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Charmed life; Popular bracelets capture moments in time.

Byline: Kim Ring

When he was a child, Scott Garieri always knew when his mother was close by.

The jingling of the gold charms on a heavy bracelet around her wrist announced her arrival.

"I used to be able to hear my mother coming,'' said Mr. Garieri, of Garieri Jewelers in Sturbridge.

Each charm marked a notable event in her life.

When she died 18 years ago, her children each picked the charms that were relevant to them and they disassembled the bracelet. Mr. Garieri picked the one his mother got when he was born: a silhouette of a boy's head with his birthdate inscribed. He also took, "the boot of Italy,'' which he remembered her buying on a trip they took there.

These days, in addition to the old-school charms, Mr. Garieri sells Pandora bracelets; a new kind of charm bracelet he said is easier to wear.

"And a lot more quiet,'' he laughed.

The charms are beads that slip on and off a variety of bracelet styles: leather, silver, strands of string. Much like the bracelets of old, they're used to commemorate events. There are "Sweet 16'' beads, Christmas beads, baby booties -- a blue stone for a boy and a pink stone for a girl.

Over the past several years Pandora has become the new trend in charm bracelets along with the stackable Alex and Ani bracelets that feature one charm per bangle and other brand names that produce similar styles.

People waited in line at Garieri Jewelers to buy the charm beads for Christmas gifts, Mr. Garieri said. He sold just three old-style charms.

Like the old bracelets, the new ones are also used to tell stories like the little girl who bought a butterfly charm for her grandmother because she herself loves the winged insects.

But for people like Mary Krause of Southbridge, the newfangled charm bracelets aren't all that appealing.

She has, for years, treasured the silver charm bracelet her grandmother handed down to her.

"Each charm is a city she visited in Europe,'' Ms. Krause explained. "I'm so glad I got to have it.''

When her grandmother downsized and moved west she offered some of her jewelry to her granddaughter, and Ms. Krause said the bracelet was something she took because it would remind her of her grandmother.

"I used to play with it when I was a little girl,'' she said, adding that her grandmother died years ago but the memories of her live on in the stories the bracelet helps her remember.

She's not a fan of the new bracelets.

"They're too formulaic for me,'' she said, adding that the family heirloom bracelet is more of a collection, like collectable spoons, each from a different place and time.

Part of the charm of the old-style bracelets was that each addition was a thought-out purchase, sometimes from a local jewelry store to mark an engagement or wedding, but often from a destination like Hampton Beach or Cape Cod or Niagara Falls where it would be bought, brought home and added to the bracelet as a reminder of a good time had or a new sight seen.

Christine Paydos of Maine has held on to her mother's bracelet for years hoping one day her daughter might wear it when she gets married. Her mother, Chloe Moriarty, lives in Hardwick where she raised her children but gave her daughter the bracelet years ago.

The silver charms were collected before she was married and include a cross, a sea horse, a mustard seed with scripture on the back of the charm and several others.

"Some of them? I don't know what they're for,'' Ms. Paydos said.

The UMass charm from Mrs. Moriarty's alma mater is obvious but a sailboat, a deer that "looks like Bambi but probably isn't Bambi'' and a tiny working hourglass have her baffled and will probably come up in a conversation at some point.

The wedding bells were probably the last charm added, with the hobby of collecting charms pushed aside when she started a family. There's a second bracelet with just a wedding charm on it, most likely intended for a new collection of charms to mark her new life as a wife, but she never added any more.

Gail Anderson of Uxbridge dug out her charm bracelet when a friend stopped by wearing one last week. They looked at the charms and relived some memories, calling their bracelets "antique Pandoras.''

"There's a cross and dove to represent my faith,'' she said, and a charm from Old Sturbridge Village, a place she's always loved.

There are enamel coats of arms for her maiden and married names, charms for den mother and Brownie leader and a snowmobile -- something her family was into when her children were younger.

She also has the classic silhouettes with the dates of her children's births etched in them, and she has a charm with their photograph on it, too, from back when the Auburn Mall was new. A kiosk there offered the imprinting service, so she had one made.

"I had an old recipe card where I wrote down the prices I paid for each one, but I was surprised it wasn't with the bracelet,'' she said.

It's probably been 40 years or so since she added a new charm but she plans to wear the bracelet more often after pulling it out of her jewelry box. And she now has four grandchildren and five great-grandchildren who might help her start a new tradition.

"Maybe it's time for one of those Pandora bracelets,'' she said.

Sometimes, Mr. Garieri takes in an old charm bracelet for his estate jewelry section, but many times the bracelets are too "personalized'' to resell and they are, instead, scrapped -- melted down to make new things. It's sometimes a sad thing for him to see happen.

"It's funny, it's like a snapshot of someone's life. You see charms of grandkids, a 25th wedding anniversary, maybe a 40th or a 'world's best grandma,' '' he said. "It's like a photo album without the pictures.''

Contact Kim Ring at
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Title Annotation:Local
Author:Ring, Kim
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Dec 31, 2014
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