Style - Jewelry
By: - at July 15, 2013

Charm Bracelets: Origin and Design Meanings

The Appealing Charm Bracelets
Charms From glittering miniature designs to Eiffel towers shrunk to its smallest size to gems and semi-precious stones, charm bracelets say a lot about the people wearing them. From the name itself, charm bracelets are inherently appealing for almost everyone. The word “charm” which means to attract, does exactly the very thing these precious things are intended to do. For some, the way miniature designs jangle as they dangle with the wearer’s motion is pleasing to hear. For others, the exquisite designs of intricately made charms attached to the link are just as beautiful as the outlook of the wearer.

No matter how people view these little dangling designs, perhaps the most attractive thing about charm bracelets is the kind of story they tell about the wearer. A symbolic piece of jewelry worn on the wrist, it may depict unforgotten memories of love, aspirations, interests, and many other precious moments one has experienced throughout life. Mostly worn and loved by women as an expression of personal style, wearing one is like telling your story to the world. Proclaiming the owner’s status like her affluence or power, charm bracelets are an exquisite and shining autobiography held close to the hand of the wearer. Some charm bracelets are as precious as being part of the family’s heirloom, passed on by women in the family from one generation to the next. A practice occurring more commonly between mothers and their daughters.

History of Charm Bracelets
The history of charm bracelets is as old as the prehistoric Neolithic era when inhabitants of bare lands would pick unusually looking, strangely shaped stones and wood with the purpose of warding off enemies. Quite different from its use today, it was used as talisman or as amulets to protect the wearer from the wrath of bad spirits or attack from the other tribes. Some of the most widely used materials for creating these embellishments include clay, rock or shells found in the surroundings. Wearing them is generally connected to showing devotion to love, magic and protection by divine powers.

Here are the top three cultures that started to popularize charm bracelets:

1)  Egypt
Considered as one of the oldest civilizations, Egypt had been one of the wealthiest countries of the ancient times. Other than their grand monuments like the pyramids that continued to attract tourists yearly, Egyptians have shown, earlier than other cultures their love for jewelry. The complex designs made by artisans of this period draw attention from scholars from around the world.

Egyptian scarab jewelry

For Egyptians, ownership of precious jewelry made from metals and stones symbolizes national pride. During the earlier period of the empire, gold was not widely used as it was scare in the area. Instead, they made use of semi-precious stones that were abundantly scattered around the kingdom. It was only when Egypt conquered Nubia, or “The Land of Gold” that this metal became a favorite material for jewelry making. As the kingdom’s supply of metals increased, Egyptians of high ranking birth took the shaped metals and forms as a display of status. For many women, charm bracelets were a favorite with ordinary Egyptians, wearing ones that are made from glass or brass. The type of metals used and the intricacy of designs depict the status of the wearer. In addition to the role it plays in showing one’s social rank, charm bracelets were worn with the belief that it would ward off evil spirits, bring fertility, protect against diseases, and that they even attract blessings from gods. The charm bracelets are usually decorated with scarabs, a creature believed to be the protector of secrets and the symbol of rebirth. Perfectly different from the practice of the modern world, charm bracelets made during the ancient Egyptian civilization were not passed down from generations. Instead, they were buried with the owner as part of properties they needed when traveling to the underworld.

2)  Rome
Another ancient civilization that proved to have led the popularity of charm bracelets was the Roman Empire. In the past, Romans have been obligated to wear a type of medallion to signify their citizenship. This means that it served as the equivalent of the modern day identification card. It was believed that when one who wears this medallion was found to be victimized by people not belonging to the empire, it would bring retribution.

roman charm jewelryFor many Christians, the wearing of fish designed charms under their clothing depicts their connection to the practice of secret worship ceremonies. This is because of the fear of publicizing their religious practices. The fish design was adapted from the Greek word for fish (“ichthys”) that serves as the acronym for the phrase that goes, “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior.” For some families, lines from the Torah were engraved in the small pieces of charms worn by men and women. During the Dark Ages, it was even used as a form of identification for family members. Experts believed that charms were used to signify superstitious beliefs.

