesterfield Towne Center. For months, he ...Read more

Chesterfield Towne Center employee looking for owner of lost charm bracelet
WRIC, November 20th

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va (WRIC) — The search is on for the owner of a special piece of jewelry after employees found a gold charm bracelet inside Chesterfield Towne Center. For months, David Thomas has been trying to find whoever owns the 14 ...Read more

Pandora's US Charm, Bracelet Sales Hurt Following Promotional Shift
JCK, November 10th

A shift in Pandora's promotional strategy hurt its U.S. charms and bracelet sales in the third quarter, the company noted in its third quarter financial results. In addition, the Danish charm company dropped 116 more unbranded North American retailers...Read more

Mysterious charm bracelet found in Chesterfield store, August 7th

A worker at an area department store is pleading for the public's help to find the owner of a mysterious charm bracelet. The worried worker tells WTVR CBS 6 anchor Julie Bragg the gold bracelet was discovered in a Lands End dressing room at the Sears...Read more