Charms for Sale
Once Upon a Time
Charms go back as far as the Neolithic era where man would pick up an
unusual stone or piece of wood and carry it with him to ward off his
enemies. Elaborate jewelry made of precious stones and metals emerged during
the age of the Egyptian Pharaohs. It was during this time that the
first recognizable charm bracelets and necklaces first appeared.
Like people of many ancient civilizations, the citizens
of ancient Egypt lived very short lives by today's standard - 30 to 40 years
on average. With 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 as ID tags to help the Gods guide the wearer and his/her
possessions to the proper status level in the afterlife. Kind of an "if
found, please return to" note from home.
. . . When In Rome
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.
. . . Knights, Fights and a Little Extra Protection
Fast forward to the dark days of the Middle Ages, and we find that
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. The role of the charm remained
relatively unchanged until the early 1900s.
. . . The Queen of Charm
In the early 20th century, the bracelets of Queen Victoria ignited
the next big wave of charm wearing. It was at this stage that charms had a
dramatic change of purpose. They went from being practical tools to becoming
decorative fashion jewelry. Small lockets, glass beads and family crests
that hung on bracelets and necklaces were all the rage.
. . . The Greatest Generation
The end of WWII saw the explosion of charm jewelry as we know it
today. Soldiers leaving Europe and islands in the Pacific purchased little
handmade trinkets as gifts to bring home to their sweethearts. Native
craftsmen fashioned small bits of metal into little replicas of items common
to the locale. Enterprising jewelers in the States quickly picked up on the
trend to create charms for all occasions.
. . .
I ran across these fun charms not long ago and fell in love with them. Made
of celluloid (an early plastic) they are charms and little prizes that came
out of gumball machines and candy boxes in the 1940s.
were collected by kids and worn on bracelets and necklaces of string and
beaded chain (dog tag chain). Many of the themes are common - jungle
animals, sports, sailing ships, army men, and family pets. But there were a
number of commercial applications as well, primarily from comic strips.
Popeye, Betty Boop, Mickey Mouse, the Seven Dwarfs, Orphan Annie are just a
. . . Bobby Socks, Disco, and the Go-Gos
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.
. . . There's No Place Like Home
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 (charms with moving parts)
often sold for over $100 and were highly prized by serious collectors. Even
with the advent of massive buying and selling arenas like eBay, prices for
vintage gold charms remain strong and show no sign of decline in the new
As the year 2001 opened, the fashion industry once
again discovered the lure of the charm bracelet, flooding the market with
new charm styles in all price ranges. Fashion giants like Louis Vuitton have
brought the glamour back to charm bracelets, declaring them the must-have
accessory for any occasion. And if the past is any indication, charm
bracelets will be in style for quite sometime.