What set Italian charms apart from those of Egypt were their specific and tailored styles that include rectangular or modular shaped metals. Additionally, they are not used as dangles for a link but were directly linked together to form a band-like bracelet without any hanging piece. Artisans from Italy were also the first ones to come up with charm designs that can be linked or unlinked in order to create different patterns and shapes. Equally important, it also made adjusting sizes easier for women of different sizes.

3)  England
The charm of the bracelets from ancient civilizations conquered the western world as advocated by the fashion sense of Queen Victoria. In the earlier part of the 20th century, the Queen of England popularized the use of charms as that of a small locket with family portraits and a lock of hair from her husband, Prince Albert. During this time, the queen modeled the use of charm bracelets made from gold, sterling silver and platinum. For the ordinary English women, a charm bracelet of glass beads and lockets became a cheaper more affordable version. It was said that Queen Victoria would wear her charm bracelets with the lock of Prince Albert’s hair when they are away from each other believing it would make him come back safely.

Charm LocketThis practice spurred interest among many Europeans and cause them to sport lockets with locks of hair from their loved ones. By the end of World War II, charms gained popularity and American soldiers stationed in England or parts of Europe would send back home lockets with their hair as something their wives, mothers, or daughters could wear. It was during this time when women started to accessorize with charm bracelets to express their interests, religion, and engagement or marriage. With the commercialization of charm bracelets comes its function symbolizing anniversaries, births, and graduation. In America, plastic charms were popular among children as it featured designs like Mickey Mouse, Popeye and other small prominent figures depicting American culture.

Common Charm Designs and Their Meanings
Like tattoos, charms on a bracelet also express messages intended to be communicated by the wearer. The following are the most popular charm designs and their meanings:

  • Angel and Cross: The wearer is asking for blessings, or is expressing thankfulness for such. Additionally, it represents asking for guidance and protection from your guardian angel or from God.
  • heart charmHeart: The wearer is expecting to find their true love or has found them. For some, it means that true love will find them soon.
  • Key: The wearer belongs to a happy home or wants to establish one on her own.
  • Flower: The wearer is experiencing a blossoming story of love.
  • Airplane/ Car/ Suitcase: The owner wants to live a life full of travels and adventure that takes her to different places of the world.
  • Ballerina: The wearer expresses that she wants her dreams to come true. Alternately, it means overcoming difficulties to fulfill aspirations.
  • Butterfly/Dolphin: The wearer wants to live a colorful and carefree life, something that will bring joy and fun.
  • Cake: The wearer wishes that the sweet life will begin soon.
  • Dragonfly: The wearer wants to attract or keep good fortune.
  • Elephant: The wearer wants to live a life full of great memories worthy to be cherished for a lifetime.
  • Handbag: The wearer wishes to live a prosperous life.
  • High-heeled shoes: The wearer want to have a life that’s glamorous and in style.
  • Lock: the wearer wants to keep loved ones together and for dreams to unlock soon.
  • star charmOwl: The wearer wants to live a life full of wisdom.
  • Postage Stamp: The wearer wants to receive good news.
  • Star: The wearer wants to have all wishes granted.

Charming Final Thoughts:
Whether made of expensive materials like gold or silver, or as heirlooms or decoration, charm bracelets have enchanted women from different cultures throughout time. The first artisans designed this intricate piece of jewelry hundreds of years ago to embellish the looks of the royals and exhibit one’s position in a higher social class. Perhaps, it is from this practice that people use them to convey messages and personal aspirations. As its name tells us, this type of bracelet attracts good fortune and good things.

Charm bracelets have two parts. First is the link or chain that can be wrapped around one’s wrist and the other part, the charms that can either be permanently attached or can be interchanged or replaced. For many of us, they are used as decoration to depict one’s fashion sense, while for others, it conveys important meanings as depicted by the designs and shapes of charms.

The purpose of charm bracelets has changed so much over time. In the present, they are known to attract good luck. In older times, they served as amulets or talismans that brought protection to the wearer by containing spells and blessings. For many young women of today, charm bracelets are for decorations, but for those from the ancient times, they were used to identify one’s power, religious belief and identity in society. No matter how people differ in their views on charm bracelets, it is sure that this intricately designed piece of jewelry will continue to allure many more people in the future.





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