Traditionally, there are several times in a woman's life when she can receive a charm bracelet; once as a young girl and once for her marriage.
In the past, when a woman married, she was given a charm bracelet to celebrate her future. A charm bracelet with wedding bells or a marriage certificate was later filled with charms representing the honeymoon, anniversaries and the birth of her children. This bracelet was frequently referred to as a 'Lifetime' bracelet, growing over the years to one day be passed onto her daughter, so she could continue the tradition of charm collecting from generation to generation.
Charm bracelets were passed on from mother to daughter, either as a new gift or as a family heirloom. The daughter then added her own charms to the bracelet, including ones that represented her favorite hobbies, interests and beliefs. As the daughter matured, so did her charm bracelet, increasing not only the number of charms, but also in sentimental value.
To a woman who lived during the 1930s, 40s and 50s, charms, usually worn in multiples on a link bracelet, were of great personal significance. A charm bracelet became a chronicle of a woman's life; a time capsule that represented her loves, her interests, her travels, and her experiences. These sentimental, yet precious objects told her story, and preserved it for generations to come.
A woman most probably received her first charm as a young girl; perhaps a ballerina or a flower. In her teenage years, she may have received the additions of a love token from a sweetheart, a souvenir from a school trip, a jeweled mortarboard for graduation. Charms commemorating her engagement, wedding, first home, children--all the major milestones of her life--followed in line.
With the mid-century trend for travel enabled her to see much more of the world than her mother and grandmother had. Perhaps a small cruise ship charm told of her honeymoon trip to the islands; or an Eiffel Tower charm of a romantic weekend in France. She could spend many a cocktail party explaining the numerous exotic travel mementos on her wrist.
Like many women of her day, a little pearl typewriter signified that she had a job outside the home. She might have also enjoyed sports (golf and tennis) and was loved the arts, particularly painting and theatre.
A woman might have added other charms to her bracelet simply for their beauty. Compared to the flat, stamped charms of modern times, vintage charms are three-dimensional, highly detailed, and often jeweled -- tiny works of art in their own right.
There's been a new trend for collecting vintage charms. Women today often wear a single charm from their collection on a bracelet, or as a pendant. Collections are often beautifully displayed in a shadow box, or hung from ribbons on a bulletin board, mirror or frame.
Vintage charms make wonderful gifts. For a recently married bride, each guest could gave the bride an antique charm representing one of her, or the couple's, interests or experiences. For another bride, she could do the opposite, using the antique charms as personalized thank-you gifts for her bridesmaids. Yet another idea would be that a woman could treat herself each birthday to a charm with some relevance to the preceding year of her life; and she could start the same tradition for her young daughters.
Charms have become popular as a way to express individualism, because no two bracelets are alike. Hobbies, crafts, work-related, and sports-related charms can be easily found, as well as those pertaining to pets and animals of all kinds.
There is a huge selection of charms available today, with a charm for every season and every reason. Many women find collecting charms addictive, and will include a many bracelets in their collection. The ease of removing and replacing charms make for endless combinations. A bracelet can be fashioned to correspond with any mood or occasion.
Charms have recently seen an increase in popularity, especially with celebrities. They've given their stamps of approval, as many Hollywood personalities have been photographed with their charm bracelets on. Designers, have produced their own collectibles, and the sky is the limit in terms of both options and price. Early charms were typically quite inexpensive, however some of the charms available today can vary from under $10 to several hundred dollars each.