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Charms are not just back in fashion, but are leading the jewellery market in more ways than one. From Cartier to Tiffany, from Pandora to Kama, from Tomas Sabo to Milano Charms, these small pieces of self adornment, gifts of love and reward are the hottest topic in the jewellery world. In 2010 in the middle of a global recession a charm brand/manufacturer from Europe floated on the stock market at a price which valued the company at £3.15 billion. So without question the charm is back at the forefront of jewellery fashion: but where did it all start?To answer this question let’s consider the fact that the word “charm” has two meanings. The first which we are discussing here is its use in jewellery, but let’s not forget that “charm” is also a verb with several meanings; to have a seductive appeal, to enchant, to possess a magical quality, to be flirtatious etc. The word ‘charm’ can also mean ‘incantation’: this is where the word charm derives from the Latin for ‘song’, ‘carmen’. If the linking of the original meaning has any bearing on today’s modern charms, it is most likely therefore to have been given as a gift to charm a loved one, combined with its ability to possess a magical quality. Whatever the true driver behind the incredible success of modern charms, they have actually played a major part in jewellery history for tens of thousands of years. In fact many tombs around the globe have been uncovered with jewellery in them resembling charms. In December 2003 a discovery of a burial site in Germany led to the recovery of small charms carved from mammoth tusks; these were of animal figures and very similar in size and style to charms worn today. Archeologists believe these early charms were created around 30,000 years ago. So lucky charms were being worn by early cavemen many years ago, and today they are just as popular as ever with one report claiming that 4 million four-leaf clover charms were sold in the USA alone last year! I conclude that the use of charms throughout history seems to be interwoven between their use as a lucky amulet and talisman, with a gift of love, romance and passion.Although charms can be worn on necklaces, zippers, hung from mobile phones and handbags, their main traditional use has been for recording memories and moments by attaching them to a bracelet. I remember many a year ago, long before I became a jeweller that my auntie told me how she had spent over ten years collecting and creating her own charm bracelet. To her, after her wedding band her charm bracelet was the most meaningful piece of jewellery she owned. She was never going to write an autobiography, but in its own unique way, her charm bracelet which she would leave to the next generation would retell her story.Queen Victoria amassed an amazing jewellery collection during the 1800s; she was often seen wearing her charm bracelets and trinkets. She commissioned many small lockets into which she placed hair from her children along with tiny portraits. She also had silver charms set with pebbles that Prince Albert bought her from Scotland. Then came the charm bracelets of the Art Deco period: these were often made of platinum and set with coloured gemstones. In 1945 Tiffany’s printed their first blue book, in which there were many gold charms set with Diamonds, Amethyst, Ruby and Emeralds: these were set into horse shoes, four-leaf clovers and a wonderful disc shaped charm that depicted a Christmas Tree next to a fireplace.Jackie Kennedy often wore a charm bracelet, the most photographed of which is a simple gold bracelet featuring three golden hearts. In the 1960s Elizabeth Taylor gave charms a really feminine and modern image and you can find many photos of her gold charm bracelets on the Internet.Birthstone charms, places visited, fun charms, animals, symbols of fashion, lucky charms, amulets, talisman, children’s charms; the list of potential collections goes on and on.Whilst different gemstones are worn due to their magical healing powers and protective abilities, there are certain charm designs that are also associated with different occasions. Here are just a few of the more well-known ones, but I am sure any true charm aficionado could tell you many more:
The bear symbolises well being, strength, bravery and a spiritual wealth. It is also a sign of someone who enjoys life.
In the Bible, Moses was told by God to “affix bells to the hem of the vestments of the priests to thwart evil spirits”, and over the past one hundred years major charm brands have cleverly incorporated bells into their designs.
If you rub the stomach of your Buddha it is said to bring you wealth. In addition it is said to represent happiness and joy, whilst others say it protects the wearer against sudden death.
Today the cross is a symbol of Christianity and a defence against all things evil, however it has been used in jewellery for more than six thousand years and some argue Pagans used it as a phallic symbol.
It is said that a cat has nine lives; therefore it is an ideal character for a lucky charm, especially a black cat. In addition cats are self-confident, independent, playful and can always find their way home.
Given as a gift for someone who has been successful in education, sport or business, placing a crown on your charm bracelet is a symbol that an achievement has been made.
A dog symbolises friendship, intelligence and someone who stays by your side. Dogs are great guardians and help to keep their owners safe.
Said by Odysseus to be the animal of love. Today, Dolphins are regarded as intelligent and playful and as their slipstream outer skin is replaced every four hours, they represent continual change.
An amulet worn by Egyptians to protect the wearer from the evil eye, the design features three circles stacked on top of one another: colours are normally white, and light and dark blue.
Egyptians were often buried alongside a frog charm as they represented fertility and regeneration. Today frog charms are once again very popular with people associating them with positive energy, relaxation and conservation.
The ultimate symbol of luck. It is said that a horse shoe symbolises power and smooth journeys.
A key opens the door to your heart. It also symbolises the opening of a door and is therefore often given on important birthdays such as your 16th, 18th or 21st. Many people in the USA buy a key charm to bring them luck on the day they move into a new home.
Many people wear the initials of their children, their parents or their partner. Others wear the initials of their favourite football team! Although letter charms do not have any historic values, they have become incredibly popular over the last decade.
As well as giving the appropriate numbered charm on the 16th, 18th and 21st birthday, individual numbers have specific meanings throughout history.1. Symbolises God2. Love and duality3. The three virtues of faith, hope and charity4. Balance and organisation5. Harmony and divine grace6. Longevity but unfortunately also the numberciated with evil7. A lucky number in many cultures8. Perfection, prosperity and infinity9. Achievement and patience
The pig is making a big comeback in the charm world. The animal has grown to represent sincerity, honesty, intelligence and kindness.
An ancient Egyptian symbol to represent the circle of life from creation to resurrection.
Worn as charms for thousands of years, the shell today symbolises romance and femininity.
Worn as a talisman for thousands of years, the star is said to protect the wearer as well as to provide guidance.
The sun represents power, warmth, eternity and hope.
GIA qualified Gemmologists
Members of the British Jewellery Association
Members of the Coloured Gemstone Assocation