Charm bracelets: Build or buy?

Charm bracelets are an acquired taste; my mother started one for me in my teens, but I abandoned it in my hippie days, rediscovered it decades later, but never revived the tradition of adding charms. Today it's a bit tight and jeune fille, so I'll save it for a granddaughter or great-niece.

My friend Christine came to dinner wearing an eye-popping 1950s-era bracelet of oversized, jeweled charms that knocked me out. Every time she raised her champagne glass, a charm glinted. She bought it at auction, sitting quietly till it came up, raisin
g her paddle with determination.

Here's the thing: I'm 60, if I assemble a few charms each year, till I have e
nough to fill a decent bracelet, I probably won't remember where I put the damn thing.

So I'm on the prowl for an already-loaded bracelet with personality.
Several options:

1. J Crew "Storybook"; resin, plated brass, acrylic beads, $125 I like the twist of a tortoise resin bracelet, and the colour. But I'd like to see it in person. It may not be the quality I want.

2. Victorian Snooker and Fob; 18k, agate, turquoise, coral, £550.
Pendant charms, spinn
ing agate fobs and two snooker championship pennants (engraved 1928-1929, one with a hand-painted motif). The piece, ca.1900-1930, is someone's very personal snooker-sparkled story. Listed on eBay by seller w.associates2 as BIN.

3. Ruby Lane "Loaded Charm Bracelet"; 18k gold bracelet with charms of 18k, and 9k and jewels, $3, 500
This is really close to Christine's, same era, of English and Italian charms. It includes treasures like a Roman Empire gold coin, an ancient compass, a 1914 English sovereign, and an Etruscan 18k charm with turquoise. If you have a lavish Santa ba
by and don't like to defer gratification, it's a spectacular gift. But alas, at 7 1/4 inches a touch tight for me.

I'd better see what I like in silver!

4. Georg Jensen Henning Koppel; sterling, $1,160
I saw this superb bracelet in Paris. eBay seller's price is cheaper than the Jensen boutique, but still an investment. The seven silver Koppel charms dispel the cutesy image of this kind of bracelet.

5. Red Robin Antiques vintage silver charm bracelet, $295
A forty-year collection of charms (38 in all), many movable, such as a plane with propellers, candy box, a marriage license. Most charms are sterling, and the bracelet is a good heavy link.
Lots of charm for the change; big clangy fun.


Julianne said…
I just got the book The One Hundred by Nina Garcia. One of the must haves is a charm bracelet. I had forgotten about them. I think they are really lovely. Buy or build? I think it's a personal choice.
WendyB said…
Those always look cute to me but I've never enjoyed wearing them. The weight, the clankiness...
mette said…
When my daughter was young, I started to collect silver charms for her, placed on a bracelet of mine. At that time money was scarce. I was so happy to find really cute ones. She still remembers the story behind each one of them and I´m sure that she will always keep it.
Marsi said…
My husband started a charm bracelet for me on my first Mother's Day as a mother 11 years ago. I rarely wear it because it's got all those crazy edges that catch on my clothes, but when I do wear it, I so love it. There must be about 25 charms on it, each one signifying some aspect of my life. I will take it out and polish it so I can wear it today.
materfamilias said…
Occasionally I dig mine out (I have 5 silver charms) and think about wearing it, but I'm like WendyB in not enjoying the clankiness. I bought one of my daughters the Tiffany one a few years ago and have been wanting to buy her a charm or two for it, but she prefers it without -- too bad! there are some charm-ing additions available.
Anonymous said…
I was given a Ten Commandments charm bracelet when I was about eight, perhaps to instill some moral fiber. The "Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery" charm made a particularly strong impression. I had no idea what it meant, but it looked sexy.
Duchesse said…
fritinancy: Some bad girl (maybe Dorothy Parker) had a charm bracelet with pill and bottle charms.
Wendy: They do make noise; some more than others; I like them as cocktail attire accessories.
Materfamilias: Five seems to be the turning point, if you get beyond that you tend to build a nice full one. Or five fine ones would be exquisite...I saw a vintage 5-charm one in a jewelry store in Florida,1930s platinum, still kicking myself.
Marsi: I read that someone turned hers into a charm necklace to deal with the catching. It sounds lovely!
I LOVE charm bracelts!!!! I have 5 Jcrew charm bracelets. I have one of my grandmothers and I have one of my mothers. I feel sure that Storybook bracelet is going to be in my Christmas stocking. The other night I wore three of the Jcrew ones all at once. I love the weight, the feel, and having little symbols and toys to play with when I need to be distracted.

I am totally loving the Ruby Lane one. So very beautiful and it looks like it was accumulated over time.
Anonymous said…
I would be interested to know the history of the charm bracelet. I wonder if it has evolved from the 16th and 17th century item (I can't remember it's name) that court ladies used to wear attached to their waist. From it dangled a collection of items that would have been personal and necessary to carry at all times, eg. wax seal, time piece, small scissors, tiny mirror, etc.

I learned of this item when I visited the Patek Philip Watch museum in Geneva, Switzerland a while ago. It struck me as a very interesting piece of practical modern design as it left two hands free for easy living. Of course they were beautifully made, encrusted with enamel and jewels and highly valuable.

Something tells me that charm bracelets could have originated from this.
Anonymous said…
Stauer has a nice selection of charm bracelets.
Duchesse said…
Bianca: I looked at Stauer but did not see any charm bracelets offered just now. Some good looking simulated pearls.

GP: Sounds likely. I'd love to visit that museum! Tennis bracelet: a diamond line bracelet with flexible links, made popular by tennis star Chris Evert, who wore hers on the court.
Anonymous said…
My parents and godparents started a charm bracelet for me as a little girl, and it's loaded. Each charm has a specific memory attached, and I'd never give it up. It looks quite similar to the Red Robin Antiques charm bracelet photo'ed above.

Having said that, and acknowledging that I have a few other charm bracelets acquired over the years, I never wear them. I love the idea, and I love to look at mine, but the jingle drives me a little crazy.

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