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Charmed by Charm Bracelets

Jun 10, 2011 07:26PM ● Published by Anonymous

 

Each item hanging on the silver link chain bracelet tells a story. There are the three hearts, each inscribed with the name of one of her three daughters, along with charms depicting a matchbox from the Princess Hotel in Bermuda, a piano that opens and closes, a crate of oranges, and a waffle iron. The oranges symbolize a trip

to Florida, and the waffle iron a love of breakfast. The bracelet

Hendricks has had since childhood has a charm of the number “66”—the year she graduated from high school—an ice skate, because she always wanted to skate, as well as a four-leaf clover for good luck, and charms depicting states she has visited. These are just a few of the 26 sterling silver charms on the bracelet that was such an important part of Hendricks’ girlhood years.

Charms have been around for centuries. Originally considered to have magical or healing powers, lucky charms were worn on necklaces, tucked inside pockets, or hidden under clothing. It is believed that the early Christians often wore a fish charm—an icthys (the classical Greek word for “fish” and commonly referred to as the “sign of the fish” or “Jesus Fish”)—discreetly placed yet easily revealed to show their affinity for Christianity to fellow believers.

But charms go back in history even further. The Egyptians had used charms thousands of years earlier to ward off evil spirits and identify their social status to the gods before journeying into the afterlife. The Babylonians, known for their incantations and belief in magic, were the first ancient civilization to place charms on a bracelet, according to many historians. The Egyptians continued the practice of wearing charm bracelets, often fashioning charms made of precious stones and metals thought to possess specific powers, such as increasing fertility, guaranteeing wealth, or protecting their loved ones in the afterlife.

Wearing crosses and lockets was common during the Middle Ages; and while ornately crafted bracelets went in and out of fashion for several centuries thereafter, it was not until the middle of the 19th century that the idea of putting charms on a bracelet became popular again. The trend is attributed to Queen Victoria, who felt a strong attachment to her husband, Prince Albert, as well as to her entire family. The sovereign until 1901, Queen Victoria had nine children and 42 grandchildren. She wore small lockets c ontaining their pictures concealing locks of hair, as well as cameos and intaglio-carved, semiprecious stones hung on bracelets. Nobility, and then the general public, began wearing charm bracelets as a way of emulating the Queen’s taste and style.

After the Second World War, Americans started their own love affair with charm bracelets. Soldiers would return home from duty overseas bringing charms as gifts. These small pieces of jewelry were handmade by local residents in countries where servicemen were stationed. These bracelets were passed from mothers to daughters, and interest in charm bracelets continued to grow. By the 1950s, charm bracelets had become a must-have accessory, along with clothing styles like poodle skirts and cashmere sweater sets.

In the 1960s, a new type of charm was dispensed from gumball machines. Youngsters collected these celluloid charms, which were made in the likenesses of comic book characters, animals, and sports heroes. Many were placed on charm bracelets. Gradually, the interest in gold and sterling silver charm bracelets faded, only to be temporarily replaced by “fashion” charm bracelets through the end of the 20th century.

A new type of charm bracelet, with semiprecious beads used as

“collectible charms,” has recently come into vogue.

Whichever style you favor, charm bracelets can be enjoyed by

multiple generations

 

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