Saturday, February 16, 2013


Shells and carved teeth in Africa, gold and gems in Egypt, clay, bones and mammoth tusks in Germany – people have been selecting and wearing charms for thousands of years.
During the Roman Empire, little fish charms were a form of Christian identification, giving the wearer safe entrance to secret, illegal religious ceremonies and meetings. Knights wore charms to protect them in battle while landowners wore them to express their political convictions or confirm their lineage. Charms were sewn into clothing, displayed on belts and neck chains; some were even tied to weapons, leathered onto bridles and harness, attached to breastplates or armor.

And some were made into bracelets.

During Queen Victoria’s reign, charm bracelets become very fashionable among the high society women: bracelets displayed lockets, glass beads, family coats-of-arms and other trinkets. Military men collected charms from other countries as gifts to their wives and sweethearts; parents gave charms to their daughters in recognition of accomplishments or interests. Some bracelets became a form of biography, with charms that marked special events in the lives of their owners.

These two charm bracelets belonged to my mother.  The first one (top) is from her younger years, and the charms represent her love of art (palette), tennis (court roller) and opera (lorgnette). The hot dog and key and cowbell are mysteries to me (I’m really curious about that cowbell)! The small medallion with her initials has the year 1938 on the back – the year she graduated from the May School in Boston, so she would have been about 18 years old.

This second bracelet continues into her adult years. There’s her Smith College pin, my father’s Brown University Zeta Psi fraternity pin and his Navy wings. In the smaller locket, I found photos of me and my brother as toddlers; the larger one belonged to my grandmother, and still has a photograph of my grandfather taken in 1911 in Bear Island, New Brunswick (near Fredericton) where my grandmother was born and raised and where they were married in that same year.
Taken together, my mother’s bracelets tell her story; there’s family history in them!  I’m hanging on to them for the time being; eventually, each of my nephews will receive one – it seems the right thing to do.

They’ll be charmed, I’m sure.


  1. History is the best, the more I learn and discover the more I want to know! But add your own family's history to the mix and I really totally have the best of times. I really enjoyed this, nicely written and informative too!

  2. This is so neat, Deb. World history and your Mom's.

    Kathy M.