Charmed, I'm Sure

(CNN) -- Nostalgia is the key word this spring -- with signature looks like wedge heels, ankle wrap sandals and lots of straw making a big comeback. Think South Beach (or Havana) circa 1950. And don't forget the charm bracelet, because that other '50s "must-have" accessory will also be making some noise this season.Charms can be traced back to ancient African and Asian cultures. According to designer Vivienn Tam, the shamans (or medicine men) of Mongolia wore small metal discs called "tippets" sewn to their clothing. As the nomads wandered from place to place, the objects would make a sound that was thought to be healing.And what of modern day society? Do any of us still believe in the magical power of ornamentation?Neiman Marcus is betting the store that we do. The luxury chain has stocked up on items like lockets, cameos and coin-shaped pendants with insignia -- all of which have popped up on the cast of "Sex & the City" as well as award shows like the Golden Globe and Oscars."Charms are important," says Sandra Wilson, fashions and accessories buyer at Neiman's. "People are looking for items that have personal value and significance."Celebrity stylist and author Harriette Cole agrees: "In the '80s, we had more money and big jewelry was in -- as a symbol of that wealth. Now we are losing jobs and have less money, but seeking tokens that have the power to comfort us."And like the shamans, Cole believes in the power of sound that only jewelry can produce."On my wedding day, I wore an ankle bracelet with quartz crystals and a single, tiny bell. The setting was a Japanese garden with a stone footpath and I knew that as my husband and I walked that path my anklet would make music that only we could hear. It was a small gesture, but it worked!"Jewelry designer Sharon Alouf also has positive associations with all that jingles. She spent years apprenticing master jewelers in India where most women wear bangles, regardless of class. To this day, the jeweler claims, "the sound of bangles clinking together is very soothing to me. It always reminds me of motherhood."Alouf is even partial to particular tones. "Gold produces my favorite sound," she says, "the pitch is higher and clearer, which I find energizing."The New York City-based designer is known for her work with dangling stones on earrings and necklaces. Her favorites are emeralds and sapphires, which produce a muted tone that reminds her of "walking in nature" or "a horse's hooves on a path." Alouf claims that for anyone living in an urban setting "something so small can serve as a daily reminder of our connection with nature."In New Orleans, writer Bethany Bultman has found something (besides the pen) that is mightier than the sword. "I often wear my eastern diamondback rattler earrings when I have a daunting business confrontation," Bultman quips. "It keeps me focused. The rattler is the only animal that warns its victim before it strikes."Meanwhile, the owners of Stardust Antiques (an estate jewelry store in Manhattan) have observed a totally separate trend: customers who choose to strike while the iron's hot.As one salesperson puts it, "Following the disaster of 9/11 what we noticed was a spike in demand for wedding bands, but not the engagement ring. These days, people know what they want and they're willing to skip the engagement period in order to shorten the wait time!"Charming as the bracelets may be, diamonds are still a girl's best friend, according to the jewelers at Harry Winston.They offer a ruby, sapphire and diamond charm bracelet set in platinum, priced as a whole at about $25,000, with charms such as:When Robin Renzi and Michele Quan of Me & Ro first set up shop, the design team promised themselves one thing: They would never be slaves to jewelry trends. And 10 years later, they are setting trends!Many pieces are imprinted with Tibetan mantras and Sanskrit engravings.This unique take on the charm is no different: 18-karat gold bracelet with rose-cut diamonds and Tahitian pearls. Four discs carry Sanskrit symbols for love, compassion, joy and equanimity. Price: $4,900 (all proceeds will go to "Doctors of the World," a nonprofit organization providing health care and humanitarian relief).Just because Grandma forgot to name you in her will doesn't mean you have to go through life without a piece of heirloom jewelry!Why not start your own tradition? Either build a charm bracelet one memory at a time, or just buy a ready-made version that your own grandkids can squabble over someday.Louis Vuitton recently introduced a bracelet in 18-karat gold that can be adorned with nine charms -- including the Eiffel Tower, a champagne bottle and signature pieces of LV luggage.But chances are that finding one may be more difficult than inheriting one. Only select stores carry the status symbols. LV boutiques around the world were allotted just five bracelets per store, and the cost is steep.Bracelet: $5,400Individual charms: $2,530-$3,520

Charmed, I'm Sure 1

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