Ringing in the Holiday Season With a Collection of Bells


Bells are a natural for the holidays.

“They put people in a good mood,” says Terry Mayer of New York.

Mayer, who calls herself a “bellologist,” owns some 200 bells, a small collection, she says, considering she’s a member of the American Bell Assn. and president of the New York metropolitan chapter for seven years.

Bell collectors, she says, often use bells as holiday decor, particularly to decorate trees. The most impressive tree may well be the one with 800 bell ornaments on view at the Smithsonian National Museum of American Art in Washington during the 1985 holiday season.


Members of the American Bell Assn. donated the bells and decorated the tree. The bells are now part of the museum’s collections.

Decorating miniature trees might be easier to manage. The tree may be artificial or natural or even made of greenery and flowers supported by metal or polystyrene forms.

For holiday dining, tie a belled ribbon around a stemmed glass or use bells to make napkin rings. Continue the bell motif on the menu, with bell molds for cakes, cookies, gelatin desserts and salads.

Some collectors go so far as to tie small bells to lengths of ribbon and twine them around bedposts, chandelier arms or stairway banisters. One collector turned her front door into a “gift box” by gluing a wide ribbon on the vertical and horizontal dimensions and placing a spray of bells where the ribbons meet.


As collectibles, bells are satisfying because they come in a varied range of materials (including metal, wood, ceramic and glass), sizes (from no bigger than a fingernail to larger than life) and shapes.

The open bell with a suspended clapper, such as the Liberty Bell, is probably the most familiar. Chime bells, another type, sound only when struck with a stick or gong or by another bell. The so-called crotal, or jingle bells, is a globe with a pellet or jinglet inside that makes a noise when the crotal is shaken. The crotal is believed to be the oldest type. Crotals dating to the 8th or 9th Century B.C. have been found in present-day Iran.

Mayer’s affinity for bells began in 1978 when, as a New York fashion publicist, she sewed bells onto a denim neckband and wore it as part of a “let’s ring the bells for denim” promotion. People wanted to buy the bells.

Subsequently, Mayer signed up for a jewelry-making course at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology. She soon was out of public relations and into bell jewelry. She sells more than 125 styles via mail-order and jewelry stores.


Her New York City apartment is a-jingle in bells. They’re on shelves, in shadow boxes, on all the table tops. Images of bells, such as a souvenir linen towel depicting bells of New England, hang on the walls.

Mayer’s ice cream cone bell, bell cake mold and cookie cutters are stashed in drawers. There are bells on decorative bed pillows. She even gives bell-trimmed pillows as wedding gifts.