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

Lambrecht's renovation pleases patrons, proprietors
Wilmette Life, September 18th

9 to get the charm bracelet Matthew had repaired for her, was glad Lambrecht's is once again open to provide repairs like hers, to offer special treasure and unique jewelry designs by Beth Lambrecht, as well as the family's long tradition of personal...Read more

PANDORA Jewelry Teams Up with Heidi Watney of MLB Network to Continue ...
PR Newswire (press release), September 18th

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 and ...Read more

Etsy Spotlight: Itty Bitty Starbucks Bracelet
The Frisky, September 17th

I'm not saying there's a practical reason to wear itty bitty clay Starbucks cups on your wrist, but I'm not saying there isn't either. This bracelet can be customized with any of the 60+ food charms seller CMY Klays makes, but that cute little...Read more

'Charm' us: Let us hear your Pandora story
New Jersey 101.5 FM Radio, September 9th

Pandora 'Charm Us' Contest Form. We want to hear your best Pandora charm story. Let us hear the special story behind your charm bracelet or let us hear why you've always wanted one! Name*. First Last. Phone*. Town*. Email*. Tell us your Pandora charm ...Read more

Hazlett: Not all bracelet add-ons full of charm
Bloomington Pantagraph (blog), September 6th

Years ago my husband bought me a charm bracelet representing the famous department store Marshall Field's. I loved to shop at the Chicago store and the charms represented the entire experience: a miniature store clock, a tiny credit card, a box of...Read more

Welcome to the PANDORA universe
Montgomery Advertiser, August 26th

The strength of the PANDORA charm bracelet is the detailed design, the high quality and the patented threaded bracelet system. The collections include customizable charm bracelets, rings, earrings and necklaces made from sterling silver and 14K and 18K ...Read more

How Aurélie Bidermann Turned a Charm Bracelet Into a Global Business
Fashionista, August 22nd

How Aurélie Bidermann Turned a Charm Bracelet Into a Global Business. With her first Stateside store now open in New York, the Parisian designer opens up about her first big break, and why she chose Manhattan over Los Angeles. At least to start. Avatar ...Read more

Police calls: Charm bracelet and gold bangles taken in $45000 burglary
The Almanac Online, August 20th

Someone stole jewelry from a home on Melanie Lane, including gold bangles, a gold chain with hanging pendants, and a gold charm bracelet with charms that included Caribbean dancers, a graduate hat with a ruby, and a harp. Estimated loss: $45,000...Read more