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
Victorian table settingsObserver-Reporter, January 31st
Q. I still have a Disney charm bracelet that was given to me in 1945 or '46. It's 6 inches long and has five charms – Donald Duck, Huey, Dewey, Louie and Jose Carioca. Please help me figure out what it's worth. A. Walt Disney introduced Donald Duck in...Read more
Folk-rocker Martin Sexton coming to Breckenridge to support new albumSummit Daily News, January 30th
This record is a charm bracelet of 12 gems all strung together with the golden thread of what Rolling Stone calls his “soul-marinated voice.” Sexton will perform tunes from “Mix Tape,” as well as other favorite classics on this tour. The Breckenridge...Read more
Officials investigate home burglary, vandalism at EMS station No. 2Cleveland Daily Banner, January 29th
Franklin complied a list of stolen property for Gasper, which included “Nintendo Wii, Kay Pandora charm bracelet with 15 charms, a diamond necklace, two valuable engagement rings, a white gold wedding band, a set of pearl earrings and necklace, a pink ...Read more
Rand Paul Is Turning Out to Be 2016's Troller-in-ChiefABC News, January 29th
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, may be mulling a bid to be the next commander-in-chief in 2016, but he may have already earned the unofficial title of troller-in-chief with his pointed digs at his potential rivals -- Democrats and Republicans alike. The...Read more
Shopping Sales and Events in New York CityNew York Times, January 28th
To mark the occasion, the jewelry designer Efva Attling has created a limited-edition charm bracelet inspired by her Mini Orchids collection; Whitney members who visit Ms. Attling's store will receive the sterling silver piece free with a purchase. At...Read more
GIFs: How to make a DIY charm braceletYahoo Canada Shine On (blog), January 20th
Today, we're jumping on the DIY train in an attempt to make our very own custom charm bracelet. This way, you can choose your charms and type of chain to really reflect your personal style. Of course, I didn't have the faintest idea of how to proceed...Read more
Bracelet holds unique charm for collectorsCentral Kentucky News, January 11th
Perhaps the most famous and valuable charm bracelet was the Cartier charm bracelet owned by the Duchess of Windsor. This bracelet, with its series of crosses, is made from precious and semiprecious stones. It was created and designed by the Duke of ...Read more
'Charming' Entry Is A Winner For Sandy Hook GirlThe Newtown Bee, January 10th
“We actually had to buy a second charm bracelet for her,” laughed her mother, “because she has so many charms now.” Prominent among the cheerful charms, of course, is the pink butterfly charm. Crayola also donates $1,500 worth of Crayola product to Art ...Read more