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Bracelets have charming history



Published: Sat, February 12, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Charm bracelets seem to be a new idea about every 50 years.

Charms were worn on the wrist or with a neck chain by cavemen, Romans and the knights of the Middle Ages.

They were also used to ward off danger and disease.

By the Middle Ages, the wealthy were educated enough to ignore some of the old superstitions that called for charms. Just in case, the uneducated still wore charms.

Charm bracelets with small, decorative gold or silver ornaments became popular in the late 1800s.

Queen Victoria of England wore a bracelet with many tiny lockets holding family pictures.

By the early 1900s, charm bracelets were out of style.

The rage began again in the 1940s. The bracelet started as a link chain, with charms added for special events.

Children were given tiny gold hearts, ballerinas or working spinning wheels.

Women started collecting larger and larger charms. By the 1950s, a charm could be the size of a silver dollar.

A completed bracelet had as many charms as could be attached to the link bracelet (there were usually about 10 or more).

The bracelets reflected the owner's interests. Sometimes they had travel charms that were small, 3-D representations of the Eiffel Tower or the Statue of Liberty.

Special-event charms included a page of a calendar with a diamond set on the owner's birth date or even a wedding bell for an anniversary.

Many special bracelets were filled with service-related charms, like miniature insignias or miniature uniform caps during World War II.

By the 1970s, charms jangled and distracted many people, so plain gold chains became the new fashion. Charm bracelets were put away.

In 2000 the bracelets came back, with examples in gold, silver or costume jewelry. Old bracelets appeared in antiques stores, and single charms became big sellers.

A new type of charm bracelet, made of individual clip-together links, was introduced.

Look for old charms or charm bracelets of gold, silver, Bakelite or plated metal.

Costume-jewelry examples by name designers are almost as high-priced as those made of real gold.

Q. We have a large set of floor-to-ceiling wooden cabinets built by the Bergen Cabinet Co. of Brooklyn, N.Y. The doors on the upper cabinets are glass. The lower sections have drawers, cubbies or drop-front desks. A handwritten address on the back of one cabinet includes the name Bellevue, Pa., with the ZIP code 15202. Can you tell us anything about the company?

A. Five-digit ZIP codes were introduced in 1963, so the address must have been written years after the cabinets were made -- perhaps because they were moved to a household in western Pennsylvania. Bergen Cabinet Works was in business in Brooklyn in the 1920s.

Q. Can you tell me something about my Little Bo Peep pitcher? It is in the shape of a little girl with big eyes looking upward. She's wearing a yellow-and-blue dress, a blue cap and a pink shawl, and is holding a blue shepherd's crook. I bought the pitcher 25 years ago for $15. I recently saw one marked $250 in an antiques shop.

A. You might have a Bo Peep pitcher made by the Shawnee Pottery Co. of Zanesville, Ohio. Shawnee made vases, cookie jars, planters, pitchers, novelty wares and other pottery from 1937 until it closed in 1961. Shawnee made Bo Peep pitchers in different sizes, styles and colors. Your style of pitcher, with the large eyes, is marked "Shawnee USA 47." Shawnee pitchers like yours sell from $90 to $125. If it had gold-painted trim, it would sell for more.

XThe Kovels answer as many questions as possible through the column. By sending a letter with a question, you give full permission for its use in the column or any other Kovel forum. Names and addresses will not be published. We cannot guarantee the return of any photograph, but if a stamped envelope is included, we will try. The volume of mail makes personal answers or appraisals impossible. Write to Kovels, The Vindicator, King Features Syndicate, 888 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10019.

& copy; 2005 by Cowles Syndicate Inc.




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