It only seems like five minutes since last Christmas, but yes, it’s that time of year again… when we’re all suddenly trapesing round the shops or absorbed online looking for that perfect something for a loved one.
Many people I’m sure will grace the counters of high street jewellers, perhaps with the intention (or instruction) to buy something ‘sparkly’ and a growing popular choice in the luxury good market is the ‘charm’.
We will all have walked past, or been in, a particular shop known for its ‘charms’ and seen the vast displays of small pocket sized works of art on display. These tiny silver and sometimes gold novelties are thought to be the perfect token for someone special. I believe their popularity is due to the seemingly endless choice of options combined with the fact you can choose to wear a humble one or two, or grace your bracelet/necklace with handfuls of the trinkets thus becoming a seasoned collector. The possibilities do in fact appear endless; teddy bears, hearts, emoji’s, animals, flowers, letters and characters are just some of the options on offer.
However, although unique to the purchaser and recipient, these charms are mass produced. You may think that’s what makes them affordable…how could I buy something truly unique for the same price (or even cheaper)? That’s when antique charms come to the fore. There is a whole world of beautiful works of art to be found if you buy second hand, each with their own story to tell.
A lot has changed over the past 200 years, but there are certain things that have remained a constant; people’s desire to collect and people’s desire to present gifts. For decades charms have been used for these pastimes. They are small, affordable and very often sentimental, making them the perfect choice.
During the 19th century, people would often collect charms or novelties when travelling, either as a memento of their trip or for a gift. Think of them as the modern day souvenir spoon or fridge magnet! Due to their size they were easy to transport and easy to exhibit when back home, as people often had collectors and bijouterie cabinets to house their small treasures. Their modest size also meant if they were presented as a token of love with a sentimental or secret message they could be worn by the receiver discreetly.
The variety available would rival any manufacturer today, with a lot of examples often handmade, thus completely unique. Materials such as hardstones, silver, enamel and gold, amongst many others were used to fashion various curios.
But how do you get your hands on such relics of history? The three main avenues are; antique shops, EBay (if confident with what you’re purchasing), or auction. If auction is the route you choose, at Halls we have a stunning collection of such items coming up our 12th December Christmas sale.
Divided into four lots, we are selling over fifty antique charms dating from the early 19th century through to the early 20th century. Amongst the selection are some truly exquisite examples. A small faceted and plain polished white metal acorn or an enamelled stylised pansy would be perfect for a lover of the outdoors. An enamelled egg with bunny motif for a special Easter gift. A hinged enamelled plaque with secret ‘Parlez Pous Moi’ message inside for your partner. Some more novelty examples include a gold hinged jointed clown, a miniature kaleidoscope and a tiny gilt metal and enamelled book of Cambridge tourist spots.
Each lot, which comprises between seven and twenty-two trinkets, ranges in estimate from £150 to £200, averaging less than £15 per charm.
By their nature, charms are part of a story and represent something personal. Antique charms, which were created for a specific person or purpose, have greater meaning and a natural sense of history in a way that mass produced modern equivalents will not have for many years, if at all. At Christmas it has become common place for gifts to be presented with an apologetic ‘gift receipt’, should the recipient not be impressed or want to go back to the shop to see if they can do better. To better preserve the tradition of giving why not look for something unique, that by its nature will ask to be treasured and kept for a lifetime. Something that can’t go back and can only go forward. A gift with real charm!
Maryanne Lineker Mobberley