Old Charm Bracelet
Do you own an old charm bracelet and have you ever wondered exactly how old it is? I’m talking about the older type of charm bracelet where the attachments hang via an O-ring, not the modern sort where the chain goes through the charm itself. Of course, like me, you may have a charm bracelet that was bought and collected for you in the 1960s or 1970s and so you know how old it is. If you have recently acquired an older charm bracelet it is interesting to know exactly how old it is. Hopefully, I can help you determine that. Please note if the chain goes through the charm, Pandora Style, then this is a newer charm and not vintage yet.
Charm jewellery, either a bracelet or necklace, is unique in that it is often a personal collection which has been built up over the years. Some of the pieces can be a lot older than others, parts may be new, parts inherited and the bracelet is often added to throughout a persons lifetime. The best thing to do is to establish the age of each of the individual parts – the bracelet and each charm separately. Here are 5 ways that can help you decide how old an antique or vintage charm or charm bracelet is.
1. Hallmarks and Makers Marks
Hallmarks can often be found on British gold and silver charm bracelets and vintage charms too. These tiny little marks can be translated in a table to give the exact date a charm or the bracelet was made. The first place to look for hallmarks is on the bracelet padlock. If there are no marks here look on the first large O ring. It would be very rare to find the hallmarks elsewhere on the bracelet. Hallmarks are more common on gold charms but you can still find them occasionally on silver charms especially the heavier ones.
If you find silver charms stamped .925 or gold charms stamped .375 they are likely to be newer within the last 30 years. Silver charms stamped “silver”, Silv”, “sil” or “sterling ” will probably date from between the earlier 1900s to the 1970s. A number starting RD or reg can tell us the date a design was registered and normally a piece of jewellery is made within a few years of the date of registration.
Some makers were active at different times so finding makers mark on a charm or bracelet does give us a clue. Nuvo and Chim were both making charms in the 1960s and 1970s. You can see the Nuvo makers mark on the passport on the left. I have been looking for information on the exact dates these produces charms but have not been able to find this. Some of their charms date from the 1950s and even into the 1980s. TLM stamped on a charm is for the marker T L Mott who made silver novelties and charms throughout the 20th century up until the 1970s. Many of the TLM charms are from the 1920s and 1930s. Their enamel charms and shields are from circa the 1960s and 1970s.
Note it is most common for an old charm bracelet and old charms to have no hallmarking or markers marking clues to dating so other factors will need to be taken into account.
Silver and gold charms can be any age. If the charms on your old charm bracelet are made of other materials it is likely that the charm dates from when that material was popular in jewellery manufacture. For example, a Jet charm is most likely going to be Victorian. A bakelite charm from the art deco era ( as is a charm set with butterfly wing). Silver and enamel charms can be any age through the 1900s but most are 1950s to 1970s. Plastic ones are generally 1960s to new.
3. Style and Appearance
This is sometimes the only clue we have to dating a silver or gold charm. As most British silver and gold charms we see today date from circa 1950s to 1970s you can learn what the style and appearance of these charms from that date is like. Then you can match your charm to these. Most of the charms from the 1950s to 1970s are well made especially the silver ones. The detail is sharp and clear. Poorly made charms with fudged detail may indicate reproduction, newer charms.
Vintage silver charms from the 1930s and 1940s tend to be smaller than those of the 1950s to 1970s. The bracelets themselves are usually less chunky and the charms more delicate. The detail on these charms from the 1930s / 1940s is often not as good as that on bracelets dating 1950s to 1970s. Charms from this era can have a more art deco influence to the style than later ones. Brand new ones are often hollow and fat in appearance although quite light weight.
Victorian charms have a unique appeal of their own – engraved coins as love tokens are usually Victorian or Edwardian.
Sometimes the charms themselves help us to date them. Money charms having pre-decimal currency are from before 1971. Charms used to commemorate Royal events help us to date them accurately too and do those from the British Empire exhibition of the 1920s. Finding a coin on a charm bracelet can give us a date but often the coin is many years older than the bracelet and the rest of the charms.
A charm commemorating the Beatles is not going to date from before the mid-1960s – this type of logic can be applied to other charms commemorating famous music groups. I have seen charms from hovercraft, space rockets, mini cars and other objects which cannot date from before the time the originals were invented.
The popular “Fums up” charm is normally from the first world war
5. Reference works
If all other clues fail to help us date an old charm bracelet, it can be helpful to flick through a reference book or trawl through the Internet to help find matching charms.
My favourite reference work for this is Charms and Charm bracelets by Joan Schwartz. This is an American book but much of it is relevant to British charms too. Antiquesavenue.co.uk has loads of charms for sale and I always try and provide an approximate date on these. Perhaps you can match one of your charms to mine?
Happy Charm Hunting