Saturday, January 31, 2009

Start a Charm Bracelet

I've been wanting to write this post for a while, but was having trouble finding the information online that I needed. Basically, I think that starting, and later "outfitting", a nice charm bracelet would be a lovely stocking tradition for any girl or women, and particularly for a daughter as she grows up and develops new interests. I tend to think the girl should be old enough to appreciate that charms are not toys, but rather jewelry to be kept and treasured for years. Also, a slightly older girl will have more interests so you can choose charms that have personal meaning for her. I probably wouldn't start one before age seven or eight, I think.

In any case, I finally came across the website for Rembrandt Charms, and I'm very impressed. They have a fun online feature where you can design a charm bracelet and print out your design with the exact product numbers for those charms, plus a list of retailers within your zip code that are likely to carry them. At first, I was worried that the prices would be too outrageous, but I found that as long as you stick with sterling silver instead of gold, the prices are reasonable -- especially if you're spreading this out as a charm-a-year in the Christmas stocking. (This would also work well as a birthday tradition.)

The first year, of course, you'd want to get the bracelet itself, and the first charm to attach to it. I found the lovely sterling silver bracelet picture above with a suggested retail price of $21. Then I found the first charm I would choose for myself: Aquarius, for my birth sign. The "design your own bracelet" feature is fun because you can put in any key word, see the results, then drag the charm up to the bracelet. Here's my finished design (sorry you can't see the detail very well; this is the largest I could make the image):

In addition to my water-bearing Aquarius sign, I found a feather quill pen (because I'm a writer), a book (because I'm a librarian and an avid reader), a space shuttle (because I'm into space and science fiction), a cat (because I have, um, several of them), a sea turtle (because I like them), a soccer ball (because I used to play), and an ice hockey goalie (my favorite sport to watch).

The only drawback I found to the "design your own bracelet" feature was that many times, results would come up as if there were charms, but one or more boxes would be blank. That may signify that certain charms have gone out of production, but in any case, don't be alarmed. You wouldn't actually be purchasing the bracelet and charms from this website, but rather going (if you wanted to) to a local jeweler that carries the merchandise.

Alternatively, you can just shop for charms in jewelry department stores. Or you could try the James Avery stores or website. The James Avery charms (pictured left) are priced a bit higher than the Rembrandt Charms (several of them seem to hover around $40 for sterling silver), but they're gorgeous and look to be of very high quality. The website has a nice search feature by categories of charms, such as children's, customer favorites, women, teens, religious, etc.

And remember, if you started this tradition, you would really have a whole year each year to find just the right charm. Souvenirs from trips are especially nice -- I remember that my parents got me a Tinkerbell charm at Disneyworld, and then an alligator charm when they went on a trip to South Carolina. I bought myself a beer stein charm the year I lived in Germany. Someone gave me a Christmas tree charm as a gift, and I got an American flag charm through Camp Fire Girls. Sadly, I'm not sure where my charm bracelet is. I think I still have it, but after too many cross-country moves to count, I'm not 100% sure.

But back to the topic at hand: if I had a daughter, you bet this would be a stocking tradition. The first year would have the bracelet with the first charm attached, and in subsequent years, the little box holding the charm could be tucked down in the toe of the stocking. It's the kind of thing that a girl could pass on to her own daughter years later, and each charm would have a story to go with it. What do you think?

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