In this post I will discuss the history of charm bracelets and I will also showcase several examples of interesting historical and famous charm bracelets. In general, the charms for a bracelet are collected over several years and as a result it becomes a type of record of the special milestones of the moments and accomplishments in a life. (Special Note: A charm bracelet with a beautiful wedding charm would make a wonderful gift from a groom to a bride that could be added to over the years to commemorate the birth of children, an anniversary, a new home or family vacations, etc.)
People have been wearing charms or pendants, for hundreds and even thousands of years. In fact, the ancient Egyptian Pharaohs, Romans and the medieval knights all wore charms as decorative pendants or amulets to ward off evil spirits and sometimes these trinkets were worn into battle for good luck. Charms were also worn to signify a person’s heritage or their religious belief. Early Christians in Rome wore small charms in the shape of a fish called ichthys (the Greek word for fish) to let other Christians know of their religious commitment during the time when it was dangerous to be a Christian.
The role of charms changed during the reign of Queen Victoria from 1837 to 1901. She became well-known for wearing personalized charm bracelets and she also gave charms as special gifts to family and friends. As with most fashion trends set by Queen Victoria, charm bracelets or necklaces became an enormously popular jewelry item.
During their marriage Prince Albert gave Queen Victoria a very sentimental charm bracelet which had nine gold heart lockets made in different semi-precious gemstones to represent each of their children, the lockets opened to reveal the name and birth date of each child and also contained a lock of their hair. The charm bracelet was given to the Queen in 1840 to commemorate the birth of the Royal couple’s first child, Victoria. That first locket to represent the Princess Royal was made of a pink stone then the subsequent siblings lockets were turquoise blue for Albert, red for Alice, dark blue for Alfred, translucent white for Helena, dark green for Louise, dark blue for Arthur, opaque white for Leopold and light green for Beatrice. (Special Note: Queen Victoria wore her precious charm bracelet for many years and upon her death in 1901 she had given specific instructions to have it placed in the Prince Albert’s room at Osborne House, the room had been preserved for decades as it was on the day that he had died in 1861)
Queen Victoria’s charm bracelet from Prince Albert
which commemorates the births of their nine children
photos from www.royalcollection.org.uk
Another family charm bracelet treasured by Queen Victoria featured small oval sepia photographs of her grandchildren set in gold with the names of each child and their birth date engraved on the back. The unique item was known as a slide charm bracelet which was another popular fashion accessory during the 19th century. The charms would literally slide onto a chain or, in the case of the Queen’s bracelet, an elasticized band. The notable grandchildren of the Queen depicted on the bracelet included the future King George V, the future Wilhelm II the Emperor of Germany & King of Prussia and the future Empress Alexandra the consort of Nicholas II. (Special Note: Queen Victoria was often referred to as the “Grandmother of Europe” because during her long reign her children and later her grandchildren married into many of Europe’s Royal families)
Queen Victoria’s charm bracelet
which commemorates the births of her grand children
photo from www.royalcollection.org.uk
The last charm bracelet of Queen Victoria’s that I will discuss was a Christmas gift given to her by Prince Albert in 1844, it was personally designed by him. The intricate charm bracelet features a miniature portrait of the Prince; it is a smaller copy a Robert Thorburn painting. The miniature is surrounded by a replica of the blue Order of the Garter and the bracelet is set in gold with alternating five braided cord bows and four York and Lancaster roses also surrounded by the blue garter.
Queen Victoria’s charm bracelet
which features a miniature portrait of Prince Albert
photo from www.royalcollection.org.uk
In 1889, at the Paris Exposition, the American luxury jewelry retailer Tiffany & Co. premiered a silver chain link bracelet with a heart-shaped charm. Like the classic diamond engagement ring that debuted in 1886, the charm bracelet would continue to be a best-seller for the company for many decades to come. (Special Note: This Tiffany charm bracelet, although a little pricey, would make a wonderful gift from a groom to a bride to present on at the rehearsal dinner or on their wedding day. Perhaps, when given in the iconic “Tiffany blue” box, it would make a great shower gift and something blue from the bride’s parents!)
Over the years charm bracelets have waned back and forth in popularity. The first resurgence was during the period of time between the 1930s and 1960s. The next examples of charm bracelets I will discuss are Disney themed. When the first full-length animated movie “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” was released in 1937 Cartier, the French luxury jewelry company, designed a gold linked charm bracelet featuring brilliant colored enamel charms. Lillian Disney, Walt’s wife, wore the bracelet to the movie’s premiere at the Carthay Theater in Los Angeles, CA.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs charm bracelet
Walt Disney had another special charm bracelet made for his wife, Lillian. The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences allowed an award winner to specially request an 18 karat miniature Oscar statuette charm. The charms were one inch tall and were engraved on the bottom with the name of the award winner, the film and the year it was released. By the early 1950s Walt had collected 20 Oscar charms with the intention of making a necklace for Lillian but she requested that the charms be attached to a bracelet instead. Lillian was very proud of Walt’s achievements and she wore the bracelet for many years. (Special Note: Today, the Oscar charm bracelet can be seen on display at the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco, CA)
Lillian Disney’s Oscar charm bracelet
In the 1950s movie stars, such as Elizabeth Taylor, were often seen wearing charm bracelets for their film roles or sometimes photographed in magazines and newspapers wearing them in their private life. The next example is a charm necklace that originally belonged to Edith Head, the famous MGM movie costume designer. She had a wonderful friendship with Elizabeth Taylor who greatly admired the necklace and after Head’s death the bracelet was given to Taylor. Then after Taylor’s death in 2011 the bracelet would be included in the jewelry auction to benefit Taylor’s Aids Foundation.
The unique charm necklace features 13 ivory theatre tokens displayed on a gold link chain. In the 18th and 19th century, tokens were used instead of paper admission tickets and an ivory token would be for the more expensive box seats while a metal token would be used for the cheaper seats on the main floor used by the general public.
Elizabeth Taylor ivory theater token necklace
which sold at the 2011 Christie’s for $214,500
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, who is forever known as a style icon, had an impeccable fashion sense and she loved classic but very expensive clothes and jewelry. Interestingly, one of her most treasured jewelry items was a charm bracelet that she began wearing when she was a teenager. Throughout the years Jackie changed or added inexpensive charms which included animals, birds, fruit and even a Moroccan-styled black hand to create a very unique bracelet.
Jackie Kennedy Onassis charm bracelet
Most recently charm bracelets have become popular by the Pandora jewelry company. Similar in style to the slide charm bracelets from centuries before, this contemporary bracelet starts with a simple bracelet and then charms can be added or removed depending on the wearer’s personal preference.
So, if you are looking for a very special shower or wedding present for a bride, a charm bracelet would make a wonderful gift. There are numerous charms bracelets available for purchase at retail stores and on the internet.