Vintage Charms

Charm bracelets have been worn for centuries. Each bracelet is unique, and allows the wearer to collect trinkets that represent their lives. Throughout the years, many celebrities have worn charm bracelets. The list includes style icons like: Jackie Kennedy, Lucille Ball, and Liz Taylor. Many bracelets are started when a girl is young by her mother, they may even include charms from her own bracelet. The charm bracelet has become an heirloom piece of jewelry.

History
According to history, the first charm bracelet was worn by the ancient Egyptians. These ancient civilizations charms were called amulets or fobs. The Egyptians spent their lives preparing for the afterlife and this was reflected in their choice of jewelry as well. The charm bracelets were worn like identification tags and held symbols which would tell the gods how to unite the soul with its family after passing away. Charms often held religious significance as well. During the 20th century, Queen Victoria brought charm bracelets back into fashion. Replacing the practical lockets that held perfumes and the religious icons were the glass beads and family crests that she wore. It was also popular to wear a locket with hair from a deceased love one as a token. Victoria wore a charm that contained Prince Albert’s hair for good luck.

In Japan, charms became fashionable in the 1920’s.These charms were made of a plastic material in the city of Kobe. They were found in gumball machines and were worn as a decorative accessory.

During World War II, charm bracelets experienced resurgence in popularity. This was due to the large amount of soldiers traveling home from various parts of Europe and Pacific islands. The soldiers bought small handmade trinkets back to loved ones in the United States as souvenirs. It was not long before American companies caught on to the trend and began manufacturing charms as well. These early American charms were made of plastic and were commonly worn on string around the neck or on a bracelet. They had themes such as holidays, sports, comic, and Disney characters. During the 1950’s charm bracelets were again fashionable, with many companies producing luxury versions such as Chanel. Many modern day fashion companies produce high quality charm bracelets. These include Louis Vuitton, Yves St. Laurent, and Tiffany &Co. These bracelets may be a good option to add vintage charms to of high quality.

Purchasing Vintage Charms
There are several types of bracelet clasps. Common clasp types include; box, toggle, lobster, and sister hook. The box clasp has two parts; the box and the tongue. The tongue portion fits into the box and is released with a push button. Box clasps are available in different shapes like a heart. For added security, a bar may be added that folds over to protect the push button release. Toggle clasps are very common for charm bracelets. The bracelet has a shape at one end with the center open. Into the center of the shape, the bar from the other end of the bracelet is inserted and turned to hold. Toggle clasps come in a variety of shapes. Lobster clasps have a spring that holds the ends together. The way that the ends are pinched together earned the claps its name. Some vintage bracelets may have a sister hook clasp. This clasp is made of two rectangular hooks that overlap when closed. They open in the opposite direction and close around the ring from the other end of the bracelet to hold. Though some of the designs are more effective, the kind of clasp you choose will mostly be decided by personal preference. You may wish to try on bracelets with the different types to determine which you prefer.

Charms come in all shapes and sizes. They are commonly made of gold, silver, or even recycled WWII scrap metals. Some charms are considered mechanical. This means that they are a miniature version of an object such as scissors which actually do cut.

When planning a bracelet, it helps to have a theme in mind. It is also helpful to measure charms before purchasing. Since some charms move, you will want to plan ahead for the proper amount of space needed on a bracelet. The theme of your bracelet and what type of charms you wish to add will help to determine the size you need. For example, you will want to place heavier vintage charms on a bracelet with solid links. If you wish to add a lot of charms, you may want a bracelet with double or triple links which offer more space.

Vintage charms made from quality materials can be expensive. It is important to verify the purity of the material and also the authenticity of the charm. This should be completed before purchasing. The rise in value of vintage charms has increased the amount of reproduced charms being sold as vintage.

Most jewelry made of precious metals, such as gold or silver, have a hallmark stamp on them to indicate the amount of purity. Some vintage pieces may not have these due to the time period when they were made. The absence of a stamped hallmark may also be an indication that the charm is plated with the precious metal rather than made of it entirely. If the vintage charm does not have a hallmark stamped on it, then it may be tested for purity by a jeweler. If a professional jeweler is not available, or you wish to test yourself, you may purchase a test online. One simple method for testing metal pieces is to check for magnetism. Neither gold nor silver is magnetic. Jewelry that is not solid gold or sterling silver is plated, commonly made with nickel or steel. Both nickel and steel are magnetic and will respond to a magnet. Acid tests are also available for determining the purity of the metal. There are kits available to test for each level of gold as well. Using one of these tests will tell you if your charm is 14k, 18k, etc. Verifying if a charm is authentically vintage is not as simple as testing the material from which it was made. There are many reproductions of vintage designs and an uneducated buyer may overpay for a charm that is not in fact “vintage”. There are many online groups with forums. Collectors have a wealth of knowledge about vintage charms and how to tell the true value of a piece.

Caring for Your Vintage Charms
The care of your charms will vary based on the material they are made from. Avoid placing charms of different metals together on a bracelet. Since the charms will be moving around throughout the day, the difference in hardness of material may result in them damaging the others.

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