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The History Of The Charm Bracelet

Aug 21, 2007
A long time ago...

The history of charms goes back as far as the Neolithic era. One of our ancient ancestors would pick up an unusual stone or piece of wood and carry it with him to ward off his enemies. Thousands of years later, elaborate jewelry made of precious stones and metals emerged during the age of the Egyptian Pharaohs, which was when the first recognizable charm bracelets and necklaces first appeared.

Charm like an Egyptian...

Ancient Egyptians lived very short lives by today's standard -- between 30 to 40 years on average. And because they had so little time on earth, they obsessively prepared for a prosperous life after death. Charm bracelets played a significant role in the preparation process. Charm wrist and neck bracelets were not only coveted as protective shields and signs of status in this life, they were also worn to help the Gods guide the wearer and his/her possessions to the proper status level in the afterlife.

Doing as the Romans did...

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. This of act reverence and piety was meant to keep the law close to the heart.

When knights were bold...

In the dark days of the Middle Ages, 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. Charms were also worn on belts to represent family origin, political standing and profession.

General wearing of charms began to lose favor with the wealthy classes during the Renaissance as mass produced books emerged and superstitions faded. However, charms and amulets were still widely used by people of lesser means and education. Until the early 1900s, the role of the charm remained relatively unchanged.

HRC (Her Royal Charms)...

The bracelets of Queen Victoria ignited the next big wave of charm wearing during the early 20th century. It was at this stage that charms dramatically changed purpose. They went from being practical tools to decorative fashion jewelry. Small lockets, glass beads and family crests that hung on bracelets and necklaces became all the rage.

For the Greatest Generation...

The end of WWII saw the charm jewelry fad explode. Soldiers leaving Europe and islands in the Pacific purchased little handmade trinkets to bring home to their loved ones. Native craftsmen fashioned small bits of metal into little replicas of items common to the area. Enterprising jewelers in the US quickly picked up on the trend and began creating charms for all occasions.

Chewy and Fun -- Gumball Charms...

Made of celluloid, an early plastic, there were a series of charms and little prizes that came out of gumball machines and candy boxes during the 1940s. They were collected by kids and worn on bracelets and necklaces of string and beaded dog tag chain. There were common themes -- jungle animals, sports, sailing ships, army men and pets. A number of commercial applications were produced as well, mostly from comics -- Popeye, Betty Boop, Mickey Mouse, the Seven Dwarfs, Orphan Annie are just a few examples.

The Charm Grows Up...

By the 1950s, the charm bracelet was a must-have accessory for girls and women. Major rites of passage - 16th birthdays, graduations, weddings, travel and the arrival of children - were all recorded on the links of their bracelets. Today some of these vintage bracelets sell for two to three thousand dollars at auction.

The charm bracelet began to disappear from the fashion scene during the early 1970s. Disco was in and bare gold chains became the new status symbol. But in the mid-1980s charm bracelets reappeared. New-money heirs uninterested in the old baubles of their dead relatives were liquidating huge estates. Charms that had been out of circulation for decades were showing up in antique stores and flea markets. Savvy buyers snapped them up at cheap prices.

Collecting becomes charming...
The boom in collectibles in the 1990s drove a huge demand for vintage charms and charm bracelets. A gold charm costing $10 in 1950 easily commanded $70 to $80. Vintage mechanical charms were highly prized by serious collectors and often sold for over $100. Even with auction sites like eBay, prices for vintage gold charms remain strong and show no sign of decline.

In the beginning of the 21st Century, the fashion industry has again discovered the lure of the charm bracelet, and has flooded the market with new charm styles in all price ranges. Fashion giants have brought the glamour back to charm bracelets, declaring them the must-have accessory for any occasion.
About the Author
Authorized distributor of beautiful pandora bracelets and beads.
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