If you think charm bracelets are something that just became popular in recent years, think again! Charms have been accessorizing discerning people for over tens of thousands years.
Archaeologists searching as far back as the stone ages of 75,000 years ago found that charm jewelry goes back as far as the beginning of human existence. In that time, the Stone Age residents would use the things they had at hand to create jewelry, out of shells, bones, wood and clay and then wear these items.
Later on (8,000-10,000 B.C.) people who were settling in small agricultural communities would find stones or unique pieces of wood when they were hunting or farming. When they found pieces they thought were special, they would believe these items to be good luck charms or to have other magical powers, so they would carry them or wear them as protective items.
In the Egyptian times (as far back as 3,000 B.C.), jewelers started to hone the skill of making jewelry charms. There were pieces of jewelry found in the tombs of Pharaohs that show they had learned to create charms out of precious metals and precious stones and wear those created charms on necklaces and bracelets. In this era, these charm bracelets and necklaces were looked upon as signs of richness and prosperity in life. Each piece took some time to make, and the more of these charms a person had built into their jewelry, the more powerful they were seen to be. The charms were also used as magical talisman, believed to protect the wearer and ward off illness and evil spirits.
The Babylonians are believed to have made wearing charm bracelets fashionable the first time around in the Bronze Age (700 B.C.). Their charms were made with a number of the precious stones found at the time, and many of those stones were etched with designs that were believed to have magical capabilities.
Later on, charms became very important in religion. During the years of the Roman Empire (27 B.C. - 476 A.D.) charms served vital roles. At that time there were secret worship services going on that were forbidden. To make sure only those who were supportive of the activities were showing up, Christians would have to show a small fish charm, which they called an ichthys, which had been hidden in their clothing to be allowed into the venue.
In the Middle Ages (476 A.D. - 1450 A.D), Charms were less charming and more to show class or curse an enemy. If a charm was worn on a belt, it was often to show that one belonged to a particular family of had achieved an important status. When knights and kings wore charms, they often had spells cast on the charm that were meant to let them overpower and dominate their enemy.
At this point, charms disappeared from the jewelry radar for a few hundred years until they were brought back into popularity with the help of Queen Victoria. She had a liking for charm jewelry in the mid-1800's and started the return to charm wearing when she modeled a bracelet that held small lockets with lock of hair of her husband and portraits of her family. This sent charms back into popularity, after all, who wouldn't want to look like the queen? Everyone was coming up with bracelets with various bead and charm baubles and dangles. As with all fashions, this look eventually waned and charms once again went out of style.
Around the time of World War II charm bracelets took the jewelry spotlight once more. American soldiers had been sent abroad to fight. As they came home, they often brought charms with them. After liberating cities overseas, they looked for local trinkets and other easily carried items to bring back to loved ones at home. Many found small pieces of metal that had been locally crafted in styles that represented the region. Once they got back into the United States, a lot of jewelers noted how popular the little pieces of metal were. Not wanting to be left out of the new jewelry fad, they also started producing charms in as many varieties as they could come up with, making them available to everyone.
Over the next 20 years charms retained their popularity, in the 50's part of every girl's outfit would be a charm bracelet! These bracelets were like portable scrapbooks; they would add a new piece for every milestone of their life. Not only girls wore these, but also adult women often wore charm bracelets, showing off new pieces for each child and to mark other important life moments.
Again, there was a wane in the adoration of charms through the 70's and 80's, but like every other fashion cycle, they came back around in the 90's. People suddenly coveted the old vintage bracelets of the 50's and if you had an old one, you could sell it for a pretty penny. These vintage charms are still popular and worth a lot of money today.
The market for charms has remained steady for the past 15 or so years. While they are not always the most coveted jewelry item, they are still very popular and making their appearances in more venues and more markets every day. Fashion experts say no longer are charms a passing fad, but they are now pieces of personality that have become a permanent part of everyone's fashion profile.