5 Steps To Create A Personal Heirloom Charm Bracelet

by fitzcharming

Want to make a personalized heirloom charm bracelet but not sure where to begin? Here are 5 steps to help you get started.

Charm bracelets are experiencing a revival in jewelry trends, and there are dozens of companies creating new styles and designs. You can buy a ready made bracelet, but it's a lot of fun to create your own and add charms as mementos of your experiences.

I'm a vintage charm collector and have assembled dozens of personalized charm bracelets, both for myself and as gifts. I like my bracelets to represent something specific and to be balanced so I follow a process when creating a bracelet. You may want to pick charms that are cute and catch your eye as you come across them. Whatever your plan, there are a few things that will help you make sure your finished masterpiece will be balanced and aesthetically pleasing.

All the photos are mine.

Decide What Kind Of Bracelet You Prefer

Sounds pretty basic, but you would be surprised at the array of choices for your starter bracelet. Take the time to plan how you want your finished bracelet to look, and then think backwards to select the link or chain. 

  • Are you going to collect silver or gold charms?  The bracelet should ideally be the same type of metal. Karat gold will be much more expensive, but these days gold plating processes are good and the price will be lower.  Sterling silver will develop a lovely soft sheen over time, but could tarnish if not cared for properly.
  • If you like big chunky charms, don't buy a delicate little chain. Conversely, don't put tiny little charms on a thick link bracelet.  They won't even show up.
  • Do you like traditional charms that hang from little rings, or the new European style beads that slide onto a snake-like chain?  If you're buying European beads, like Pandora or Chamilia, remember that they take up space.  Consider that when choosing the length of the bracelet.  You probably want to buy a larger size if you plan to fill it up completely.
  • Decide if you are going to add brand new charms, or collect vintage charms like I do.  I like to put my vintage charms on a vintage bracelet.
  • If you choose a traditional style charm bracelet, decide if you want a single, double, or triple link. 
  • Think about what kind of clasp you want. Do you have trouble closing spring rings?  Do you need a safety chain?  Here's a lesson on bracelet clasp types if you need help making a decision.

Here Are A Couple Of Different Bracelet Styles I've Used

Small Enamel Charms On A Delicate Link
Small Enamel Charms On A Delicate Link
Large Charms On A Sturdy Link
Large Charms On A Sturdy Link

Choose A Theme For Your Charm Bracelt

This step isn't absolutely necessary, but it's the way I assemble my charm bracelets.  Some people like to have a pot luck style, picking up charms here and there that they like in no particular order.  I like to have a story behind my bracelets.  It also helps to have a theme if you're searching for charms online - you have a few keywords to use.  The theme possibilities are endless, but here are a few to consider.

  • Travel destinations you've visitied
  • Animals
  • Family or children activities/memories
  • Flowers
  • Zodiacs
  • Enamel charms
  • Good luck charms
  • Hobbies
  • Moveable charms

Some Of My Themed Charm Bracelets

Zodiac Bubble Charms
Zodiac Bubble Charms
Dog Charms
Dog Charms

Purchase Your Charms

I collect vintage charms and find most of mine at flea markets and antique shops. Other places I've found vintage charms are estate sales, thrift shops, and of course the internet. It's a good idea to keep your selections to a similar size so some don't overpower others once they are attached to your bracelet.

I buy a lot of charms on eBay.  When shopping there, I always look at the feedback of the seller.  And I make sure there are lots of pictures, big enough to zoom, from every angle. No matter how careful I am, sometimes the charm just doesn't seem to be what I thought, so I always make sure the seller allows returns too.

There are lots of places to buy new charms if you go that route - department stores, jewelry stores, Amazon, designer websites, etc.  Charm collecting can be quite habit forming and soon you'll start spotting them everywhere you go.

Ebay is a Great Place To Find Vintage Charms


Hats And Hands - Another Couple Of My Themed Charm Bracelets

Hands Charm Bracelet
Hands Charm Bracelet
Hats Charm Bracelet
Hats Charm Bracelet

Attach The Charms To Your Bracelet

If you have European bead charms, they twist, clamp or slide onto the bracelet, and that's that.  It's probably one of the reasons they are so popular. 

If you have traditional charms you have a choice of methods to attach them to your bracelet.  One way is to have them soldered at a jeweler.  It's expensive and once they are on, you can't take them off unless you snip the jump ring with wire cutters.  I like to move my charms around to different bracelets so it's not my favorite solution.  But I absolutely have my 14K gold charms soldered to a bracelet.  It's the most reliable way to keep the charms on the bracelet. 

For my other traditional charm bracelets I use Snapeez Magic jump rings. They have a little ridge at the edge of the ends that close together, and when you wiggle them just right, they clamp into place.  It's not as secure as soldering, but they are inexpensive and they work really well.  I've never lost a charm when I've used them. 

Caring For Your Masterpiece

The last step is to put your bracelet on and wear it.  Be prepared to get lots of compliments.  People are always curious about my bracelets and ask me lots of questions.  I've found that my silver bracelets get prettier when worn a lot.  They develop a soft sheen, or patina, from tiny scratches in the metal caused from jingling around. Your bracelet is an heirloom and it will last a lifetime with proper care. 

The best way to clean a charm bracelet is to wipe it with a soft jewelry cloth periodically. Never use a harsh liquid to clean it.  If your charms have crystals, enamel, or a bubble design, don't use a liquid at all, and remove the bracelet if you're washing dishes or bathing.  Store it in a jewelry box with cloth lining or another dry cool place.  I keep mine in a gun safe ;-) ! 

Bates and Klinke Charms and Wells State Maps

Examples of Vintage Charms Made By Specific Companies
Bates & Klinke Charms
Bates & Klinke Charms
Wells State Map Charms
Wells State Map Charms

Charms And Charm Bracelets: The Complete Guide by Joanne Schwartz

Interested In Vintage Charms? This Is My Favorite Reference Book
Charms And Charm Bracelets: The Compl...
Updated: 07/09/2013, fitzcharming
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fitzcharming on 06/24/2013

The travel charms are definitely the most popular and the most unique. Thanks for visiting Tara_W

Tara_W on 06/24/2013

Great ideas and tips for assembling an heirloom charm bracelet. I've encountered many charm bracelets while working as an appraiser and I'm always fascinated by the charms people have chosen, especially the travel themed bracelets.

fitzcharming on 06/09/2013

Like you, lots of folks have fond memories of charm bracelets they had when they were younger. I think that's part of the current appeal. Thanks for visiting PeggyHazelwood.

PeggyHazelwood on 06/09/2013

What fun ideas for charm bracelets. I used to have one and lost it somewhere along the way. I miss my little charms.

fitzcharming on 05/29/2013

I've seen those telephone company bracelets and they're really nice. That was a thoughtful gift to present to employees. Thanks for visiting.

ohcaroline on 05/29/2013

I had a charm bracelet some time ago. I retired from the telephone company and had different types of phones on it as well as service anniversary charms. I wish I had it now. It got left somewhere along the way.

fitzcharming on 05/28/2013

I know that little toaster charm. Moving charms are some of the most exciting to find. Thanks for visiting.

dustytoes on 05/28/2013

I still have a charm bracelet from back when I was a kid. One of my favorite charms always was the little toaster, with toast that pops up! Now that I know they are coming back into fashion I should wear it!

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