A Brief History of the Charm Bracelet

Posted on September 25, 2015 by Mary Hood | 1 Comment

Charm bracelets have been around for millennia and have served many purposes from warding off evil to expressing one’s creative interests. | Barbara Michelle Jacobs Jewelry

Charm bracelets have been around for millennia and have served many purposes from warding off evil to expressing one’s creative interests.
Cotton Pearl & Signature Tag Charm Bracelet

The delightfully feminine jingle of a charm bracelet is only one of its endearing features. Charm bracelets come from an ancient jewelry tradition of wearing special tokens to ward off evil and bring luck. Ancient charms were made with shells, animal bones, gems, rocks, wood, and clay. For example in what is now Africa, 75,000-year-old shell charms were found. Meanwhile, in what is now Germany, charms of mammoth bone dating back 30,000 years were discovered. Ancient Egyptians used charms as symbols to show identity to the gods upon entering the afterlife.

The practice of wearing protective amulets helped ancient Romans stay close to their religious faiths. During the Roman Empire, Christians wore the fish symbol hidden in their clothing while Jewish scholars would tuck small, written passages of Jewish law into amulets worn around their necks.

Queen Victoria (reigning during 1837-1901) popularized charm bracelets as a fashion statement among the noble classes. She is also credited with starting the mourning charm trend, in which a lock of hair of the deceased is carried around in a locket charm, an image of the deceased is mounted on a charm, or a charm or bracelet is carved from black material (usually jet). Accompanied by the Industrial Age, when, for the first time, charms could be produced in large quintiles, the Victorian Period launched charm bracelets as we, more or less, know them today.

The 1920s witnessed glamorous additions to charm bracelets as platinum, diamonds, and other gems were incorporated into many bracelet designs. The charm bracelet trend evolved once again when soldiers returning from WWII brought their sweethearts charms from European cities where they were stationed.

Screen stars Elizabeth Taylor and Joan Crawford could be seen sporting beautiful charm bracelets in some of their popular films, further fueling the trend. Consequently, charm bracelets saw a another boom in popularity in the 1950s. After a period of decreased popularity, the charm bracelet trend resurfaced in the 2000s in the form of customizable Italian charm bracelets.

A Brief History of the Charm Bracelet | BMJ Blog 

Elizabeth Taylor wearing an elaborate charm bracelet.

In contemporary use, charm bracelets may mark milestones in the wearer’s life (like the birth of a child), personal and aesthetic interests, and/or social groups (like sorority letters).

 A Brief History of the Charm Bracelet | BMJ Blog

Antique charm bracelets are special because they can tell us a unique story about the original owner.
Vintage Gold Charm Bracelet

 A Brief History of the Charm Bracelet | BMJ Blog

Some charm bracelets are designed around a particular theme like flowers, a favorite city, or, in this case, yoga.
Yoga Charm Bracelet
Do you own a charm bracelet with a special story?


Photos: John Wind Maximal Art, NYPost, Live Auctioneers, You Can Quote Me on That via Etsy


Posted in charm bracelet, jewelry history, jewelry lore, jewelry trends, vintage



1 Response

Lisa Blankenship Uhlyarik
Lisa Blankenship Uhlyarik

December 02, 2015

Thank you for sharing this little history. My Momma created a charm bracelet when as I was growing up.. I always played with it and it’s entrancing tinkle and light high pitched tone. Everywhere we went or where my Dad traveled a new special memory charm was added. They mark time so beautifully! I wear one of my own now all Native American honorings It is my favorite jewelry. Each little story connected to the other reminding me of the wonderful moments along the way as I journey through life. My Momma said I am 50 this year and it time to pass hers down through the generations, she’s bringing it as my Chtistmas gift this year along with the best gift I could ever have… HER I will cherish it with much love. Thank you again for the history I will look some more into it. I found it very interesting and intriguing

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