The term “bibelot” is used for two different things. In the first sense, a bibelot is a small decorative object or trinket; the word is closely related to “bauble,” which means essentially the same thing. The word is also used to describe miniature books of very fine workmanship. In both senses of the word, a bibelot is a collectible and often treasured item which may have a rich history and sentimental value.
The word is French, and it is derived from the Latin bellus, which means “beautiful.” Bibelots may also be described as trinkets, tchotchkes, knick-knacks, trifles, novelty, and what-nots. They may be exquisite and hand made, or more crude, produced on a commercial scale. The value of a bibelot varies, depending on its age and how it was produced; some are actually quite valuable, while others are worth more in terms of sentiment than funds.
It is not uncommon for people to pick up bibelots when they go on trips. When they return, these objects serve as souvenirs of the adventure, and they may be displayed in the home and used as conversation pieces. Many travelers also like to give bibelots as small gifts to friends when they return from trips, letting the friends know that the traveler was thinking of them. Many popular tourist destinations have markets filled with such products, catering to the tourist demographic.
Some interior design schemes encourage the display of small artifacts, either as isolated standalone units or as part of a larger display like a cabinet of curiosities. Some people complain that displays of such items can start to look cluttered and chaotic if they are not well organized, especially when bibelots of varying provenances are displayed. It can also be difficult to navigate in a room filled with such ornaments, especially if they are fragile.
In the bookmaking world, some people like to hand-craft bibelots as special gifts. They may have tooled leather covers complete with ornaments in precious metals and gems and other decorative features. The book itself may be written by hand, with illustrations also painstakingly created by hand. Bibelots made by famous authors and bookbinders can fetch handsome sums, and a hand-made bibelot can also be a pleasant gift for a friend. Art schools with bookbinding programs often offer courses specifically designed for people who want to create miniature books, for people who are interested in making their own bibelots.