Ancient Egyptians wore charm bracelets to ward off evil, designed their family line and as status symbols. Other cultures also wore them for superstitious reasons. Knights in the Middle Ages did not just rely on their ability and armor-they wore tokens for protection in battle.
As Christianity spread, people began to associate pagan rituals with dark magic and witches. One belief was that rabbits were really witches in disguise so as protection, so people would wear a rabbit's foot as a guard against evil.
Sometimes these superstitious beliefs dropped away and people began wearing them simply as a fashion statement. Queen Victoria was famous for her collection of charm bracelets. This jewelry design has enjoyed a roller coaster of popularity-seeing a boom in the 50s, decline in the 70s and back to the forefront of fashion in the new millennium.
A style for everyone
The traditional style is a chain link charm bracelet. There are a series of loops through which the charms are attached. The emblem, figure, picture or whatever token dangles from the loop. Now, not everyone likes or wants to have something that dangles but still like the concept of individualizing their jewelry.
The Italian charm bracelet was designed in the late 80s by Paolo Gensini. This unique design uses individual links that display the charm on the face. It is attached as a link to a stretchy bracelet. As unique tokens are chosen, the blank links are replaced. Another contemporary style uses a rounded bracelet and the tokens clamp around it allowing them to move and spin around.
Caring for these pieces
For the Italian designs, carefully soak in warm soapy water and wipe with a dry soft cloth. Sterling silver charm bracelets can be wiped with a soft cloth or one of the specially designed sterling silver wipes that take off the tarnish.
Gold pieces can be cleaned like any other gold jewelry, just be careful with the dangling pieces and with any that are enameled. Harsh chemicals can ruin the finish of painted pieces. Otherwise, regular jewelry cleaner can be used to remove the residue.
What makes this unique bit of jewelry so popular? In ancient times they were non-gender specific as men and women alike liked them as status symbols and as protective amulets. As they have become more of a fashion trend instead of for good luck and protection, women and girls enjoy expressing their personalities through the tokens they wear. Each addition is usually chosen carefully and because the object has some meaning to the wearer.
They are also popular as a gift item, particularly on stone occasions such as a sweet 16. Another bonus to giving a gold charm bracelet as a gift is that there is never a loss for gift ideas on other occasions-just give new tokens. This piece of expressive jewelry is also a popular family heirloom. Each charm holds a bit of family history and a peek into the personality of the original owner.
Of course, many women wear them simply because they are fun. Today, there is a charm for everything-animals, sports, professions, numbers, letters, symbols, pictures and whatever else the imagination can conceive.