The Charm Diaries

The Charm Diaries

As far as we know, the chronicles of the Charm Bracelet go all the way back to the prehistoric Neolithic Era of the Stone Age in the earlier BC years, when a man would carry a stone or piece of wood to protect himself from his enemies.

Egyptian Wedjat Eye Amulet made of gold (664–380 B.C.) *

The first recognizable charm bracelets appeared during the Egyptian Dynasty Era which started at about 3100 BCE ending in 30 BCE with the death of ancient Egypt’s famous last ruler, Queen Cleopatra VII.

The charms of the day were called amulets and highly regarded by the culture in having the power to invoke divine forces of protection and regeneration, a power activated by instructions or spells spoken over the amulet to infuse it with the metaphysical energy.

Scarab shaped amulet with image of Amenhotep III, promising its owner 'life' in this world (represented by an Ankh), 14th century BCE

Additionally, the relatively short life span of citizens in ancient civilizations such as Egypt prompted them to obsessively prepare for the afterlife, in which the Charm Bracelet played an essential role. Seen as protective shields and signs of status, charms were used as “ID tags” to help the Gods guide the wearer to the proper place in the afterlife.

Overlapping with the Egyptian Era, the Roman Empire which roughly started in 750 BC, records the “ichthus” fish symbol fashioned on the body of early Christians to identify themselves as followers of Christ.

At that same time, Jewish scholars wore pendants that held tiny scrolls of parchment inscribed with sections of Jewish Law, an act signifying that the law was close to their hearts and its teachings easily accessible.

Pictured on the right is an ancient scroll amulet discovered in the Hinnom Valley south of Jerusalem’s Old City around 600 BCE. The scroll contains a blessing for the people of Israel on two small, silver amulets.

During the Middle Ages, the great fear of witchcraft and wizardry, drove high English Royalty including Kings, Queens and Knights to wear charms as protective amulets.

Facing a decline in popularity within the higher echelons of society during the European Renaissance, marked by scholastic progress where science and books replaced mere superstition, the charm re-emerged once again during the reign of Queen Victoria, which last from 1837 until her death in 1901.

Queen Victoria (1819-1901) ruler of Great Britain’s UK and Ireland & Empress of India

Queen Victoria (seated) with Empress Frederick, both in black mourning garb for the death of Emperor Frederick III (June 1888)

The comeback of the charm during the Victorian Era was sparked by her majesty’s own personal interest in this type of jewelry.  This time, the charms were used to denote connection with family and loved ones, whose photos or locks of hair were often encased by the charm.

You can see Queen Victoria wearing her charm bracelets in this photo.

The late 1800’s were also the time when the charm bracelet crossed over into the fashion world.  Case in point, Tiffany & Co. introduced their first charm bracelet at the Paris Exposition in 1889, the famous chain link charm bracelet with a single dangling heart pendant, which proved a great success at its inception… and still remains so today.

Exhibit of Tiffany and Co. at the Paris Exhibition, 1889

The post-war 1920’s & 30’s gave way to the emergence of a new, more simplistic, geometric style influenced by the artwork of abstraction masters such as Piet Mondrian, concurrent with the Art Deco movement.  This modernist approach to design was reflected in everything from visual arts to architecture, interior design and of course, charm jewelry!

Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor with cross charm bracelet, photo by Cecil Beaton (1937)

In the 1940’s soldiers returning from World War II, brought back locally-crafted wooden and metal mementos commemorating their emotions and memories to families and loved ones.  The trend was swiftly picked up by jewelers in America and Europe offering charms for all of life’s moments.

The fashion spread further to include plastic charms in candy boxes and cereal packages, depicting an array of subjects including commercial and pop culture figures such as Betty Boop and Mickey Mouse, enjoying a large customer base of young collectors.

Bette Davis with charm bracelet
Elizabeth Taylor with charm bracelet

From the 1950’s to 1970’s, the Charm culture infiltrated the upper circles of American and European society becoming a must-have for girls and young women of that class.  The Charms were now icons marking occasions, interests, hobbies, as well as a display of birthstones, astrological signs, and even moods.

Once again, Charms took a dive in the 1970’s and 80’s when gold chains and bold jewelry became the statement, fueled by music industry fads of the day.  Charms now took a backseat to 80’s glamour, being mostly designated to antique markets and collector forums.

Though the idea of the Charm Bracelet never went out of style, it visibly reemerged in the 1990’s with the sought-after quality-craftsmanship of vintage jewelry and collectibles, including a special demand for the valuable MECHANICAL “moving” charms.

In the 21st century, the Charm Bracelet was brought back to the market – big time, by fashion giants Louis Vuitton and Chanel as well as newcomers like Pandora Jewelry which scored fortuitously with its charm bracelets all over Europe and North America in the early 2000’s.

Louis Vuitton (1821 – 1892) French fashion designer, businessman and founder of the Louis Vuitton brand

Louis Vuitton Carousel Charm featuring LV luggage set under a movable tent (2012 collection)

Louis Vuitton’s signature contribution was the creation of a game-changing trunk design which facilitated shipping in the late 1850’s, in line with the post-industrial revolution modes of transportation like railroad and steamship.

