As I spent time researching a collection of sterling silver charms, I began to reminisce about a charm bracelet I had as a girl. It had charms from places I visited on family vacations and the one that I recall most is the Pieta, shown at the 1964 New York World’s Fair Vatican exhibit.
So, where did charms originate? Were they always worn as bracelets? I was surprised to learn that even Neolithic man carried charms, presumably to ward off evil spirits. The Egyptians wore charms as both necklaces and bracelets and in addition to their protective powers, charms served to identify the wearer’s status in society.
Through the ages, charms represented religious affiliations, social standing and helped protect the wearer. As the Middle Ages passed, the wearing of charms diminished. And as with many late 19th century fashions and customs, Queen Victoria led the way in reviving interest in charms by wearing and gifting them. This is when they became a fashion accessory, no longer warding off spirits or representing religion.
Since the Victorian era, charms have ridden waves of popularity and charm bracelets enjoyed a huge revival after World War II. Charms from this era are highly collectible today, especially mechanical pieces that having moving parts.
Charm bracelets have undergone a transformation during the last 20 years or so, including changing to sliding beads on a bracelet as well as many thin bracelets worn stacked on the arm, each bracelet having a single charm.
It remains to be seen what the next generation of charms will look like, but given the fact that charms have been a part of human existence for thousands of years, it is likely safe to say that they’ll be around for a long time to come. There is something to be said for the sweet jingling of charms on a bracelet!
Anita of Cousins Antiques on Ruby Lane