Skip Pandora For These Lucky Charms

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When I wrote about the inexplicable craze for Pandora charm bracelets last week, the responses I received were as priceless as any diamond.

One friend said Pandora bracelets were the “family car stickers” of the jewelry world. Another compared fans’ devotion to the misguided fanaticism Beanie Babies. And yet another suggested that Pandora include subversive charms like diet pills and torn marriage certificates. (A brilliant business idea.)

My mom's charm bracelet.
My mom’s charm bracelet.

But despite my distaste for Pandora, I love charm bracelets — an affinity I attribute to my mom. She still has her childhood charm bracelet, which is stuffed with metallic memories that stretch between her California childhood and Girl Scout troop to her time in Puerto Rico in her early 20s.

 

The jewelry designer Solange Azagury-Partridge did her own version of a charm bracelet with childlike charms.
A one-off charm bracelet created by the jewelry designer Solange Azagury-Partridge.

When Solange Azagury-Partridge recently Instagrammed an ad-hoc charm bracelet she created for her god daughter, I started thinking about more modern charm bracelets. How could you create something more unique — and potentially less expensive — than the mass-produced Pandora versions?

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For one, you could go completely vintage. When I was 10, my parents bought antique silver charms in bulk (you could buy them by the pound at antique shows). To keep the charm selection completely fair, my sister and I would take turns picking charms out of a paper bag. After a few antiquing trips, our bracelets grew so heavy, my dad gently asked that we never wear them during long car drives, comparing the clinking to “Auntie Mame.”

I recommend browsing RubyLane for vintage pieces — but be aware that you’ll always get a better deal at an antique show or junk shop.

Lulu Frost Glitter Do,e Charm Bracelet, $360
Lulu Frost Glitter Dome Charm Bracelet, $360

For a more modern look that’s still customizable, you’ll need a “blank” bracelet. Personally, I’d do with a bracelet that would blend with your existing style even WITHOUT any charms. The Lulu Frost version above has large links, which work well for bigger, bolder customization. (If you prefer silver, I have a Givenchy version right over here.)

Juicy Couture charms are adorable and unique -- and they're easy to clip on and off.
Juicy Couture charms, including this fruit pie and a pair of 3D glasses, are adorable and unique. They’re also easy to clip on and off.

For charms, I am partial to Juicy Couture. Their charms snap on and off with push-lock closures, making it incredibly easy to swap them on and off bracelets and necklaces. Juicy’s charms also tend to be kooky and colorful, and you can find plenty of them on eBay for less than $30.

My biggest recommendations? Stay away from any bracelet “pre-loaded” with charms. (You won’t have any creative control.)

But most importantly? Stay away from disasters like this:

Saint Laurent Cluster Charm Bracelet, $1,256
Saint Laurent Cluster Charm Bracelet, $1,256

Once a charm hangs more than a few inches, you won’t be able to type, reach into your handbag or wear a pair of gloves without major aggravation. (Can you believe Saint Laurent actually sanctioned that bracelet? It’s like a wig for your wrist.)

How would you design your ideal charm bracelet?