USA Today

USA TODAY; McLean, Va.; May 9, 2002; Lorrie Grant



Charms for Sale

History of Charms

Charm Collecting

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Charms casting spells on buyers

More moms to get jewelry this year

Cards and flowers will top holiday sales for Mother's Day as usual, according to retail trade associations, but the growth category this year is jewelry.

Jewelry is now expected to account for about 21% of gift sales, up from 16% last year.

And the hottest items in jewelers' cases have been charms, accounting for about 8% of all jewelry sold.

Charm bracelets, which tie together current fashion with the tradition and sentiment that have been retail trends since last fall, can be found everywhere, from high-end jewelers, such as Tiffany, to mass-market retailers in malls.

"People are forgoing the frivolous and disposable in favor of the precious and eternal" for the first Mother's Day after the terrorist attacks, says Elizabeth Florence, executive director of the Jewelry Information Center.

"Jewelry is a gift which is an emotional salve," says Ken Gassman, an analyst with the Jewelry Industry Research Institute.

Charms come in all shapes and materials -- some are simple silver or gold, others are encrusted with gemstones, embossed or even glazed with photo images. Charms can cost as little as $15 and can exceed $1,500. The bracelets, sold separately, mostly range from $80 to $800.

Part of the appeal of charm bracelets for a mom is that they start conversations, with each ornament telling a story, writer Kathleen Oldford says. She details generations of stories in her new book My Mother's Charms.

"You get an idea about a person, depending on what's on the bracelet. It can tell you their passions and what their lives were about," she says.

Oldford advises collectors to log who gave them the charm and why to keep the stories alive, including tragedies such as Sept. 11. "It should be something that remembers a person for who they were or to say thank you," she says, "so a firefighter's helmet, police officer's cap or American flag."

John Desjardins, executive vice president of Marks Bros. Jewelers, which operates The Whitehall Co., says his charm business has had double-digit gains this year.

"The traditions of people, places and events lends to purchasing charm bracelets," he says. "They memorialize things."

They can also solve future gift decisions. They are a gift that one can keep on giving -- for any life event.

"We've seen a resurgence in any sentimental gift," Harriet Schreiner, executive vice president of merchandising for Sterling Jewelers, says of charm bracelets as well as lockets for photos, another piece of nostalgia. Sterling is a unit of London's Signet Group and also operates Kay Jewelers, JB Robinson and Shaw's Jewelers.

Consumer Mother's Day spending has increased as the day's observance has extended to female relatives, stepmothers and friends. That's one of the trends, along with jewelry buying, that is expected to drive household holiday spending this year to $97, a 56% increase from $62 spent last year, according to the National Retail Federation.

Men, who purchase jewelry for moms more than women do, are expected to boost their spending 49% to $118 vs. $79 a year ago.