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The Charm of Charm Bracelets
If you haven't worn one yourself, you've probably seen on them jingling on the wrists of passing women and girls. Charm bracelets are making a bit of a comeback these days, possibly due to their sheer variety and their high fun-quotient. Not only is a charm bracelet a nice piece of jewelry, it's a hobby too! And when was the last time you were able to modify a piece of your personal jewelry so easily? Adding a new charm to a charm bracelet is a snap, especially compared to all the trouble that, say, resizing Great-Aunt Edna's wedding ring for your own finger might be. Not to mention the cost: resizing rings is expensive, while charms can be had for as little as a few bucks.
If you have no idea what we're talking about, then we're wondering which cave you've been hiding in all your life. Charm bracelets are those wristlets decorated with tiny dangly bits, including emblems, animals, and icons, which attach to spots around the bracelet's rim. There's a great variety of charms available, made of a great variety of materials - everything from the standard gold and silver to composite materials like plastics, enamel and ceramics. Photo charms, which are printed with tiny little pictures of whatever or whoever is important to you, are becoming increasingly popular. It's even possible to acquire antique charms, though of course these items cost considerably more than their modern equivalents.
It's all about you
One of the charms of charm bracelets is the fact that they reflect your personal style; you can add and subtract charms until you have your bracelet exactly the way you want it. Even if you decide to follow a certain theme - say, imaginary animals or the alphabet - you do it at your own pace, and you can mix colors, styles, and materials to your pleasure. If you get tired of one charm or another, no problem; with the exception of antiques, new charms rarely cost more than ten bucks (though of course, as with everything else, you can spend as much as you like).
You can always buy a "filled" charm bracelet to start you out if you like, but that's somewhat defeating the purpose. Since most of the fun in getting your new charms, starter bracelets are preferable. A starter bracelet is a mostly-bare circlet that may come with one or two charms to get you started. Silver, white gold, and yellow gold are the preferred materials for starter charm bracelets, but of course the selection available is so wide that you should have no problem at all finding one that's ideal for you. If you're sufficiently well heeled, you'll find it's easy enough to spend a thousand bucks on that perfect diamond-studded platinum starter bracelet; the little doggies with real gemstones for eyes are optional.
Putting it all together
Charm bracelets and charms can be found in most large jewelry stores, both brick-and-mortar and online. While charm collecting doesn't have to be an expensive hobby, be aware that the prices of precious metals can fluctuate widely. At one time a silver charm might cost you $5-7; the next year, the same charm might cost over $20. Gold charms are similarly variable. On the other hand, charms (and charm bracelets) made from other materials, such as enamel and ceramics, are also readily available, and their prices are more stable than those of their precious metal counterparts. If your budget is limited, they may be the more viable option in the long run.