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More About the Bells We Sell

Our antique bells are honestly old. Most were made from the 1860s through the 1920s when horses were the major mode of transportation. A few date even earlier than that -- to the late 1700s and early 1800s. They were made in foundries scattered throughout the USA and Canada. All of our antique bells are solid brass or bronze. They have been thoroughly cleaned inside and out, gently polished, and lacquered. The lacquer is non-toxic when dry. It is all but invisible and does not affect the tone or appearance of the bells. Learn more about the different styles of antique sleigh bells...

Vintage bells are used bells that date from about the 1930s through the modern time. To the best of my knowledge, our vintage bells were also made by manufacturers in the USA and Canada. Most are solid brass, except for vintage Dexter bells that are made from plated steel. Our vintage bells have also been thoroughly cleaned inside and out, gently polished, and lacquered. The lacquer is non-toxic when dry. It is all but invisible and does not affect the tone or appearance of the bells.

Our new solid brass bells are manufactured by foundries in Taiwan, India, Pakistan, and China. Solid brass sleigh bells have not been produced in the USA for decades. These bells come in two colors. New gold-finished bells are coated with a non-toxic clear finish. New silver-finished bells are the same bells as the gold ones, but with an added chrome plating.

Our new steel "jingle" bells are imported from the same countries as our solid brass bells. There is only one manufacturer of jingle bells left in the USA. Our jingle bells come in a gold-tone or silver-tone finish.

Our loose or gift bells are sold individually unless specifically noted in the product description.


Safety cautions

Small bells are a choking hazard for infants and toddlers. Please choose wisely when selecting a gift bell for a young child. We recommend bells 2 inches and larger for the littlest ones. The U.S. Child Safety Protection Act (CSPA) bans any ball with a diameter of 1.75 inches (45 mm) or smaller for use by children under 3 years old.



Each of our antique and new bells will ring clearly, although the quality of the sound will vary depending on the style, size, and condition of the bell.

Steel "jingle" bells have a high, bright, shimmery sound. If you have heard the song "Jingle Bells" as played by an orchestra, you are hearing steel jingle bells.

New solid-brass "petal" bells have a loud, clear ring. Smaller bells will generally sound higher and brighter. Larger bells will sound deeper and lower. That said, the pitch of the bells will vary from bell to bell even if the bells are all the same size. If you want a sleigh bell with a bright, ringing musical tone similar to an open (liberty) bell, a new solid-brass petal bell is a good choice.

The pitch, tonal quality, and loudness of antique sleigh bells varies more, compared with new bells. Some large antique bells will have a higher pitch than some smaller antique bells. Given a group of bells all the same size and style, some will be markedly quieter or louder than the others, some will be more muffled and clangy and others will be clearer and brighter, and some will have a higher pitch while others will sound lower. This variability is a normal thing, not a defect. If you want sleigh bells to have a consistent clear sound, we strongly recommend that you purchase new ones, not antiques.

Small antique bells usually have a brighter, clearer tone. The smaller antique bells -- 1 3/4" diameter and smaller -- are a better choice than larger antique bells if you want the bell to have the most musical sound.

Big antique bells usually have a deeper, slightly "clangy" quality to their ring. Larger antique bells are not as musical or bright sounding as their smaller cousins.

Swedish bells sound quite different than other sleigh bells. These bells have a distinctive, resonant "chiming" tone much different than the ringing sound of an open bell. Some people tell us the larger Swedish bells sound a little like a musical cowbell.


Acceptable defects in antique bells

Most antiques have flaws from age and use, and our antique sleigh bells are no exception. Most of our antique bells were cast one-at-a-time by hand well over 100 years ago. Many show handmade variability as well as cracks, dings or scrapes from decades of normal use.

We want to make all of our customers happy by providing the nicest antique sleigh bells we can find, but we also want our customers to have realistic expectations about our bells. The antique bells we sell are sturdy and typical for their age, and most will also have minor defects.

You can expect to find the following characteristics and imperfections in the "first quality" sleigh bells we sell:

  • The pitch, tonal quality, and loudness of antique bells will vary.
  • The depth and completeness of the decorative pattern (if any) will vary from bell to bell.
  • The surface texture may range from fairly smooth to pebbly and slightly rough.
  • The overall color of polished bells may range from bright gold to brownish gold with dark spots.
  • One or more of the "clean out" holes around the base of the bell may be partly or completely closed.
  • Many small bells will have no defects, but some may have casting blemishes* or short hairline cracks.
  • Most medium to large bells and most early 1800s bells will have one or more small to moderate defects, including hairline cracks, stable open cracks, or casting blemishes.*

It is not possible for us to supply only defect-free antique bells -- we appreciate your understanding in this matter. If you expect perfection and consistency in the appearance and sound of sleigh bells, we strongly recommend that you purchase new ones, not antiques.

* Casting blemishes are irregularities created when a bell was cast at the foundry. These blemishes include but are not limited to smooth-edged holes where the molten metal did not completely fill the mold and "flash" (excess metal) in the throat (slit) or around the rim of the bell.