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 Sterling Silver Enamel Puffy Heart Charm Bracelet With Heart Lock ClaspThe Best Vintage Native American / Western Sterling Silver 31 Charm BraceletVintage 14k Gold Charm Bracelet -13 CharmsAntique Victorian 10k Yellow Gold Rose Cut Diamond Beaded Heart Charm PendantAntique Victorian Sterling Silver .925 Double Sided Happy / Sad Face Charm!:)Vintage Sterling Silver Charm Bracelet Puffy Padlock Heart Repousse AntiqueVtg Sterling Silver Links Bracelet W/40 Charms, Most Sterling Silver, One Is 10kVintage Elco Sterling Silver Triple Link 7-1/4" Charm Bracelet Safety Chain 12mmStering Silver Charm Jewelry Bracelet W/ Pennsylvania Maine & More State CharmsVintage 3d Sterling Silver Coca Cola Coke Pop Bottle Pendant Bracelet CharmEstate Vintage 1940s Wwii Sterling Silver Puffy Hearts 19 Charm Bracelet 32 GramVintage Sterling Silver .925 Enamel American Flag Heart Charm!:)Vintage Puffy Heart Sterling Silver Charm Bracelet & 13 Charms, Lampl , LocketAntique Vintage Moveable Enamel Charm Sterling Silver 925 Bracelet 7.75"Vintage 14k Solid Yellow Gold Mexican Mexico Souvenir Charm Bracelet Diamond 20gAntique 9k Yellow Gold 375 Movable Wheels Horse Buggy Charm Pendant Nassau 3.5gVintage 14k 585 Yellow Gold Birdcage Bird Cage Charm PendantVintage Sterling Silver Charm Bracelet, 28.9 Grams, Baby Carriage, Out HouseAntique Vintage Sterling Silver Enamel Puffy Heart Shamrock Charm No ReserveAntique Vintage Sterling Silver Puffy Heart Charm Scroll W Turquoise Stone NrVintage Estate 14k Solid Yellow Gold Double Link Charm Bracelet.12.5 Grams.Rare Old 14k Gold Wwii Era Plane Charm W PropellersLoaded Vintage Sterling Silver 30 Travel Destination Charm Link Bracelet 58.5 GrVintage Scandinavian Sterling Enamel Charm Bracelet – 9 Charms 7”Antique Sterling Silver Puffy Heart Charm Repousse Rose & Scroll No ReserveVintage Brighton Silver Rhodium Loaded 12 Charm Wide Snake Chain Bracelet 8"Antique Victorian Sterling Silver Sweetheart Book Chain 2 Hearts Charm BraceletVintage Walt Disney Productions Snow White Bashful Dwarf 3d Sterling Charm 925Vintage Sterling Silver Elephants Charm/link Bracelet, 7.3g, Italy, 7.25" No ResVintage Sterling Silver Puffy Heart Charm Basket Of Flowers Floral BouquetVintage Sterling Silver Puffed Heart Charm BraceletVintage 18 Kt. Happy Fish Enamel Pendant/charm With Ruby 6.1 GrAntique Vintage Asian Oriental Chinese Charm Bracelet 14k Yellow Gold 8 Charms800 Gold Hallmarked Enamel Rooster Charm Pendant 2.9 G 18k Not Scrap No ResrveVintage Charm Bracelet Loaded 34 Charms Sterling Silver Turquoise Variety Other Antique Victorian Sterling Silver .925 Flower Floral Heart Charm!:)Vintage Sterling Silver Puffy Heart Charm Peacock BirdAntique Sterling Silver.1.0 Ounce 16 Charm Hawaii Leigh Fish Lei Charm Bracelet1900s Bog Oak 3 Leaf Clover Book Stanhope Charm Robert Burns Scotland 7 ViewsVintage Sterling Silver Walter Lampl Repousse Heart CharmDisney Fox And Hound Limited Edition Movable Sterling 925 Charm Pendant (7g)Rare Old 14k Gold Setter / Cocker Spaniel Dog CharmVtg Alex And Ani Today Is An Opportunity Brass Bronze Gold Tone Charm BraceletAntique Love Knot Sterling Silver Puffy Heart Bracelet Charm 925Vintage Truart Sterling Silver My Identity Charm With ChainVintage Charm Bracelet With Sterling Pearl Charms, LotAntique Vintage Sterling Silver Puffy Heart Repousse Butterfly Charm No ReserveVintage Southwestern Sterling Silver Charm Bracelet, 22g, 10 Charms, No ReserveAntique Victorian Silver ( Stamped) Heart Lock & Key Bracelet 6.5"Vintage Charm Bracelet~ 28 Charms~ Original~ Most Sterling Silver~7-9"Antique Sterling Silver.20 Grams 8 Charm Heart Aeroplne Martini Shaker BraceletVintage Sterling Silver Mechanical Boat Compass Charm Vintage Green Enamel Fleur De Lis Heart Sterling Silver 925 Charm Pendant (1.6g)Vintage Disneyland Sterling Silver CharmAntique Sterling Silver Enamel Puffy Heart Forget Me Not Flower No ReserveMini 22k Gold 1908 Us $20 Dollar Coin Replica Charm Pendant & 14k 16" Serp ChainVintage Cameo Gold Filled W. Ring Fun On Lunch Break! Beautiful!!Vintage Sterling Silver Puffy Heart Charm Enamel Fleur-de-lis Engraved FlorenceAntique Vintage Sterling Silver Puffy Heart Repousse Fleur De Lis Charm NrAntique Vintage Puffy Heart Sterling Silver Charm Repousse Scroll Both Sides Nr