This charm depicts the legacy of Louis Vuitton fashion empire founder, the one-time personal box-maker and packer to wife of Emperor Napoleon III (circa 1853), hired by Empress Eugénie to “pack the most beautiful clothes in an exquisite way.” 

Bottom line.  We LOVE wearing beautiful things with a story.  They give us a sense of meaning, continuity, longevity, and above all… timelessness.

CHANEL Matryoshka Russian Doll Charm Bracelet (2010)

Coco Chanel (1883-1971): milliner, fashion designer, businesswoman, founder of Chanel brand

Pictured here is the couturier empress who came from a penniless background, starting her career out in an orphanage where she learned the skill that would become her life’s work, and which combined with her force of a character, took her to fashion legend status.

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* The Egyptian Wedjat Eye represents a human eye with its brow, the two lines below the eye are often identified as the facial markings of a falcon. This was supposedly the eye that Seth tore from Horus during a battle over who would lead the gods. Thoth healed the injured eye, returning it to Horus as the “sound one.”
Wedjat-eye amulets were used from the Old Kingdom through the Roman Period worn as a bracelet for everyday wear or tucked among mummy wrappings, as a source of protection, strength and perfection.

Holiday Visit to Nobu

Holiday Visit to Nobu

What's all the fuss about! ... last weekend we decided to try out the stylin Nobu in Malibu first hand.

sampling the goods... sea weed salad is a staple for me and this one hit the spot!

veggie roll was super fresh & yummy - and went well with a side of roasted brussels sprouts 🙂

--here's to a fantastic 2018 everyone !!!

Nobu's oceanside view

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An Unexpected Gift

An Unexpected Gift

Today came our much anticipated, hand-crafted, Indian-made, Armoire, and along with it another unexpected surprise...

India has always had a special place in our heart. The warmth and exquisite richness of this culture is a world of its own. In fact, this has been a world in which we have sought solace for much of our journey, and a world where we have found it.

A little over a week ago, we had a pleasant Indian-American couple stay for several days with us as they traveled through southern CA.

Indian hand-crafted Armoire

During one of these days, an unwelcome incident put a damper in their vacation experience. Lana and I were both saddened when we found out what happened.

Last night, several hours after the delivery of our enchanting Armoire, we received what these days is becoming a rarity: an actual handwritten letter.

Letter from Neha & Binit

Momentarily puzzled by the piece of mail that stood out from the pile of the usual, Lana looked at the return address and saw that it was from Binit and Neha.

Inside of it was a lovely gift. Our guest, Neha, who it turns out is an artist, sent us a heartfelt thank you note (handwritten, of course) for Lana’s understanding and kindness during the couples’ ordeal.

Note from Neha & Binit
Hand painted bookmark (front)

Inside the handwritten note, was the next precious gift: a delicately hand-painted piece of art in the form of a bookmark. Neha had remembered when Lana shared about her love of Indian craftsmanship and the furniture piece we were excitedly awaiting.

The energy was tangible, it was a piece of LOVE, sent to us via USPS.

We immediately knew its role and place: to bless our magical new arrival.

Hand painted bookmark (back)

Why write about it?

Because in the midst of a world facing extreme turmoil, connection through HEART is a force that always reigns supreme and has the power to conquer all.

As coined in the literary masterpiece “The Idiot” by Fyodor Dostoevsky: "Beauty will save the world." And isn't connection the ultimate form of beauty?

"Beauty will save the world."

- Fyodor Dostoevsky

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Kandinsky

Softened Construction, 1927

Kandinsky

With colors, shapes, images and memories swirling around in my mind, I started out looking for a visual representation of the mood, the flavor of the world, I wanted to project through my designs inspired by the vintage ring collection at FifilleJolie.com.

I found Wassily Kandinsky.

Abstract art, is said to be used by the artist to describe the world underlying the visible world with the availability of extraordinary freedom beyond the boundaries and constraints of the concrete physical as we experience it with our two eyes.

But abstract art, especially when used by the likes of a mind like Kandinsky goes far beyond this purpose.

The artist is said to have believed that reproducing nature only interfered with the process of conveying profound and limitless universal expression derived from our inner experience.

Soft Hard, 1927
Blue, 1922

So, only loosely relating to the world of realism, Kandinsky explored the connection between color and form speaking through universal symbolism including geometric shapes, as well as free-form images with just a slight nod in their depiction to living things.

Through precise and elaborate use of these elements, Kandinsky's aesthetically poignant compositions are widely known to engage the sight, sound and emotions of the viewer, creating within us an experience of transcendence.

Black And Violet, 1923
Several Circles, 1926

Beyond the legacy of his artwork which continues to spark, fascinate and puzzle our imagination, lies something more.

Using an abstract visual mode of conveying universally understood principles with the power to access the depth of human emotion and surpass cultural and physical boundaries, Kandinsky opened a window in our collective mind revealing a world of possibility and creation beyond the boundaries of what we see as ‘real’ and ‘possible’, and in so doing provided us an instrument to elevate our very existence.

This is the contribution and genius of Kandinsky.

Kandinsky working in his studio

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