In the context of antique jewellery, a fob has a number of meanings. Pocket watches evolved from the 16th century. From the 17th century to the mid 19th century, pocket watches were carried by men in a small pocket in their breeches called a ‘fob’ pocket. A small chain or ribbon was attached to the watch so it could be pulled out of the pocket. Attached to the chain or ribbon could be the watch key and some trinkets. In the Victorian era, men began to place their watch in a pocket and the chain, which became longer, was attached to a buttonhole. Men continued to attach little objects to the chain – seals, charms and little decorative pieces. These little objects also became known as fobs.


Victorian 15ct double-sided swivel fob with 9ct t-bar (at Navette on Ruby Lane)

Later in the 19th century and before WWI, the longer chain was replaced by a short wide ribbon, made of fabric, hair, leather or multiple chains, which hung outside the waistcoat pocket with the watch attached. This ribbon was called a fob chain.

The little fobs took a number of forms as I mentioned above. Some fobs were seals, used to authenticate documents and seal letters. Others were purely decorative, containing a hardstone (usually agate or jasper) or gem engraved with the owner’s initials. The setting might be very ornate with a lot of rococo flourishes.

Victorian gilt fob with engraved initials (at Camberwell Antique Centre, Melbourne)

Others were double-sided, many able to swivel to show off the different sides of the fob. Bloodstone, a green jasper with red specks, was often used on one side of such fobs. They were also known as spinner fobs. Others fobs contained the insignia of a regiment, a sporting club and some other allegiance.


Victorian 10ct agate and bloodstone spinner fob (in Navette on Ruby Lane)