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Want to get your hands on some Vintage Charm Bracelets? Learn about the history, types, most collectible charms and tips on buying.
Vintage Charm Bracelets are a fun way to collect something both personal to you as well as rich in personal history of the previous wearers. You can purchase full Vintage Charm Bracelets or even just the charms themselves.
What is a Vintage Charm Bracelet?
Charm Bracelets are comprised of a link metal bracelet (occasionally fabric) with various charms dangling off of it. The charms themselves are decorative pendants or little trinkets that often represent something personal and significant to the wearer.
History of Charm Bracelets
To understand the Vintage Charm Bracelet, you must first start with the history of the charms themselves. Charms are believed to go all the way back to the Neolithic Period. Here, charms were made of shells, wood, animal bones or stones that the wearers would find locally. They would carry them as a talisman to ward off evil and enemies, hoping these trinkets would bring them protection.
Egyptians would use charms as forms of identification of the wearer for gods in their afterlife, status symbols or protection. Their charms are some of the first where we see the use of gemstones, silver and gold.
During the Roman Empire, Christians would wear a Fish Charm, as a way of identifying themselves to fellow Christians.
As with many other jewelry trends, Queen Victoria greatly helped increase the popularity of charms. Here, we see a shift of using charms for a purpose (warding off evil, identification, etc.) and instead more as a decorative piece of art and jewelry. She often wore and gifted charm bracelets. As with her other pieces of jewelry, she created a mourning aspect to her charms when Prince Albert passed. This time period is when we start to see lockets full of hair of a deceased or miniature portraits of the deceased.
One of the first well known jewelers to delve into the world of charm bracelets, was Tiffany & Co. In 1889 they created their heart charm displayed on a link chain bracelet. This style is still well known and popular today.
Continuing to grow in popularity, charm bracelets became fashionable during World War II with soldiers. It was common form soldiers to find trinkets and other little items made by locals in the areas they were stationed in. They would bring these home for their loved ones to turn into charms to add to their bracelets.
During the 1950s and 1960s, American teenagers were starting to copy celebrity styles, which included the charm bracelet. Teenagers would see this style on movies and bring them into their own lives. Collections of personalized charms were booming during this time period.
Types of Vintage Charm Bracelets
The most common type of Vintage Charm Bracelet is that made of a link bracelet. Each link is large enough to fit a charm on it, allowing the wearer to add as many as they like. You’ll see gold, silver and two-tone bracelets.
The charms themselves are often made of metals, engraved or carved into the end shape. They are sometimes made of gemstones or decorated with gemstones, diamonds or enamel. You will see lockets, like those Queen Victorian brought into fashion, as well as mechanical charms. These charms have moving parts which can open to reveal a compartment or even make the legs of a dancer move!
How to Wear a Vintage Charm Bracelet
For the most part, wearers will wear a Vintage Charm Bracelet as they were made to be worn, dangling on the wrist. You can wear it with one charm, or with many! Some contemporary wearers will put the charms on a necklace. This is a nice way to showcase a charm you love.
The Most Collectible Vintage Charms
- Mechanical charms from the Victorian Era are highly collectible.
- Charms from the Art Deco period created for fraternal organizations such as the Masons, Odd Fellows, and Elks.
- Real ivory charms.
- Charms made with diamonds or precious gemstones.
- Charms made of real gold.
Tips for Buying Vintage Charm Bracelets
Since charm bracelets are still in fashion today, you’ll want to be very careful when looking to purchase a Vintage Charm Bracelet. A good place to start searching is by deciding what time period you want your charm to be from. That way, you can learn the specific characteristics and qualities, helping to make sure you aren’t purchasing a reproduction.
Hallmarks are also key. Most Vintage Charm Bracelets will have metal stampings, and often designer stamps as well as country of origin stamps. French and Italian are the most popular, but often the hardest to find. True Vintage pieces will often have the bracelet as well as the charm marked.
- In general, English charms and bracelets will have hallmarks
- American pieces should have markings indicated "ss" for sterling silver.
- Mexican charms and bracelets will have marks indicating the purity of silver.
- Native American silver (Navajo, Zuni) does not have to be marked under law.
- Gold charms should be stamped with 14k or 18k to mark the gold's purity.
Where to Purchase Vintage Charm Bracelets
Vintage Charm Bracelets can be found on the internet with sites such as Etsy and Ebay. Flea Markets and Vintage Shops may also carry them, but be sure to use the tips above to avoid purchasing something that isn’t truly vintage.
Here are a list of some Etsy sores that carry a good collection of items for you to browse through:
Tips for Buying Vintage Charms on Etsy
- Make sure you search within the Vintage section.
- Look for shops with lots of positive reviews.
- Read the shop's "Shipping and Policies" tab before making a purchase decision.
- Read reviews and buyers feedback, only buy from shops with consistently happy customers.
- If you find a shop you like, add them to your favorites so you can find them again.
- Be specific in your search keywords.
Vintage Charm Bracelets are a both a challenging and fun way to delve into the world of Vintage Jewelry. Once you have a bracelet, you can just buy individual charms that really speak to you. Before you know it, you’ll have more charms than you have room for on your bracelet!