By Danielle Olivia Tefft, Jewelry Writer
Soon, we will be celebrating Memorial Day here in the United States. Memorial Day honors all of those who died during combat for the sake of our freedom. It’s an especially somber occasion for those whose loved ones and dear friends sacrificed their lives for our country. Many mothers and grandmothers received sweetheart jewelry from their loved ones before they went off to battle. Imagine how precious these tokens of affection were to those whose loved ones never made it home!
If you own jewelry that has been passed down from jewelry boxes of the time period 1900 to 1960, you likely have at least one distinctive type of bracelet known as the expandable sweetheart bracelet. These bracelets have an amazing likeness to watch bands, but without a clasp. They simply widen and contract via a link system around the wrist.
In the late 1800s when these bracelets were first sold, they were marketed for babies and young girls. They were so popular, that the companies making them soon found a way to appeal to grown women, as well. It wasn’t long before they were marketed as keepsakes for the loved ones of soldiers going away to war in both World Wars. They became known as sweetheart bracelets and were often gold-plated.
Therefore, both antique (over a 100 years old) and vintage (greater than 20 but less than 100 years old) sweetheart bracelets exist. The key to knowing how old an expandable sweetheart bracelet is to know the history of their manufacturers. Each made an expandable bracelet that was just slightly different than that of their competitors.
D.F. Briggs Company (founded in 1892) and McRae & Keeler Company (founded in 1893) of Attleboro Massachusetts were the first on record to make expandable sweetheart bracelets. These companies made many styles, but a sentimental favorite had a heart in the center that contained a simulated gem or could be engraved with a loved one’s initials. Often the heart centers were hollow. They could be opened to put a lock of hair or loved one’s photo inside and then pressed shut. (These models can be nearly impossible to open again without damaging the bracelet!)
The D.F. Briggs Company manufactured their popular sweetheart bracelets, called “Carmen” bracelets with the mark “D F B CO” at first. Then in 1922, they became Briggs, Bates & Bacon Co. Therefore, Carmen bracelets were available during World War I (1914-1918) are marked differently than those made from 1922 and for World War II (1939-1945) and beyond.
McRae & Keeler manufactured their sweetheart bracelets under the “American Queen” brand name. Both the company name and “American Queen are stamped on the inside of the bands. In 1907, they changed their name to Pittman & Keeler. Their sweetheart bracelets from this point forward are marked “American Queen” and “Pittman and Keeler.” During WW II, They made sets of sweetheart bracelets and necklaces with matching heart-shaped lockets until the 1950s.
The Louis Stern Company (founded in 1871) of Providence Rhode Island also manufactured sweetheart bracelets marked with the brand name, “Lustern” until the 1950s.
By the World War II timeframe, along with these prominent manufactures of expandable sweetheart bracelets, other companies had joined in to profit from their popularity.
However, American manufacturers weren’t the only ones in the expandable bracelet market. Across the pond in London, a British manufacturer came up with its own version: Saunders and Shepherd patented a self-closing bracelet in 1889. These expandable bracelets were “made on the trellis principle” and were marked with the trademark name, “Flexine.”
Prices for antique and vintage expandable sweetheart bracelets range from around $30 to over $100. But they are still quite commonly found, so do ample online price comparisons to get the best deal. Happy hunting!
Do you own an antique or vintage expandable sweetheart bracelet that has been passed down through your family? If so, please tell us about it in the comments section. Also, be sure to sign up for this blog so you don’t miss a single article about jewelry past and present!
Danielle Olivia Tefft is a professional writer with a lifelong passion for gems and jewelry. She is a GIA accredited jewelry professional and the owner of online antique and vintage jewelry shop, Treasure Box Antiques. Current projects include writing jewelry blogs and web articles for clients worldwide. When she is not writing, she spends time in the garden, spoiling her cats and traveling with her significant other. Would you like to hire her to write for you? Visit her website danielleoliviatefftwrites.com for clips, terms and more information.
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