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Beginning in the early years of the 20th century and extending until around 1960, it was a mark of middle-class properity that young girls be given a charm bracelet before they reached puberty and that at every holiday or anniversay, a new charm be added to the assemblage, often by the doting relative who had supplied the original bracelet. One suspects that jewelers were behind the craze, but in fact, the demand for charms is ancient; only this method of marketing them is relatively recent. Not all the charms on these bracelets were lucky emblems — equally common were hobby-related and school-related charms. In fact, the multiplicity of charms available, and the mundanity of many of them — a telephone, a car, a cheerleader’s megaphone, a windmill — served to devalue the word “charm” in the English language, so that today one may be misunderstood if one refers to “charms” when one means “amulets.”

The legend reads “Le Langage de Porte Bonheur” (“The Language of Good Luck Charms”) and the 10 charms are labelled with their meanings — which, i feel compelled to note, do not accord in every case with their usual symbolism.

frenchcharms

The charms are:

An Elephant: “Felicite” (happines)

A Heart: “Amour” (love)

A Four-Leaf Clover: “Bonheur” (luck)

A Horseshoe magnet: “Argent” (silver — or money, due to the magnet’s “drawing” power)

A die with seven spots: “Veine” (games of chance; gambler’s luck)

The number 13: “Joie” (joy; the usual use of this number is as general luck or gambler’s luck

A Pig: “Prosperite” (prosperity)

A Hamsa Hand: “Richesse” (riches; this is not accurate — the hamsa hand protects against the evil eye; this one is unusual in that in place of the bilaterally symmetrical filigree design of an Arab “hand of Fatima” or an eye in the palm (which would make it an eye-in-hand amulet), it has a little arabesque curlique in the palm which is not visible on this scan (and barely visible on the original)

A Horseshoe: “Fidelite” (fidelity; not entrely accurate — the usual meaning is attraction or “drawing”)

A  Pansy: “Souvenir” (remembrance; i have not encountered the pansy as a lucky charm elsewhere; it belongs more properly to the “language of flowers” than the “language of good luck charms”

charmbracelet

The 20th century American charm bracelet at left features a variety of lucky charms in a bright mix of brass, copper, sterling silver, and gold-plated metal.

This bracelet is typical of the kind of jewelry worn by adolescent girls in the 1950s and 1960s, collected charm by charm while travelling through the tourist traps, flea markets, jewelry stores, and yard sales of the heartland.  There are 13 charms on it, demonstating the use of “unlucky” 13 as reversed bad luck

– A silver heart engraved with initials: love for the named individua

– A brass heart pierced by an arrow: smitten romantic love

– A silver horseshoe: attraction or “drawing” luck

– A gold wishbone: set with a pearl: wishes come true

– A silver horseshoe on which is placed a wishbone, a four-leaf clover, a horseshoe and the words “Good Luck”: good luck

– A gold and green enamelled four-leaf clover: luck

– A silver money bag with a $ sign: wealth

– A copper horseshoe on which is placed a four-leaf clover: good luck

– A brass heart padlock: faithful love

– A silver spread of playing cards: gambling luck

– A gold double horseshoe set with an artificial diamond: money luck

– A brass moneybag marked 1000: wealth

– A silver horseshoe attraction or “drawing” luck

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2 Comments

    • tze
    • Posted February 12, 2009 at 2:36 AM
    • Permalink

    hi karelin! sorry about the late comment, it completely slipped my mind ><

    I was rather intrigued at your archive choice, as I have always found charm bracelets and the meanings of those little charms rather fascinating! And especially since you are already a collector of charms, I’m sure this topic will hit close to heart (:

    While your mockup book last week was rather interesting, I do agree with some that taking it apart may be quite iffy. I happen to come across this:

    http://oliverandlillys.blogspot.com/2009/02/signed-sealed-delivered.html

    and thought it might be another approach you can adopt to package your charms.. Maybe instead of a book, it can be in a collection of envelopes/postcards and be mailed to dear ones who you think (the charm) represent the most? Or the message of the charm that you would most like to convey to someone.. So instead of an actual archival final piece, it could be something more personal, and how you archive your current emotions and feelings through these charms.

    Another thing I found interesting about your site was all the history and stories of the charms. I was thinking maybe you could make a storybook and tell stories about the meanings of your own charms, or e.g. maybe you have a charm that is flower-shaped; instead of showing us the “dictionary” definition of the flower charm, maybe you can come up with your own definition, or show us what it means for you.. Or maybe even tell a story about the charm (:

    Format wise I think something like a chain running through an accordion might be interesting, as you can then prop up the book and display whatever length that you want to… Just a suggestion!! Good luck 😀 😀

    • rainhoneystars
    • Posted February 12, 2009 at 5:31 AM
    • Permalink

    heh no problem. thanks! the link is good.


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