For her 21st birthday last month, I bought my daughter a charm bracelet. It’s made of sterling silver and has links which open to receive her charms. I picked out several charms for her, representing things that she loves and of course, I included a “21” charm to mark her milestone birthday.
People have been wearing charms or pendants, for hundreds, even thousands of years. In earlier times, charms were worn for protection from evil spirits and from bad luck.
Early Christians in Rome wore small charms in the shape of a fish called “ichthys” (the Greek word for fish, also sometimes spelled “ichthus”) to let other Christians know of their religious leanings during the days when it was dangerous to be a Christian. Over time, the role of charms changed from being a means of warding off evil and communication, to one of fashion and aesthetics.
Queen Victoria of England had a fascination for jewelry and charms and was known for wearing charm bracelets and making them an enormously popular fashion item during her reign from 1837 to 1901. In addition to loving to wear charm bracelets, Queen Victoria was known for giving them as gifts. When her beloved husband, Prince Albert, died, she made “mourning” charms popular. These charms held a miniature picture of the deceased or a lock of their hair.
Tiffany & Co introduced their first charm bracelet in 1889 at the Paris Exposition World’s Fair. It was a silver link bracelet with a single heart pendent and was a huge hit. That same style bracelet is still sold by Tiffany & Co today for $295.
In the 20th Century, it became customary to give charm bracelets to girls before the age of puberty and then to add a new charm each year. The 1950’s and 1960’s were the golden years for charm bracelets. Many movie stars and politician’s wives, including Elizabeth Taylor and Jackie Kennedy, wore charm bracelets and made them popular with the masses.
For Christmas in 1970 when I was 10 years old, I received a charm bracelet from my grandmother. It was made of sterling silver and had five charms already on it that she had chosen for me.
There was a bicycle charm representing the new bike I had just gotten for my birthday that year, an August (Peridot) birthstone charm, a Leo the Lion Courage charm, a Christmas tree charm, and a charm with a dime in it. This is funny now, but at the time, pay phone calls cost a dime. My grandmother told me I would always have a dime in the event that I didn’t have any money and needed to make a phone call. How times do change.
I loved my charm bracelet and wore it often. Over the years, I added many other charms to those original five. There are birthday charms from when I turned 13 and became a teenager, and another given to me on my 21st birthday. There’s a mustard seed charm representing my faith with the bible verse from Matthew 17:20 on the back. A Disney castle charm was bought during my first visit to Disney World at 16 when I was on a mission trip to Haiti.
One of my favorite charms is the Quill and Scroll Honor Society Journalism charm I received for writing for my high school newsmagazine. I earned that one writing my stories on a manual typewriter in the journalism room at school. Other favorites are my Purdue charm from my college years, and a Fort Lauderdale charm acquired during one crazy spring break with all my friends from my dorm.
After high school, most of the charms came from places I visited. I’ve had a Texas and an Alamo charm for a long time, never suspecting that I would someday make my home here.
For a number of years, I didn’t wear my charm bracelet. It was full of charms and heavy and noisy and always seemed to catch on my clothing or that of my children. When I wore it when my daughter was small, she would sit on my lap and look at each charm and ask me what each one meant.
Photo by Jeff Hull, Corinth, Texas
I save my charm bracelet to wear for special occasions now. My charm bracelet is a bit of a jewelry diary covering the last 44 years of my life. I enjoy wearing it and looking at the charms and remembering the special events and trips and times I enjoyed in my life that are now documented on my wrist.
And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. ~Matthew 17:20