Restoring Vintage Charm Bracelets

Vintage Charm Bracelets
Each charm is a storehouse of memories that can be past down to family members.
Vintage charm bracelets
Before: Vintage charm bracelet after years of wear.

Before twitter, there was glitter

In the age of instant gratification, people have become careless with their memories. With the help of a camera phone, every mundane detail is preserved to the point where one can no longer distinguish the banal from the memorable. The pictures are there, but the feelings are not. There was a time in the distant past, that people took great care in choosing memories they wished to preserve. They kept only the ones that mattered. A charm bracelet was a good way to store important memories. The charms selected reflected only significant or memorable events. Today, memories are posted to twitter and made available to the world 24/7. They are no longer private and therefore no longer personal. Charm bracelets were meant as coded memories. They are not for everyone to know, but for the individual and those loved ones who were there when it happened. Our technological ability to document the details of our lives comes at a cost of remembering the feelings associated with those experiences. Luckily, charms will always maintain those feelings and memories long after the apple watch goes out of style.


A charmed meaning

Prior to restoring vintage charm bracelets, it is fun to play a guessing game. What do these charms mean? Sure, it would be easiest to ask the owner, but that takes the mystery out of the experience. On this bracelet, an eclectic group of charms are present. A few that standout are the Disney Magic Kingdom, a pineapple, a four leaf clover and a charm with the inscription “Lenore”. It is quite obvious the owner enjoyed a trip to Disneyland. The four leaf clover could symbolize good luck or represent Irish descent. The charm inscribed “Lenore” most likely is a family member of importance. The pineapple remains a bit of mystery. Is there some associative meaning or did the owner simply enjoy pineapples so much they had to wear one 24/7? This meaning will obviously remain with the owner.


Vintage charm bracelets
After: charm bracelet restored and re-plated with 14kt Hamilton gold

Restoring vintage charm bracelets

All restoration work requires a great deal of care and attention to detail. Vintage charms bracelets are different only in that they require a great deal more time. Each charm was bought separately and added onto to the link at different times. Each charm has to be inspected to insure that none are made from pot metals (zinc) that cannot be re-plated. The charms on this bracelet were made from gold filled brass or silver. Charms also contain textured patterns and engravings. When removing scratches, great care is given to remove as many scratches as possible without damaging the textured surface. Some scratches will have to be left in, which is OK. After all, these are vintage charm bracelets, not brand new. Some minor scratches give the bracelet that “antique” look that many collectors like to see. On this piece, the jump rings connecting the charms were soldered using lead. Aside from being toxic, it will tend to cause discoloration when in contact with clothing. It is easy to see why restoring vintage charm bracelets take so much time.

Putting the “charm” back into the bracelet

A final finish of 14kt Hamilton gold was plated onto the bracelet and charms to match the original color and era for this type of jewelry. All charms were place back into their original position on the chain. The box catch and safety chain were inspected to ensure that they functioned correctly. Plenty of open space remains on the chain to add new charms representing new memories!


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