The Story of Us: The significance of gold charms in civilization

As we look back through history, every civilization left behind something of themselves; something to tell present generations how they lived; something to give some indication of what they believed. Jewelry, particularly the gold charm, is one of those “left-behinds”.

We first saw the emergence of gold charms in ancient Egypt. The ancient Egyptians only lived for a maximum of 30 or 40 years. Being a civilization that believed in life after death, they spent their short time on earth constantly preparing for the afterlife they would experience once they left their physical bodies. To that end, they used charm bracelets as a preparation tool for the afterlife. To the ancient Egyptians, charm bracelets served many purposes. They were looked upon as shields for the soul, they were worn as a testimony to their status in their earthly life, and probably most importantly, they were donned as a sort of cosmic ID tag so that the gods could determine, based on the wearer’s earthly status where they would sit in the afterlife.

Gold charms and charm bracelets held a prominent place in civilization over the next several centuries to follow, although each civilization had its own unique spin on the significance of what the charms and charm bracelets represented. As we fast forward to the 20th century, and the end of World War II, we saw a veritable influx of charms in the States. Soldiers coming home from overseas would purchase the charms for their significant others. These charms, fashioned by master craftsmen using native materials and design, were formed into mini replicas of items common to the native people in that society. The charm trend caught hold, and jewelers in the United States soon began offering their own “native” charms.

Every generation fashioned their own version of charms and charm bracelets. The charms took the form of many familiar items and characters in modern society. Every jeweler carried their own collection of charm replicas of sports items, animals – both wild and domestic, flowers, musical instruments, and everyday household items such as sewing machines, irons, and spools of thread. Icons such as hearts and smiley faces, landmarks such as the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Eiffel Tower, and commercial replicas of present day animated characters such as Mickey Mouse, Orphan Annie, and Betty Boop also made the scene and were very popular in their day.

The popularity of gold charms continues still today. The significance of charms and charm bracelets has changed somewhat since the ancient Egyptians. Charms and charm bracelets no longer represent a status of earthly life in terms of riches and fame, nor do they ensure us a significant place in the afterlife. They do, however represent our earthly life in terms of who we are as individuals and what is important to us. Perhaps it’s pertinent that charms are made out of the most durable and most solid metal on the face of the earth. The gold charms that we choose to adorn ourselves with, because they are in gold, speaks to the longevity, not only of the material used to craft the charms, but the aspects of daily life that the charms represent. In some small way, it is our very identity. It tells the story of us.