Recent News: Charms and Charm Bracelets

Source: Google News

My Flash Trash Presents #GIRLPOWER #CHARMGANG
Clash Magazine, July 2nd

“Creating a charm bracelet is also the most personal way to express yourself through jewellery,” she continues, echoing sentiments similar to Jiwinaia's Marisa Jiwi Sok, “so it's an intimate reflection of each girl's style and personality.” For her...Read more

Reshoring in the Real World
Assembly Magazine, July 1st

While recovering, he came across a company e-mail from a woman detailing her fruitless search for a sorority bead to add to her Pandora charm bracelet. Schowalter searched the Internet and found no such product, so he handmade the oval-shaped, sterling ...Read more

Get 20% off Links of London jewellery when you spend £150 or more, plus get ...
Mirror.co.uk, July 1st

20% off selected full-priced items over £150. The discount, which is automatically deducted at checkout, includes the latest Wimbledon jewellery collection featuring items from £35. You can also save on the popular charm bracelet collections in the...Read more

Marion Bartoli's New Jewelry Line Is a Hit at Wimbledon
Vogue.com, June 30th

The label goes beyond the classic lucky charm bracelet and includes a smattering of cuffs, earrings, rings, necklaces, and even body chains in gold and silver that come accented with colorful stones. Bartoli's jet-set lifestyle played a big part in...Read more

Win a charm bracelet
DestinyConnect, June 30th

Celebrate contemporary design and traditional craftsmanship with these precious mementos of getaways past, present and future. World-renowned for its high quality, use of genuine materials and hand-finished jewellery at affordable prices, Pandora...Read more

Just charming
Gulf Coast News Today, June 24th

Next to her wedding rings, my mother has always loved her charm bracelet more than any other possession. A heavy piece of jewelry, she started collecting the gold charms when she was a freshman at Howard College, now Samford University, where my ...Read more

Guardians of the Galaxy Charm Bracelet: Hooked on Your Wrist
Technabob (blog), June 18th

I've said it many times: Guardians of the Galaxy was easily my favorite Marvel flick. It was funny and action packed, which can be hard to pull off. If you are a fan of the flick and want to show your geeky fandom, a couple new charm bracelets are...Read more

How Charm Bracelets And Other Collectible Jewelry Can Be The Solution To ...
Huffington Post, June 4th

"Personally, I love giving charms and charm bracelets, I think it is really one of the most thoughtful and also practical luxurious gifts to give," jewelry designer Monica Rich Kosann told The Huffington Post. "I wear my charm bracelet everyday and I...Read more