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”)

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]

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]

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]

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]

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 Chinese Sterling Silver Enamel Articulated Fish Charm Bracelet Loaded Vintage & Antique Sterling Silver Puffy Heart Charm BraceletVintage Coral Charms Carved Man And Heart 14k Gold TopsVintage Sterling Silver Charm BraceletVintage Beau Sterling Charm Bracelet Vtg Sterling Silver Retired Rare James Avery Carriage Horse Buggy Coach 3d CharmVintage Sterling Silver Puffy Heart Charm Bracelet-18 Charms3 Vintage 1940's Sterling Enamel/guilloche Puffy Heart Charms! Beauties! No ResTiffany & Co. Sterling Silver 1837 Padlock Pendant/charm For Necklace BraceletVintage Sterling Silver Charm Bracelet 30 Antique Charms 50.6 GramsAuthentic Tiffany & Co Sterling Silver Enamel Xmas Present Mitten Charm BraceletVintage Solid 14k Yellow Gold Jack In The Box (scary) Charm Articulated #86Vintage Southwestern Sterling Silver 6 Charm Chain Link Bracelet 7.25" | J BxVintage 14k Gold Charm Bracelet Accordion St Patrick's Kitten 29.45 Grams 58.7g Massive Loaded Sterling Silver .925 24+ Of Assorted Charms Bracelet 7"lVintage Loaded Sterling Charm Bracelet 1940s Classic Mechanical Puffy Heart14k Vintage Solid Gold Charm BraceletVintage 1940's Sterling Silver Bracelet 10 Puffy Heart Charms Oil Rig Forget MeVtg Sterling 800 + Silver Charm Bracelet 14 Charms On Monet Bracelet Signed Vtg Sterling Silver Disney Mrs. Potts & Chip Charms From Beauty & The Beast RareVintage Elco Heavy Double Link Sterling Silver Charm  bracelet With 10 CharmsVintage Sterling Guilloche Enamel Charm Pink RoseVintage Sterling Silver Charm Bracelet With Sterling Silver Heart CharmsCollection Of Antique & Vintage Silver Charms - Violin, Wagon, Peter Pan Etc N/rVintage Sterling Silver - Creed Catholic Saint George 7.8g - Charm Pendant Ac384Vintage 1920's Sterling Silver Puffy Heart BraceletVintage Solid 14k Yellow Gold Pine Or Christmas Tree Charm #84Vintage Solid 14k Yellow Gold Wishing Well Charm Articulated #85Vintage Charm BraceletLoaded Vintage Sterling Silver Charm Bracelet 3d Mechanical NrAntique Vtg Sterling Horror, Dr. X, Bag Bloody Axe Mechanical Charm For BraceletVtg Jacoby Bender Jb Sterling Silver 12mm Wide Triple Link Charm Bracelet SignedVintage 26 Charm Sterling Silver Bracelet - 74.9 GramsVintage Sterling Silver 3d *walking Kitty Cat W Ribbon* Charm Pendant Mickey Mouse Sterling Silver Epcot Walt Disney World Charm NewRare Stunning Vintage Sterling Silver *victorian Lady W Flowers 2 Sides* Charm !Rare Wide Vintage Sterling Silver Heart & Link Starter Charm Bracelet 19 Grams!!Vintage Sterling Silver Guilloche Yellow Enamel Heart Charm / Pendant Vintage 1950’s Large This Your Life Book Locket Gold Tone Bracelet Charm14kt Solid Gold 3d Dachshund Dog Charm $1 Dollar & Go! Not Scrap Gold (heavy)Vintage Sterling Silver Enameled Bracelet *** 23 Travel Charms ***Vintage Sterling Silver Starter Charm Bracelet. Fits A 7 Inch Wrist. 9 Grams Vintage Double Link Sterling Silver Charm Bracelet & 25 Charms,western, S/wVintage Angel Bead Link Sterling Silver 925 Toggle Bracelet 8.25in (33.6g)Vintage Sterling Silver Charm BraceletVintage Sterling Enamel Kitchen Cupboard Dishes CharmVintage Estate 14k Gold Diamond Man In The Moon & Star Fob Charm PendantDisney Vintage Ursula Sterling CharmScarce Vintage Sterling Silver 3d *camera Moves* Charm 1.4 Grams Wow Amazing Vintage Sterling Silver Girl Scouts Charm. Signed R.Vintage Movable Sea Turtle Sterling Silver 925 Charm Pendant (4.0g)Vtg Bernhard Hertz Sterling Silver Charm The Little Mermaid Pendant Denmark 7/8"Vintage Sterling Bracelet Charms Catholic Religious Medal W/ Mary Jesus Dove Vintage Estate Large Sterling Charm Bracelet CollectionVintage Heavy Sterling Silver Charm Bracelet 23 Charms 56.9 GramsVintage Sterling Silver Charm Bracelet With Lock Signed With 2 Charms 7.5"Darling Vintage Sterling Silver 3d *baby Bear In A Tree* Charm Pendant 3 Grams Vintage Sterling Enameled Puffy Heart CharmRare Vintage 1976 Sterling Silver Universal Studios *jaws* Charm Pendant 3.3 GrScarce Heavy Detailed Creed Vintage Sterling Silver 3d*may Angel * Charm Pendant

Recent News: Charms and Charm Bracelets

Source: Google News

Man's crime spree halted by police
Del Rio News Herald, October 22nd

“I asked where he got the bar of scented soap, charm bracelet, rosary beads, horseshoe religious item, FM transmitter and can opener from. He first said he girlfriend, and then he said that they were his,” Hutchinson said. The sergeant said he learned...Read more

Fashion Bloggers Share Their Favorite Autumn Pieces from PANDORA Jewelry
PR Newswire (press release), October 20th

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

Here is a doll that shits charm bracelets
Death and Taxes, October 16th

I mean, I guess it's less gross than the ooze that came pouring out of poor Baby Alive, but I still can't fathom what would possess a person to come up with the idea for a charm bracelet made of doll poop?.What would be going through their heads on the...Read more

What We're Buying: Lo Bosworth's Charm Bangle (Plus: Our Editors' Picks This ...
PEOPLE StyleWatch, October 14th

Have you bought anything you loved lately? In the PEOPLE StyleWatch offices, the answer to that question is usually “Yes.” This week, we're sharing our absolute can't miss picks in our gallery, What We're Loving Right Now -— as well Lo Bosworth's...Read more

Greentown mother who suffered stillbirth starts new nonprofit to help others
Fox 59, October 13th

The charm bracelet was a gift from Howell's mother. “That was the only thing (hospital band) I had that I took home. I could walk down the streets and have proof that I gave birth,” said Howell. Monday evening, women who've lost a baby made more bracelets...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

Dublin's 55th Theater Festival, Fabergé's Charm Bracelet and More
Wall Street Journal, September 25th

Antony Armstrong-Jones, or Lord Snowdon as he became known after marrying Britain's Princess Margaret, has given 130 original prints to London's National Portrait Gallery. Forty of those are featured in the museum's "Snowdon: A Life in View...Read more