For my sister and I, our 10th birthdays marked the beginning of our charm collecting. Every birthday, Christmas, or special occasion brings about the chance to give another charm as a little token - something personal, a present which has been thought about and relates to who we are. Of my sisters many charms, the one I always remember is a little silver aeroplane, to represent the first time she flew - holed up in a tiny plane with about 15 school friends on a ski trip to the Alps. My favourite charm is a hard one to call, but I think it'll have to be the silver ice cream cone, which opens to a rather odd sight - a silver tongue sticking out of its middle, ready for a big lick of ice cream.
More recently, I've started to build up a silver charm necklace. There's a bit of a theme with this one: love. I have three charms which say 'I love you' - one in English, one in French and one in German. The English charm is a 'spinner', which with a flick of a finger spins to reveal the hidden I love you message; the French Je t'aime charm is in the style of a postcard; the German Ich liebe dich charm is a sweet little heart with decorative diamond-cut edges. The St.Christopher was transferred from an old necklace from my teenage years, and the silver Ankh was worn by my father back in the 70s when he had floppy hair and moustache. The parrot and the crown - well, they were just too fun not to add!
With such stories behind the charms, designers such as Annina Vogel have been quick to see the appeal of these unusual little trinkets. With a similar love for charms from a young age, Annina now sells sweet silver (or gold) individual charms, or ready-made charm necklaces and antique rings and bangles. Trawling antique jewellery fairs and markets in search of distinct, one-of-a-kind style charms, Annina can create personalised pieces to suit any personality or brief, from animal-lovers and home bodies, to those who still have a Peter Pan streak, always recollecting their childhood.
If - like me - you work at the weekends and don't always get the chance to rummage through local antique markets or fairs, then a place to buy unique charms is on eBay. A pretty obvious answer, but with a bit of browsing you can purchase charms old and new for bargain prices - and often with so much choice you'll be making a shopping list!
Through eBay I discovered one of my favourite charm sellers - Maldon Jewellery. They're a great little Essex-based jewellers who sell thousands of silver and 9ct gold charms, for very reasonable prices indeed - and post all over the UK. The charms are all new - no antique ones I'm afraid - but there's plenty of subcategories under which you can search, from 'weddings' and 'underwater', to 'transport' and 'gardening'. You can mix, match and get as creative as possible - they even sell the charm bracelets and silver neckchains to get you started. There's no excuse, now!