Why Victorian Chatelaines Have Taken Resellers by Storm

Spice up your outfit with a blast from the past. Get to know Victorian chatelaines and see why they're making a huge comeback.

Published July 1, 2024
Antique Sterling Silver Chatelaine Belt Pin generated with AI

If you thought bikers invented wallet chains, you'd be sorely mistaken. Victorian chatelaines — stylish pocket-replacing devices — were all the rage 100+ years ago. From button hooks to pencils and notepads, the sky was the limit for what you could clip to your trusty chatelaines. Discover the Instagram-worthy antique accessory that has taken historical costumers by storm.

What Is a Chatelaine?

Believe it or not, your Victorian ancestors had better pockets than you do. Women are fighting for their lives against the lack of pockets in modern clothing, but 100+ years ago, they were sporting stylishly decorative multi-tools on their shirtwaists.

Antique Sterling Silver Chatelaine Belt Pin with Four Tools, Ornate Victorian Jewelry, Historical Costume, Cosplay

Chatelaines are devices that took the place of pockets and purses in the past. While there were tie-on pockets you could incorporate within your several layers of undergarments, changing fashions pushed chatelaines to the forefront.

Chatelaines are made of multiple parts. A central decorative hook (often a timepiece of some sort) has several holes for chains, cords, or ribbons to be threaded through. The lobster claws on the ends were left empty for you to clip your baubles to.

What Stuff Did Victorian Chatelaines Hold?

Chatelaines were all about marrying fashion and function. If you could miniaturize something, the Victorians did. With dance cards, foldable crochet hooks, and lighters, there was no limit to the configuration of tools and charms you could affix to your chatelaine. The arrangement and style of these items were totally up to you.

And so, the high-fashion statement chatelaines used to be in the 18th century became a commonplace part of the Victorian wardrobe. If you had an antique chatelaine waiting to be filled, these were just some of the things you could hook to it.

Antique Guilloche Enamel Compact and Lipstick, Chatelaine, Brass Metal Chain
  • Coin purse
  • Lipstick holder
  • Perfume bottle
  • Button hook
  • Pocket watch
  • Charms/pendants
  • Crochet hooks
  • Pencil
  • Mirror
  • Fan
  • Lighter
  • Dance card
  • Thimble case
  • Needle case
  • Toothpick holder
  • Snuff box
  • Vesta case
  • Pincushion
  • Watch key
  • Miniature portraits
Need to Know

You can tell if a small trinket was designed to clip onto a chatelaine by the small metal circle (aka the "eye") molded to the top.

Related: Best Ways to Sell Old Jewelry & Turn Your Heirlooms Into Cash

Victorian Chatelaine Motifs & Styles

Antique chatelaines from the Victorian era are particularly distinctive. Victorians were anything but modest and minimalist in their decorative tastes. Though most chatelaines you see were crafted out of stainless steel, you can also see varying examples in gold, silver, and gold or silver plate. Similarly, the clip size, chain length, colors, and motifs were all customizable.

You could go for a delicate silver filigreed clip and chain or stand out with an opal or onyx-embellished one. As a piece of fashion, Victorian chatelaines were supposed to be personal. It's one of the reasons they're so popular with young collectors today.

How Much Are Chatelaines Worth?

Victorian chatelaines are really popular with resellers, historical costumers, and young collectors right now. So, their value is constantly climbing. In a world where pockets are still scarce in women's clothing, people have taken their thrifting sensibilities to new heights. What's cooler than a 100+-year-old solution to the pocket problem?

Victorian Chatelaines Recent Sales Prices
17th Century Tapestry Chatelaine $22,087.71
Late-Victorian Silver Chatelaine with Attachments $489.54
Antique Silver Chatelaine $246.67
Antique 14K Gold & Diamond Cigar Cutter Attachment $375
Antique 14K Gold & Enamel Perfume Bottle Attachment  $637.99

Pre-Victorian Chatelaines

Chatelaines weren't invented in the 19th century, despite being massively popular during it. However, older examples didn't survive as often due in large part to the precious materials they were made of being repurposed. These chatelaines were also much larger than their Victorian ancestors' and fell out of fashion as styles changed.

However, they can bring in some of the highest price tags for all chatelaines on the market. For example, one incredibly unique tapestry chatelaine circa 1650-1670 sold for $22,087 in a 2008 auction.

Silver Chatelaines

Sterling silver chatelaines are among the more common Victorian chatelaines on the market. Depending on their quality, decoration, and number of original attachments, they usually sell for $200- $1,000. The more detailed, ornate, and complete they are, the more they're worth.

For example, one late-Victorian silver chatelaine with five attachments recently sold for $489 on eBay. Meanwhile, a silver chatelaine from the 1890s without any attachments went for $246.

Chatelaine Attachments

Don't count out chatelaine attachments just yet! These attachments may range in size, quality, and type, but they're extremely collectible by themselves. In good condition, they can sell for $100-$500 on their own. Recently, an antique 14K gold and diamond cigar cutter sold for $375 online, and a 14K gold and enamel perfume bottle went for $638.

Victorian Chatelaines Are Making a Comeback 

The younger generations are single-handedly bringing back the most unique hallmarks from the past, and Victorian chatelaines are one of them. Don't be surprised if you find someone rocking an antique chatelaine in the near future. They're functional, fashionable, and have just enough steampunk edge for them to become a modern mainstay.

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Why Victorian Chatelaines Have Taken Resellers by Storm