I don’t have a lot of experience with jewelry, I dislike the feeling of metal on my skin, so that rules out necklaces and rings. I only just got my ears pierced last year, in a post lockdown identity crisis, and have not yet brought myself to wear anything but sleepers outside the house. This semester I was lucky enough to get into the Casting and Metal Alloying, a class that would probably benefit from some basic knowledge of jewelry.
Having said that, I do think I understand the appeal of charms, though I’ve never worn them. I’ve always had trinkets and baubles, and little objects of importance, strewn around my room, kept safe in small boxes. Badges, shells, polaroid’s, leaves, tickets and toys, but this class deals with charms in relation to jewelry, so first!
What is a charm?
A charm is a small artifact, or object, that has some significance or meaning behind it. They’re often designed to be attached to a bracelet, or other piece of wearable jewelry.
During World War 2, soldiers would send home charms that reflected their experiences while stationed overseas. In the image above, sourced from the Museum of Fine Art in Boston, there is a combination of army signifiers, like a jeep, and artillery gun, but also coins from several allied nations.
This type of charm became incredibly popular post WWII in America, as servicemen would bring home these charms from local artisans overseas. My father served in the Australian army, and as a child I remember seeing lots of small charms including Akubra hats, Australian crests, and indigenous animals, all made from silver, or sometimes even pewter. My family home had huge cabinets filled with trinkets, ceramic elephants, tiny glass dogs, and these small charms of Australiana.
I remember having one charm in particular that I attached to a keychain, I can’t for the life of me remember what it was, but I knew it was made from some kind of rough metal or stone. I remember being obsessed with the idea that if I rubbed it enough, I could wear down over time. This somehow made it more valuable to me, that it would eventually disappear.
How is it different to an amulet and a talisman?
Traditionally an amulet is an object with apparent magical power, it’s purpose often to protect the owner from the evil influence of others. This can be worn, or simply held in a location, in order to confer it’s powers. Amulets were originally made from natural material, such as animal bone or gemstones, but in more contemporary settings could be made out of any material.
A talisman is thought to be an object of great power, the can provide energy, luck or connect someone to a sense of spirituality. Traditionally made from the bones and trimmings of predatory animals, but more modern totems could include a piece of clothing with significant value, a tool that has proved incredibly useful, or really anything to which a person could form a strong emotional recognition for.
A charm is for remembering, or tradition
An amulet is for protection, or comfort
And a talisman for power, luck or spirituality
All these functions may apply to each, and the definitions of each seems pretty mailable
The first class project is titled “Covid Charms”, and it got me thinking about what my charm was. The only item I feel gave me power was my FitBit. I got really into running about halfway through, and it was really good for my mental health. Every time I left the house with the FitBit on, it was a physical reminder of my commitment to self care.
(this is not an advertisement for FitBit)