Vintage Charms Buying Guide

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Vintage Charms Buying Guide

Vintage charms are great pieces of jewellery to own and they are perfect items to use when crafting different types of jewellery. One of the nice things about vintage charms is that they are able to reflect the style and personality of the person who wears them which makes them fun to have. Because of the flexibility this type of charm offers with its vintage style, they are perfect to use for making bracelets, anklets, rings, or for accessorising almost any piece of jewellery.

Vintage charms can be attached to watches, earrings, broaches, and even to clothing itself. Vintage charms can be located at antique jewellery stores, estate sales, and online on eBay. Sometimes, a jewellery selection is often based on the taste of the person buying it, but in order to purchase true vintage jewellery, it is important to know what to look for. Knowing what types of charms are considered to be vintage and how to choose them based on various characteristics can make buying charms an even more enjoyable experience.

Overview of Vintage Charms

The vintage style of charm has a lot to offer to people who like to collect pieces from various eras. There are many popular styles of charms that come in a variety of metals and designs, which makes collecting them or using them in crafting jewellery not only fun but also a great way to add variety to different jewellery pieces. There are some things to be aware of for the novice collector, and if they plan on becoming serious collectors, becoming familiar with various time periods is not a bad idea either.

What to Be Aware Of

Many people love vintage jewellery pieces and want to become avid collectors. One of the downsides for a person who wants to start collecting vintage charms is being able to distinguish the difference between a real vintage charm and one that is just meant to resemble a vintage piece. In order to make sure a person is getting a charm that is considered to be a true vintage piece, and then it is necessary to know what time period these charms were made in and what characteristics charms from each era had.

In addition to those factors, there are other things to be aware of before buying a charm that is advertised as vintage. On common mistake that people make when beginning to buy vintage charms is believing everything that they read. It is commonplace for items like charms to be called vintage just because they look like a piece from a certain vintage time period. Often, new materials are used and fashioned in a way to resemble vintage charms, but they are still just replicas, not true vintage jewellery.

Other times charms are cast with new materials in moulds from a vintage era, and they are advertised as vintage charms. New charms resembling vintage ones are also found on vintage chains and still labelled as vintage jewellery when in fact they are not. That is why if buying true vintage charms is important, it is worth the time it takes to become familiar with some of the important aspects of what makes a vintage charm truly a vintage piece of jewellery.

What Makes a Charm Vintage

Before a charm or any other items can be considered as truly vintage, there is a general rule as to what is considered to be vintage and what is not. However, the classification does not stop there. There are names for various time periods classifications as well which is helpful to know when searching for a charm from certain period or even discussing it with another vintage charm collector. In addition, the materials used to create the charm as well as how any inscriptions were engraved can signify what time period a charm was created in.

Era Names

Although there is some debate on what is truly considered to be a vintage time period, it is commonly held that something is considered to be vintage when it is at least twenty years old. There are also breakdowns during the vintage time period that further classify a charm by date to a certain era in time. Listed below is information on various eras as well as what vintage time period is involved and notable characteristics of each era as well.


Time Period

Notable Characteristics


1837 - 1901

Nature designs; detailed etchings using gold filigree; black gems common

Art Nouveau

1895 - 1910

Artistic designs that included various flowers and insects


1901 - 1910

Lavish designs and gems

Art Deco

1915 - 1935

Bright colours, sharp lines, geometric shapes



Bright colours and many gemstones and gold

Just like there is debate over what makes an item truly vintage, there is also some discrepancies in what time periods are considered appropriate for various eras. The time periods used in this table are ones that are commonly held as accurate for each time period.

Dated Eras

Besides there being time periods that are designated by names such as "Victorian" and "Edwardian", during the vintage time period, there are classifications by dates as well. Just like each of the named time periods, the dated time periods have notable characteristics as well. The chart below lists the dated eras and some of those significant characteristics.


Notable Characteristics


Rhinestones heavily used; glass beads and pearls were common decorating items


Goldtones and pearls used heavily; beads and other charms used on long rope necklaces


Goldtone and Native American pieces popular; charms gained popularity at end of era


Charms very popular; goldtone and Native American influences still heavy

One thing about any type of vintage jewellery is that there is no hard date to set an era too. Because of the rise and fall of the various types of jewellery popularity, some of what was popular in one era stayed popular for a while in another. That is why there is some discrepancy when it comes to nailing down exact years when it comes to categorising them in this manner.


Over the years vintage charms have been constructed from various materials. Some of those materials were more widely used in some eras than others and when picking out vintage charms, it is helpful to know a little about those materials, especially since they are often still used today.


Rhodium is one of the materials used to construct vintage jewellery like charms. It is a metal that first began being used in jewellery during the 1920s. One striking characteristic of this material that makes it extremely popular is its bright shine. For this reason it is often used as a plating material for silver.

Another characteristic of this material that makes it so alluring is that it also helps to keep metals from building a patina or tarnish. Eventually, the plating can wear off, allowing a patina to form; however, even with constant use, this may not happen for decades, if at all. So even though rhodium is found in vintage charms, its bright shine and lack of tarnish should not fool a person into thinking it is not as old as it really might be.


Silver is another popular material that is used in the construction of jewellery, both old and new. Because silver needs to be mixed with other metals to make it stronger, it is common to see variations in what is used. For example, English silver is always sterling silver, but it can have different degrees of other materials added to it.

One of the common forms of sterling silver is .800 which means 80 per cent of the material is pure silver and the other 20 per cent is made up of other materials. Other common forms of English silver also include .830 and .835. In the U.S. the most common silver form is .925, which again is created in the same fashion as English silver with 92 per cent of the material being pure silver and the rest being additions of other materials for added strength and durability.

Buying Vintage Charms on eBay

Charms on their own have a special appeal to many people, but adding vintage to the mix makes owning those charms even more alluring. To avid vintage charm collectors, it is almost like owning a piece of history. Authentic vintage charms are not always easy to locate and so a lot of people turn to eBay to find them.

It is so easy to find this type of charm by performing a keyword search on the eBay homepage. If you want a charm from the Edwardian era, type in "Edwardian vintage charm", click on the search icon, and you are automatically redirected to a wide variety of charms from that era. If you do not know what era you are looking for, you may also type in the generic search term "vintage charms" to see a huge selection. At this point you can also see categorical filters that are available to browse these charms within specific eras, prices, metal, as well as various other filter options.


Vintage charms are great additions to any charm collection, especially for an avid collector. Being able to distinguish between charms that are authentic vintage pieces often takes a long time for people who are new to collecting them. That is why it is important for the novice collector or anyone who might be interested in buying vintage charms to have some background information on vintage charms.

Vintage charms are classified into different eras that are distinguished by either names or by decades. Charms in each era possess different qualities to them that make them unique; however, the qualities the charms are valued for overlap into other areas, making it difficult at times to set a beginning and end date for each era. That is also why it helps to know a little about what makes a charm vintage, what was significant in each era, and what types of materials were often used for vintage charms. With this knowledge, buyers can make wise purchase decisions to acquire truly vintage charms.

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