This article is aimed at people who are new to charm bracelets – those who wish to start a brand-new tradition by giving a precious, personalised gift – and those who wish to revive an older tradition, perhaps by adding new charms to an inherited bracelet.
The question we will start with is ‘what are charm bracelets anyway, and what is all the big fuss about?’
A Short History Of Charm Bracelets
At its simplest, a charm bracelet is a delicate piece of wrist jewellery decorated with small trinkets, or ‘charms’. It is unknown precisely when this tradition began, but small twine bracelets adorned with shells have been found in Africa that are over 75,000 years old. European bracelets dating from 30,000 years ago, at the peak of the last ice age, have been found with charms carved out of mammoth ivory. It is an open question why people wore this type of jewellery: maybe for emotional or aesthetic reasons like today, or maybe as a symbol of faith or allegiance. Some charm jewellery may also have functioned as magic amulets to bring luck or drive away evil.
The tradition of modern charm bracelets, with a chain-link bracelet made from silver or white gold, is Victorian in origin. Queen Victoria herself owned several charm bracelets, fuelling a fashion among the upper and middle classes of Europe and America. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, charm bracelets also became fashionable among less wealthy people. During the two world wars, some soldiers sent back trinkets and charms to their wives, mothers and daughters from places where they were stationed as mementos. From the 1950s onwards, Hollywood actresses appeared with charm bracelets on screen, prompting a booming popularity that continues to this day.
What Do Charms Mean?
Different types of charm have different meanings, which make them more or less suitable for different occasions and personality types. Whole books have been written on this topic, so below we will only scratch the surface of the main categories:
Religious & Spiritual Symbols:
Spiritual symbols have always been a popular choice for charms, worn as a sign of faith or to bring a blessing to their wearer. Traditional Christian symbols such as the Cross, Mary, Sacred Heart, Dove and St Christopher are still popular, alongside symbols taken from Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and other religions. Symbols that cross religious boundaries, such as guardian angels, are also extremely popular.
These gifts may be given to mark religious occasions such as baptisms, in remembrance of a loved one or for comfort during hard times.
Commonly used symbols represent the 12 signs of the zodiac, as well as the planets and other symbols drawn from astrology. These are often combined with a precious stone or gem representing the birthstone associated with each star sign.
Zodiac charms make great gifts to mark birthdays or the arrival of a new baby.
A whole range of insects, animals and plants feature on charm bracelets. Popular choices include ladybirds, bees, cats, dogs and various types of leaf. Variations on the ‘tree of life’ symbol also feature on many charms, a sign that has spiritual meaning for some people.
Nature charms can be given as gifts to any animal or nature lover, or as a symbol of a beloved pet.
Charms For Special Occasions
Charms have always been popular as gifts to mark special occasions. Birthday gifts may feature numbers and be given as presents on a person’s 18th or 21st birthday. Other symbols can mark other special moments, such as a wedding or important anniversary.
Select an appropriate charm that symbolises the occasion and the personality of the gift recipient.
Charms of Love, Luck & Inspiration
Going back to the very roots of charm jewellery are the category of charms that we turn to representing love, luck, protection and inspiration. These include quotes that encourage self-belief, interlinked hearts representing enduring love, and classic good luck charms, such as horseshoes, ‘lucky rabbit’s feet’, anchors, nautical wheels and four-leaved clovers.
Give an inspiring charm as a gift to mark a new job, graduation from university, ‘coming-of-age’ or a major transition in life.
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