New designs fuel a renaissance in the popular bracelets

5/4/2005 10:22:00 AM
Charms

Fashionable through the ages

Charms were probably first worn by the Assyrians, Babylonians, Hittites, and Persians from 500 to 400 B.C. and were made of lapis lazuli, rock crystal, and gems inscribed with figures of gods, humans, and animals, according to the Jewelry Information Center.

Queen Victoria popularized charm bracelets in England by wearing her own with lockets containing family portraits, according to the American Society of Jewelry Historians.

By World War II, charms were extremely popular as soldiers brought charms back home from each city they visited, the society adds.

Remember when charm bracelets were all the rage? Many significant moments in your life - graduations, anniversaries, births - were captured symbolically in the form of charms dangled from a bracelet.

Jewelers agree that the charm bracelet is one of the most sentimental pieces of jewelry. A surefire conversation piece, in many families it's an heirloom passed down through generations.

And while dangling charms in the shapes of pets, golf clubs, graduation caps, and baby shoes remain popular, today's charm bracelet styles offer a new twist to the wrist, says K. Maxwell Ohnezeit, a registered jeweler and manager of David Fairclough Fine Jewelers on West Central Avenue.

"The Italian charm bracelets are extremely popular. The links can be interchanged and replaced. They don't dangle. They're stretchable," says Mr. Ohnezeit, adding that each link, priced at about $18 to $28, comes in a variety of designs such as a link with a soccer ball or a letter.

He adds that popular designers such as Charles Krypell offers Sweethearts, a collection that includes charms with a new twist to the birthstone.

"He uses primary gemstones such as diamonds, emeralds, rubies, and pink and blue sapphire. So you can wear emerald for a boy, and choose pink sapphire for a girl and blue sapphire for a boy, instead of using their actual birthstone ... Krypell has never really done anything like this before.

"The neat thing about charm bracelets is the sentimentality of it. It's a memory of your entire life, from high school graduation to religious events, it's the milestones of your life," Mr. Ohnezeit says.

Jeff Jaffe, of Harold Jaffe Jewelers on Talmadge Road across from Westfield Shoppingtown at Franklin Park, says his store's Italian charm bracelets by Nomination are hot sellers.

"I wouldn't call it a pet rock, but it's a hot fashion piece. They even come in ankle bracelets. They are made of the expansion watch bracelets. Everybody's life and the stuff that they go through can be told. You can tell your story on your wrist," Mr. Jaffe says.

He adds that Pandora, a Scandinavian company, offers free-form charms that don't necessarily signify a hobby and special occasion.

"They are actually beads, which sling over a chain, and they float," Mr. Jaffe says. "It's an artsy, modern version."

David Cameron, owner of Broer-Freeman Jewelers in the Ottawa Hills Shopping Center, says the categories of novelty charms are so numerous that his store carries catalogs from which to order.

"There are anniversary charms, birds, boating, automobiles, cats, crosses, dogs, engraveable charms, games of chance, gardening, graduation, hobbies, holidays, equestrian, houses, lighthouses, marriage, love, music and the arts, every profession, nautical ... it's unbelievable. The charm bracelet is a history of your entire life," says Mr. Cameron, whose store also sells Jeep charms and charm bracelets.

He agrees that the sentimental quality of the charm bracelet is what makes it so special.

"It's so fantastic when you see the mother teaching the daughter about charms. We'll see some of those same little girls who come in and are now adults and have their own children. They come back to us with bracelets with 30 to 40 charms on them. We'll cut them off to give to the new children to start their own bracelets, it's very moving and very emotional," Mr. Cameron says.

Charms and charm bracelets come at a wide variety of prices and are usually available in sterling silver, 14-karat gold, gold overlay, and gold plate. Precious gemstones, engraveable charms, and new techniques that can add a photograph to a charm are also available.

Contact Rhonda B. Sewell at: rsewell@theblade.com or 419-724-6101