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

Herman's Shoes Finds Right Fit For 50 Years
Gazette Newspapers, March 2nd

In fact, the matriarch — who wears a charm bracelet composed of tiny clinking silver shoes — added that generations of women now visit the store. They grew up coming with their mothers to the shop and followed in those footsteps, enjoying a selection...Read more

Crime Stoppers
Morris Daily Herald, February 27th

Two plastic storage containers containing several pieces of jewelry and one Pandora Charm Bracelet with 17 charms was removed from the residence. • A residential burglary that occurred between Feb. 1 and 4 in the 7900 block of Foxboro Drive in Coal City...Read more

Enlisting Viruses as Commandos in a War on Cancer
New York Times, February 26th

Interviewed by Mr. Smith, she concentrates on the charm bracelet she's stringing, clearly tired of talking about being sick. The methods Mr. Smith reports on are only at the clinical-trial stage — Dr. June speculates that his T-cell therapy might be...Read more

Can Endless Become the Next Billion-Dollar Jewellery Brand?
The Business of Fashion, February 25th

While the traditional charm bracelet business model saw customers purchasing a single bracelet to be filled with charms, this model encourages the purchase of multiple, stackable bracelets in a variety of colours and finishes. Endless currently offers...Read more

Classic Charms
Community Impact Newspaper, February 18th

”When you start a charm bracelet it tells a story in your life, and when you have a bead bracelet it's similar. It's not just a pretty piece of jewelry.” In 2000, Broussard first started charm website, www.classic-charms.com, in which she sells both...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

Tread is an analog wearable that solves a variety of tool-using problems ...
PSFK (blog), February 9th

A tool-user's take on the traditional charm bracelet, it combines Leatherman's multitool functionality with the always-on accessibility of light wearable technologies. Each link in the charm bracelet is made of corrosion resistant, 17-4 stainless steel...Read more

Love is in the Air with the New Valentine's Day Collection from PANDORA Jewelry
PR Newswire (press release), February 2nd

The From the Heart gift set includes a sterling silver charm bracelet with a limited edition heart-shaped clasp, two "Steady Heart" clips and one "Love All Around" charm for $200. The Always in my Heart gift set includes a pair of "Be My Valentine...Read more