So I received a beautiful charm bracelet on Valentine’s Day. The bracelet included all my favorite things and made me wonder why and where charm bracelets were created. So I did a little research and found that charms go back as far as the stone age when man would pick up an unusual stone or piece of wood and carry it with him to ward off his enemies. Over time, these pieces of wood or stone would hang on a piece of leather around the wrist.
In Egypt, elaborate jewelry made of precious stones and metals were worn by royalty and became the first recognizable charm bracelets. In ancient times, Egyptians lived very short lives and they prepared for a prosperous life after death by creating and collecting charms or trinkets. Charm wrist and neck bracelets were not only coveted as protective shields and signs of status in this life, they were also worn as ID tags to help the Gods guide the wearer and his/her possessions to the proper status level in the afterlife.
During the Roman Empire, Christians would pull the “ichthys” (fish) charm from underneath their garments to identify themselves to other Christians to gain entry into secret, forbidden worship activities. The Jewish scholar of that same time would write passages from Jewish law on tiny slips of parchment and carefully insert the slips into a small, golden amulet that was worn around his neck. Fast forward to the dark days of the Middle Ages, and we find that charms and amulets were put to use by knights and kings. They were most often used with incantations to wreak havoc on the occupants of enemy castles and protect warriors in battle.
The role of the charm remained relatively unchanged until the early 1900s when the bracelets of Queen Victoria ignited the next big wave of charm wearing. It was at this stage that charms had a dramatic change of purpose. They went from being practical tools to becoming decorative fashion jewelry. Small lockets, glass beads and family crests that hung on bracelets and necklaces were all the rage.
The end of World War II saw the explosion of charm jewelry as we know it today. Soldiers leaving Europe and islands in the Pacific purchased little handmade trinkets as gifts to bring home to their sweethearts. Native craftsmen fashioned small bits of metal into little replicas of items common to the locale. Enterprising jewelers in the States quickly picked up on the trend to create charms for all occasions.
By the 1950s, the charm bracelet was a must-have accessory for girls and women. All major rites of passage – 16th birthdays, graduations, weddings, travel and the arrival of children – were all recorded on the links of their bracelets. But the charm bracelet began to disappear from the fashion scene during the early 1970s. Disco was in and gold chains became the new status symbol. But by the mid 1980s charm bracelets made a come back. Charms that had been out of circulation for decades were showing up in antique stores and flea markets. The boom in collectibles in the 1990s drove a demand for vintage charms and charm bracelets.
In the 21st Century, the fashion industry once again discovered the lure of the charm bracelet. Fashion giants like Louis Vuitton and Pandora have brought the glamour back to charm bracelets, making them the must-have accessory for any occasion. And if the past is any indication, charm bracelets will be in style for quite sometime!