Hands holding a small flower pendant

When it comes to jewelry choices, pendants and charms are very popular options. However, do you know how to distinguish between a pendant and a charm? For example, if you're looking at a tiny sapphire heart or gold locket, would you be able to tell if it's a pendant or a charm?

Although the terms pendant and charms are often used interchangeably, there are a few things you can look for to determine what it is and how to wear it appropriately. We will take a close at pendants vs charms and what's the difference in this article.

Are pendants and charms the same?

Pendants and charms, while similar, are not the same. They are both hanging jewelry pieces worn for adornment and self-expression, with pendants being larger standalone necklace objects and charms being small and often found as part of clusters on jewelry chains.

Woman wearing multiple layered necklaces.

What are pendants?

Pendants tend to be larger and more elaborate than charms, such as big gemstone pieces. They are usually made from high-value materials such as gold, silver, or precious metals, and can be embellished with diamonds, gemstones, or other adornments. Pendants, like diamond teardrops or sterling silver lockets, are often given as gifts. 

What are charms?

Charms, on the other hand, are smaller and simpler than pendants and are perfect for a more delicate and subtle look. They can be worn on bracelets as small dangles or on necklaces individually or in small clusters. Charms can be made from various materials, from sterling silver to resin to more affordable zinc alloys. 

You can choose from a range of designs, with the most common being initials, symbols, and animals. Charms can be collected over time to commemorate cherished memories or noteworthy occasions, giving a truly personal touch to your jewelry.

Attachment and Usage

Pendants are worn exclusively on necklaces and usually connect to necklace chains using a bail. Bails are small metal loops that are specifically designed to hold pendants securely in place. The bail is often positioned at the top or on the back of the pendant, allowing the necklace chain to pass through it. They can be built-in components of the pendant, securely soldered on, or attached separately using bail jewelry findings.

Diamond necklace with arrow pointing to bail

Charms can be worn on necklaces, bracelets, or anklets and one common method to connect to the chain is through the use of jump rings (which are small attacher rings). Jump rings are small metal rings that can be opened and closed, allowing charms to be easily added or removed. The jump ring is attached to a link or loop on the bracelet or necklace chain, securing the charm in place.  

Gold initial charms on a necklace spelling love.

Difference in Size

One of the most noticeable differences between pendants and charms is the size. 

Pendants are larger pieces of jewelry that hang on a necklace chain. They are usually standalone and the main statement piece, like a gold cross or amethyst teardrop. Pendants have more intricate and detailed designs, often featuring diamonds, precious metals and gemstones.

Expert Style Tip: 

Pendants works well with open necklines, such as V-necks or scoop necks, as they can fill the space and create balance.

Women with charm bracelets.

Charms are much smaller jewelry pieces that are usually worn on bracelets, anklets, and necklaces. They can be as small as a few millimeters (fraction of an inch) or as big as a few centimeters (couple inches). Charms are meant to be delicate, subtle, and typically worn together in groups.


Because of their petite and dainty size, charms can also be readily worn on necklaces and are a great choice for minimalist and understated jewelry. Whether it's a single charm, a cluster of charms, or even layered necklaces, charms can add subtle beauty.

On the other hand, pendants are not recommended for bracelets, because their bulky size makes them impractical and cumbersome on delicate bracelet chains. Pendants are often heavier and can cause bracelets to feel imbalanced. Moreover, the movement and wide swings of pendants on a bracelet can be distracting and uncomfortable on wrists.

Cheat Sheet:

Here is an easy guide about when to use pendants vs charms, and choosing size-appropriate pieces.

Necklaces: Pendants, Charms

Bracelets: Charms

Anklets: Charms

Meaning and Symbolism

Amethyst pendant on black cord.

Pendants and charms can both hold symbolic meaning for whoever wears them, but they can serve different purpose and ways of expression.

Some individuals choose to wear pendants like amulets or talismans, believing in the power of spiritual connection or good luck. We have all heard of the lucky rabbit's foot or four-leaf clover. The hamsa hand, peace sign, zodiac signs, evil eye, and Celtic signs are all very popular jewelry symbols.

On the other hand, charms on a charm bracelet can hold meaningful personal significance and symbolize things like loved ones, hobbies, trip souvenirs, and memories. They can give a very personal touch and represent a wearer's identity.

Which one should I wear?

With many jewelry options available, choosing between a pendant and a charm, or deciding which piece to wear, can leave you staring at your jewelry box aimlessly. Here are a few factors to consider when choosing a pendant or charm.

Be True to your Personal Style

When choosing between pendants and charms, consider your personal style and taste. Do you love bold and eye-catching statement pieces that make a striking impression? Or do you lean towards subtle, understated jewelry that doesn't overpower your look?

Embrace the pieces that you love and reflect your unique sense of style. Whether it's a huge and gorgeous lapis lazuli pendant or a delicate charm from your travels, let your personal style guide your decision-making.

Consider the Occasion and Purpose

Think about where you will be wearing your jewelry. Is it for casually running errands or a formal event like a wedding? Charms can be a great option for everyday wear, while a diamond pendant will work better for a formal outfit.

Always Consider Your Budget

When adding new pieces to your jewelry box, remember your budget. Pendants can range from affordable to super pricey, depending on the materials, brand, and design. Charms are generally more budget-friendly and versatile (don't forget, they can be used on necklaces!), but if it's an extra special piece it might be worth splurging.

Final Thoughts

Pendants and charms are similar, but they do have distinct differences when it comes to attachment, size, versatility, and meaning. However, the ultimate factor is to consider what resonates with you on a personal level. Whether you choose a pendant or a charm, the key is to choose something that you love and that will have special meaning to you.

We carry a diverse range of gorgeous pendants and charms here at Tortoise Shell Supply. Start browsing and find the perfect one that speaks to you.

Shop Pendants and Charms >>
Hand inspecting a small flower pendant

What do you like more - pendants or charms?

Tell us in the comments below! 👇 


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