Charms and beads have been around for centuries. Often, the words charms and beads are used interchangeably resulting in confusion. They are similar, yet they are very different. Officially, charms are attached to and hang from a chain, whereas beads are strung with a wire running through them. While this is a simple definition, it does aptly distinguish the difference between charms and beads.
Charms date back to as far as 75,000 years ago. They are made with a unique design or words or some other type of artistic customization, and they hang on a chain using a bale or a jump ring.
The wearing of charms began as a way to keep evil spirits or to bad luck away. Egyptians used charms as a sign of luck and faith. Early Christians hid tiny fish charms in their clothing as a way of revealing themselves to other Christians. Medieval knights wore charms for extra protection during battle.
Then came the introduction of formal charm bracelets. Queen Victoria can be credited with first wearing charm bracelets, which naturally caused a fashion trend among the European noble class. Throughout history and for various reasons, wearing charms and charm bracelets has been a noticeable fashion trend.
In the last few years in Europe and North America, a new type of charm called the European Charm bracelet has arrived on the scene. Actually, the European Charm bracelet uses a charm bead. It is a bead that has a component that dangles off the bracelet like a charm or it can simply be a bead. However, most people refer to these European beads as charms.
What makes these charm beads different than their predecessors or contemporaries is these charms can be interchanged to allow for customization of the bracelet. They also tend to be more modular in shape. The first company to introduce this type of charm was Trollbeads. However today, there are many popular brands such as Pandora, Biagi, and Chamilia.
Beads can be any size with any amount of carving or decorative artwork. They have a hole through them to allow a wire or string to thread through the inside. The oldest bead is thought to be 100,000 years old and was made from sea snail shells.
Beads are categorized by shape, the surface patterns, place or period of origin, as well as what type of material they are made from. The most common bead materials are stone, metal, plastic and glass. Beads are also made from coral, horn and bone. An unusual and fun bead is the chocolate bead, which is not only beautiful, but edible as well.
As you can see, both charms and beads have been around for many centuries, and from observing the current trends we can conclude they will always be an important fixture in the world of jewelry.