I've started trying to delve a little deeper lately into what and where these fascinating curiosities called charms came from . I really wanted to know when did charms become a thing ? Was it with Queen Victoria? Was it before that ? Anyway I found the information a bit scattered across the web with chunks of information here, snippets there etc. so I thought I would create a little history of charms myself for you all to read (does anybody even read this ?) if your interested in the origin of charms too .
So first things first, the actual definition of charm was something I wanted to get clear on . In books and various films depicting pre 20th century life words and phrases that I felt must share some of their origin in charms crop up constantly . Women described as charmers because they were seen to be able to perform acts that constituted more than the normal realms of what is possible for your average human. Spells and talismans referred to as charms, but not in the decorative sense that we recognize today . No, these were used specifically for warding off bad luck, demons , used for protection and not for aesthetics. In fact this use of charms can be traced as far back as 600 BC and if that doesn't blow your mind I don't know what will - Edit : we definitely don't stock any 600 BC charm bracelets here at Charlie's Vintage Charms but wouldn't it be fab if we did .
The definition of charm nicked from google is this :
the power or quality of delighting, attracting, or fascinating others.
"he was captivated by her youthful charm"
a small ornament worn on a necklace or bracelet.
"the trinkets were charms from his wife's bracelet"
an object, act, or saying believed to have magic power.
"the charm begins with ritual instructions"
synonyms: spell, incantation, conjuration, rune, magic formula, magic word, abracadabra, jinx; More
an object kept or worn to ward off evil and bring good luck.
"a good luck charm"
synonyms: talisman, fetish, amulet, mascot, totem, idol, juju; More
As we can see there are definitely ties with the word charm and the so called spells of the day . The word charm has its origin in the latin Carmen, which translates to a verse, song or incantation (again can you see the theme with spells and magic here ?). Then from the latin comes the old french charme and charmer finally translating to middle english (When witchcraft was rife) to ‘charm’ with the meaning of incantation or magic spell . Interestingly I can't find what the people of 600 BC called their charms, or if there even was a name for it . It looks like over time through the centuries and eras of our world, charms have evolved along with the word itself . The google definition for charm not only acknowledges the historic origins of the word but also features the decorative aspect associated with today .
I'm quite interested in the evolution of the type charms so let's take a quick look at that, I plan to eventually go deeper into each time period and the meanings but that's far too much to cram into a short article . Heading further back in time I found something really cool about charms. Around 75000 years ago charms were a thing. Yep . unreal right ? Evidence was found in Africa and Germany of shells, bones and tusks . If you think the small animal charms carved from coral and bits of bones, little shark teeth charms and semi precious carved stone charms, we really aren't that removed from the original charms fashioned out of nature. Hunters of the neolithic era also carried charms with them for luck with the hunt collecting bits of stone and nature on their journeys.
The ancient Egyptians seem to be the first real charm bracelet wearers and had charms that they buried with their pharaohs for various reasons ; a nod to the gods of that time, identification and amulets to bring good luck . Knights often had charms fashioned for them to aid in their battles and again bring good luck, which is fascinating I think, because soldiers of WW1 & WW2 also took tokens of luck into battle with them, such as the fumsup and forget me nots of their loved ones including locks of hair. During WW2 soldiers would collect charms and tokens from local craftsmen, little mementos of the places they had been to give to their loved ones upon return. If you're familiar with Queen Victoria there are parallels here with mourning jewellery of her era, whereupon the death of prince albert the queen took to wearing items of jewellery (such as charms) carved in black whitby jet, and also locks of his hair in pendants lockets and brooches.
Queen Victoria set new fashion trends on the regz and charms are something we can thank her for . She loved to wear charms and gift them to loved ones, which really boosted the popularity of charms. The charm seemed to become less popular with individuals of wealth from the renaissance onward as knowledge of science overtook superstition, but during her reign in the early 1900s she brought charms back with a bang . If you collect charms i'm sure you recognize the lucky Victorian bean, the engraved coin discs and little touch wood and fumsup charms. The change from charms as protection and bringer of luck actually looks like it chops and changes as we go through history. In the reign of Queen Victoria charms were fashionable, worn to show status and wealth, give as gifts due to their aesthetically pleasing nature alongside lucky beans and the little tokens sent with soldiers into WW1. At the same time mourning jewellery was incorporated into this and luck was still a given with the lucky Victorian bean .
This was a brief delve into the history of charms, but i think it's quite neat that you can trace it as far back as this and there is evidence we were using decorative pieces as charms even then . The meanings of the charms may have changed and altered over the years slightly from the original intention and purpose of luck, good fortune and protection, but the basis of them looks to me like it's stayed pretty constant . Ill link in all the pages I got my info from and you can read a bit further if you like . I won't pretend i'm a fancy historian or anything so if you notice anything that's not quite right or feel you want to add something i would love to hear from you.
I hope you enjoyed this little jump in time !