The mere thought of the humble charm bracelet might transport you right back to your childhood and the cheerful jingle-jangle of your grandmother, a sound that entered the room long before she did. But the charm bracelet, at least in its sleeker modern incarnation, has become a stylish staple for every modern woman.
Probably the most customizable piece of jewelry on the market, they invite the owner to build their own individual look, to tell their own personal story, all through the medium of charms.
So how are modern charm bracelets worn in 2021 that set them apart to a new generation of style icons?
In this post, we’ll look at the history of charm bracelets that led to today, how to choose the right charms for your bracelet, and why the charm bracelet is here to stay.
A brief history of charm bracelets
Charm bracelets go back to time immemorial, and have left their mark on every stage of history, most cultures across the globe and both men and women.
First dated back to the Neolithic age (roughly 12,000 years ago), charm bracelets (or amulets as they were then) were worn to ward off evil spirits and keep the wearer safe from harm.This theme endured across the Egyptian and Roman empires, developing into symbols of common religion (early Christians would wear a fish charm to mark them out against Gentiles).
The Middle Ages saw knights wearing charms to protect them in battle, whilst conversely, in Renaissance times, they became symbols of the occult, losing their notoriety for luck and protection.
Into the 19th Century and Queen Victoria was renowned for her love of the charm bracelet, but now they took on more sentimental, nay romantic overtones. The trend permeated the British aristocracy, spreading across Europe like wildfire, often taking the shape of the loveheart, containing romantic inscriptions as gifts between lovers.
From the 20th Century onwards charm bracelets were worn for more decorative reasons; the owner would collect charms of everyday items they liked, or symbols of different life events - perhaps the passing of an exam or the birth of a baby. Stars such as Sophia Loren and Elizabeth Taylor would adorn huge collections of charms to represent aspects of themselves they wanted the world to see.
Fast forward to today, and the high street has seen a resurgence of charm bracelets. And, as a reaction to the mid-20th Century opulent look, the “less is more” approach has become the prevailing trend.
So whether you’re adorning an outfit for a black-tie evening affair, or off to grab a coffee with a friend, the charm bracelet offers the modern stylista a blank canvas on which to project their style.
Invest in a high-quality chain
A good quality chain is an essential starting point for your charm bracelet. The more durable your chain, the more enduring your piece will be over time.
You can also choose hinged link chains so that any kind of charm can be attached to your bracelet, even ones you’ve inherited from your mother or your grandmother.
Before you choose your chain, consider the overall look you want to go for. If you’re likely to go for cooler charms in blues and greys, a silver chain would work best, but for sapphires and rubies, you’re better off investing in a gold.
A strong, durable and adaptable chain will be the difference between a throw-away piece of jewelry and one that’ll stay with you for life. Who knows, it might even be something you pass down to your daughter one day.
How to choose your charms
Given the modern trend towards a minimalist charm bracelet, it can be tough to narrow down the choice to find the charm or charms that work best for you.
Simple and understated
Today’s modern trend for understated charm bracelets is chic and sophisticated, and also offers a great starting point when embarking on your charm collection.
Start out with a single charm that means something important to you. Perhaps choose a charm to reflect a big life event, like the birth of your child, or perhaps a epiphanic feeling - a renewed sense of “carpe diem”, for example.
Tell your own story
The most important aspect of your charm bracelet is the story it unveils to the world. In fact, because every woman has a unique story to tell, the choice of charms should reflect her hopes and dreams, her aspirations, her challenges, as well as the many milestones she experiences throughout her life.
If your charm bracelet is telling your story then, there’s no rush to get it “completed” immediately. Instead, by letting your story unfold, you can purchase charms as you go through life, have experiences, mark occasions and make connections. As you go through life and your experiences broader, so too does your bracelet fill up, until eventually the weight of your charm bracelet reflects something about the richness of your life course.
Showcase your travels
What better way to immortalize your global adventures than to wear a charm carrying the place you visited everywhere you go. If you plan to visit each continent, collect charm continents as you make your way around the world. Complement these with a Mini Adventure Compass charm.
Purchase charms yourself
The appeal of the modern charm bracelet is that it reflects where women are in the 21st Century. They build careers, they own property and they buy their own jewelry. Rather than waiting for your special someone to present you with a piece of jewelry (although it’s always nice to be bought jewelry), go ahead and buy it yourself. And because individual charms don’t break the bank, you can do this relatively spontaneously.
What’s great about self-purchasing, is that you can remind yourself of your own agency when you look down at your bracelet. It represents you, your life goals realized, your experiences treasured, and they have been purchased with your hard-earned money.
Go big or go home
If you want to make a statement with your charm bracelet - and there’s no reason why not - fill your bracelet with as many charms as you can. Mix charms from your childhood, from your grandmother or from your mother with newer pieces; mismatch shapes, textures, metals and designs; put pops of color against traditional metals.
There’s something liberating about throwing out the rule book. Experiment and play. Find what works for you and the story you want to tell.
The modern layered look
Whether you plan to max out your charm bracelet, or stick to just one or two simple charms, you can play around with how you wear it amongst your other wrist pieces.
For a fun eclectic look, layer up your charm bracelet with fine delicate chains, bold bangles, cuffs, and skin tight friendship bracelets. Timepieces, like delicate wrist-watches, look great alongside a charm bracelet and, while they do risk getting scratched by your charms, it’s all part of the story you’re portraying to the world.
The co-ordinated look
By keeping a coherent color palette, gemstone or design, you can create a grown-up elegant look to your charm bracelet.
For example, you might want to wear only gold charms against your gold chain, perhaps with the occasional pop of ruby to add an accent of color. Or match cool blues and gray charms against a silver chain.
If you're the kind of person who likes a touch of color coordination, you could even tie in your charm bracelet with your shoes or purse. If you have a color pop of red in your charms, pick this out in a red purse whilst wearing a neutral shoe.
Switch your charms in and out
There are no rules when it comes to your charm collection, so keep it versatile by switching up your combination of charms depending on the time of year, the holiday, or what’s going on in your life.
You might save one or two festive charms to pop onto your chain at Christmas time, or save your adventure compass for when you head off on vacation.
By mixing up your charm bracelet in this way, you can give it an instant new lease on life when the time is right.
The charm bracelet: It’s here to stay
The rich history of the charm bracelet has seen representations of protection, good luck, religious allegiance and light-hearted frivolity. But what unites all of these trends is that they all carry some sort of significance to the wearer. And when you look at the modern charm bracelet, that pattern still endures.
The only difference now is that the modern charm bracelet signifies the organic unfolding of a person’s life-story. Whereas recently, charms tended to symbolize a life event, they now portray a sentiment, capturing an emotion attached to an experience, rather than just the event itself.
It’s for this reason that charm bracelets are stylish and sexy for both a new generation, but also for older generations looking for a modern look.
Where does your charm bracelet story start? What’s the first charm you’ll buy for your charm bracelet?