I have never been a fan of charm bracelets. They seem messy and noisy, with the charms hard to see clearly. They are very popular, though, and antique ones in particular fetch high prices at auctions. However, recently, I found an antique gold guard chain with charms and had a change of heart. The guard chain is long, about 60 inches (about 1500 mm), so can be looped around the neck twice, and came with about 10 charms. The charms include an ivory elephant, a tiny pen knife, a bear, a kookaburra, two crosses and a gold coin, I have added one or two to it.
A bit about charms. Charms derive from objects such as amulets, which could be gemstones or carved bone, and talismans, specially consecrated items infused with power, worn on the body to protect one from disease or danger. Each society seemed to have had its own recognised good luck charm. For instance, elephants are symbols of good luck in many parts of Asia, particularly India and Thailand, the four leaf clover in Ireland, the hamsa hand in the Middle East, pigs in Germany, the scarab in Egypt and the cornicello in Italy. There are also fairly universal good luck charms, like the rabbit’s foot, a key and a horseshoe.
Charms worn on a bracelet as a purely decorative item emerged in the Victorian era. Queen Victoria led the way. Two of her bracelets are preserved in the Royal Collection Trust. One is a gold chain bracelet with nine enamelled hearts containing the hair of her children. The other has 16 oval and heart shaped charms enamelled in black on gold, with gems, crosses, a miniature photo, inscriptions and engravings.
Since Victorian times, charm bracelets have been in and out of fashion. In 1889, Tiffany and Co introduced a bracelet with a single heart charm, and the company still produces a huge range of charms. Faberge produces lovely egg charms, inspired by their iconic easter eggs commissioned by Czars Alexander and Nicholas. The Duchess of Windsor wore a Cartier diamond bracelet with nine crosses set with precious stones.
Charm bracelets for non-society women reappeared in the 1950s and 1960s with charms focused on souvenirs of travel spots; on life events, such as graduation, learning a musical instrument, buying a dog and so on; and good luck charms. Since 1979, Pandora has produced its extremely popular good luck charm bead bracelets.