There is no other piece of jewelry that chronicles a woman’s life like a charm bracelet. They represent treasured moments of new encounters, events, achievements, romances and other significant occasions. They allow us to recall and show the journey we have taken.
Many of us recall charm bracelet from our youth. Mine was a charm bracelet that held a charm from every state I visited as a young girl with my family during vacations. Just viewing the individual charms will bring back memories of that time and place in our lives.
Neolithic Era: Elaborate jewelry made of precious stones and metals emerged during the age of the Egyptian Pharaohs. It is during this time that the first charm bracelet and necklaces were recognizable. Charms played a significant role in death preparation. They were coveted as protective shields and signs of status in this life and worn as ID tags to help the Gods guide the wearer to the proper status level in the afterlife.
Roman Empire: Christians would pull their fish charm (“ichthys” from underneath their garments to identify themselves to gain entry into secure, forbidden worship activities. The Jewish would write passages from Jewish law on parchment and carefully insert the slips into a small, golden amulet that was worn around his neck. This was meant to keep the law close to the heart.
Middle Ages: Charms and amulets were used by the knights and the kings. They were most often used with incantations to wreak havoc on the occupants of enemy castles and protect warriors in battle. Charms were also worn on belts to represent family origin, political standing and professions.
Renaissance Period: Charms went out of favor with the wealthy classes during this period as they were mass produced and superstitions faded. However, charms and amulets were still widely worn by people of lesser means and education.
18th and 19th Centuries: Chains dangling with decorative charms were often pinned to the waist. Men’s watch chains also dangled with types of charms that were predominantly intaglio fob with family crests. These fobs were used to sign documents. Eventually they were created to show a hobby or profession.
Early 20th Century: The Queen of Charms–Queen Victoria ignited the next big wave of charm wearing. They went from being practical tools to becoming decorative fashion jewelry. She introduced a new type of charm that was sentimental and romantic. She often gave them as gifts. Many charms from that time period reveal secret messages of love and endearments as well as picking up on the messages of luck and protection from earlier incarnations. When Prince Albert died, she created the “mourning charm bracelet, which became all the rage in England. The Queen was way ahead of her time and choose to create an extremely individual and fashionable statement of a women’s life through jewelry. She allowed the world to see who she was and what was personal to her, a tradition we now carry on in our charm bracelet today.
Tiffany & Co opened the same year Victoria became Queen and decided to create their own version of the charm bracelet in 1889.
End of WWII: There was another explosion of charm jewelry as we know it today. Soldiers leaving Europe and the Islands in the Pacific purchased little handmade trinkets as gifts to bring home to their sweethearts. Local 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.
1940’s: Charms and little prizes made of celluloid came out of gumball machines and candy boxes. These charms were collected by kids and worn on bracelets and necklaces of beaded chain. There were a number of commercial gumball charms that included Popeye, Betty Boop, Mickey Mouse, the Seven Dwarfs, Orphan Annie, etc.
1950’s: Charm bracelets were a must-have accessory for girls and women. Major rites of passage like birthdays, graduations, weddings, travel and the birth of children were all recorded on the links of their bracelets.
1970’s: The charm bracelet began to disappear from the fashion scene during the early 1970s.
1980’s: By the mid-1980’s charm bracelet reappeared. Uninterested heirs of new money began liquidating huge estates. Charms that had been out of circulation for decades began showing up in antique stores and flea markets. Savvy buyers snapped them up.
1990’s: The boom in collectibles in the 1990’s drove a huge demand for vintage charms and charm bracelets. Even with massive buying and selling sites like eBay, prices for vintage gold charms remained strong and showed no sign of decline into the new century.
2001: The fashion industry once again discovered the lure of the charm bracelet, flooding the market with new charm styles in all price ranges. Fashion giants brought the glamour back to charm bracelet, declaring them a must have.
2002 to today: A new trend for European charm bracelet emerged in both Europe and North America. The charms were interchangeable to allow the wearer to create their own look. These were originally introduced by a Danish jewelry company, Trollbeads, in 1976. As the popularity of this style of charm bracelet grew, many successful brands emerged. A key feature is that the beads are interchangeable among the different brands, meaning you can wear a Pandora bead on a Trollbead bracelet and vice versa.
Trail Beadz: Trail Beadz has created a program that takes the fun and popularity of collecting the European beads with a map and scavenger-hunt approach to finding the beads but also discovering new destinations. This approach deepens the engagement and connection with the location or brand being discovered. Again, there is no other piece of jewelry that chronicles a woman’s life like a charm bracelet. It represents treasured moments of new encounters, events, and other significant occasions. They allow us to recall and show/share the journey we have taken.