What people do with their time is telling. So are the charms on a bracelet.
Taking the time to build a charm bracelet, to collect and curate each charm with thought and care, is a material expression of devotion and love.
Historically, however, charm bracelets have revealed far more than love and devotion. In postwar America, charm bracelets were a popular form of adornment and a statement of convention in 1950s America.
The 21 charms on Mamie Eisenhower’s bracelet denoted important milestones in her husband’s life. Its gold-encrusted White House, for instance, symbolized his presidency. The charms Mamie selected communicated a conventional message of devotion and deference to her husband, which postwar 1950s America welcomed. Likewise, Walt Disney’s wife Lillian, wore a charm bracelet that portrayed each of the 22 Oscars her husband won between 1931 and 1964. American actress, and famous 1950s television personality, Lucille Ball wore a charm bracelet comprised of six gold records – each representing a hit song by her husband Desi Arnaz. Though she was equally accomplished, Ball did not use the charm bracelet medium to advertise her own successes. Instead, Ball used her charm bracelet to showcase her husband’s fame, and, in so doing, she advertised her primary role as the adoring wife.
As times and trends evolved, so too did the cache of the charm bracelet. The previous object of sentiment and convention morphed into a objet de status and luxury as many mainstream retailers created versions of their own. In 2001, fashion designer Marc Jacobs launched Louis Vuitton’s fine jewelry line with a single, pre-arranged charm bracelet, which retailed for $20,000, and included charms representing Louis Vuitton accessories, Parisian landmarks and international travel. This bracelet appealed to jet setters who identified with the luxury store, and its pre-assembled nature contributed to a growing desire for instant charm gratification.
In spite of its precious gemstones and 18 karat gold, Jacobs’ bracelet lacked the most treasured commodity of all – time. A pre-assembled charm bracelet doesn’t ask anything of the buyer, nor does it say anything intimate about the wearer. It’s too easy to buy and takes little effort to build. No person is so simple or straightforward as that.
If time is the ultimate gift, then a charm bracelet is the ultimate jewel.
Here is my advice: Begin with an empty or single-charm chain and stick with it. Acquire, accumulate and arrange meaningful charms over time. Seek out antique charms and molds. Scour auctions. Visit local jewelry shops when you travel. Try your hand at design. If you put in the time and do the work, I promise you this: the bracelet you create will be one-of-a-kind and more meaningful and priceless than anything you could find on the market.
The hardest part of the building process is realizing your bracelet, and its time with you, is complete and ready to be passed along to a loved one. But it’s precisely that time when the bracelet’s true beauty shines and its charm will be audible to all.
❤️ Stay well and adorned, x
P.S. Above is a charm bracelet that was given to me by my bridesmaids on my wedding day. They each affixed a charm representative of our friendship. It’s something I will always treasure.