PERFECTLY CHARMING; ADVERTISEMENT SUPPLEMENT; Charms Have Been Worn for the Past 75,000 Years. Their Story Starts in Africa and Takes in Europe's Ice Age, the Middle Ages and England under Victoria before the Americans Came and Changed Everything

Article excerpt

WHEN SEASHELLS were first used as adornments by our primitive ancestors - and evidence from Africa suggests this was as much as 75,000 years ago - the world was obviously a vastly different place.

But even though humankind has now evolved to the tune of 75,000 years, we still can't resist a charm.

In the millennia between now and then, charms have taken many forms and have fulfilled many purposes. In 2007, archaeologists on an Ice Age site in Germany found a fully intact ivory carving of a mammoth. Measuring just 3.7cm, the 35,000-year old carving was 'almost certainly' worn as a charm, scientists said.

In Ancient Egypt, it was believed that charms were helpful in life as well as in death: in life they were used to denote social status; in death, they were supposed to show the gods what your social station was, enabling them to treat you in the way in which you were accustomed - even though your life is no longer being lived on earth's surface.

A similar lack of logic was demonstrated on this side of the Mediterranean Sea. During the Middle Ages, charm bracelets were considered to be either good or evil. Some protected the wearer against curses; others were there to cast dreadful curses. …