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Harry N. Abrams, 2005; 160 pages; $32.50


From legendary jewelers such as Tiffany and Cartier to out-of-the-way flea markets, from chic design houses like Prada, Louis Vuitton, and Chanel to tiny antique shops, charms are making a great comeback on the fashion scene. Drawn to these tiny treasures for their ability to express elements of the wearer's personality, today's charm lovers are using them to adorn everything from bracelets and necklaces to dog collars and diaper bags.

In The Charm of Charms, photographer Jade Albert and writer Ki Hackney tell the fascinating story of this ever-popular jewelry item. The stunning color photographs provide an up-close and personal view of hundreds of cherished charmed jewels, including pieces belonging to Claudette Colbert, Joan Crawford, the Duchess of Windsor, Mariah Carey, and Mary J. Blige among other celebrities. The intriguing stories behind these beloved trinkets are told in the lively, informative text, which also covers the history of charms and amulets from prehistory to the present. Combining up-to-the-minute trendiness with nostalgic glamour, this gorgeous volume will appeal to fashion and jewelry enthusiasts both young and old.


From Publishers Weekly: Inspired by the comeback of charms on the fashion scene and by childhood memories of ornamenting their own bracelets, Hackney and Albert have combined their creative talents to share the significance and magical history behind these accessories. For 30,000 years, people have worn charms to protect against evil spirits, recognize family ancestry and, of course, accessorize. In the book's beautiful color photos, Albert places the bracelets and trinkets against clever backdrops, displaying a golden bee perched atop a velvety pink rose or a four-leaf clover placed amid a spoonful of Lucky Charms cereal. Next to the portraits of jewelry makers and collectors donning their favorite pieces, Hackney tells the stories behind famous charm wearers like Jackie Kennedy and fashion designer Betsey Johnson.


Jade Albert has had a long career in commercial photography. Albert's work has appeared in Vogue, Time, and Parents magazines, and in advertising campaigns for Target, Polaroid, Sony, and other companies. She was the photographer of Cindy Crawford's book, About Face (2001). Ki Hackney is the coauthor of People and Pearls: The Magic Endures.


Jade Albert, born in 1950 in New York, spoke with me from her Manhattan studio. She was excited. The swank store Bergdorf Goodman had launched the first Charm of Charms book-signing. "About 600 people came," she said. "It was like I was a rock star and they were going to rip the charms off me. I never was prepared for that. It was beautiful because they had the charms hanging from the chandeliers; there were hanging charms all over. They had a 1950s menu, like 'Chicken a la King' and Swedish meatballs, and they were playing 1950s music.

"Bergdorf had invitation lists of people like Marisa Berenson and her daughter -- the people who are in the book. I didn't want the book to be celebrities, celebrities. I wanted it to be a mix. Amy Fine Collins, who writes for Vanity Fair, was there with her ten-year-old daughter and also Eric Ripert, the chef at Le Bernadin, and Kitty Carlisle Hart, and babies and dogs. Everybody.

"I still have a window there. And everything is Chanel in New York; Chanel, Chanel, Chanel. And I have my charm window. So I'm just like, you know, like 'wow.' So that was super. I was in Women's Wear, and then The Daily News had pictures."

"What did you wear?"

"Oh, it was such a dilemma. And it was horrible rain. It was really wonderful in the beginning. When I arrived it was still sunny, thank goodness, summer. I had this dress; it's strapless. I buy all these Academy Awards things and decided to wear this brocaded strapless. But then I had these beautiful charms that I got as a gift, Valentine's Day, from this woman who's in the book, Deanna Littell, and she actually started a business from our interviewing her. She did the wedding charms. But she didn't have a charm business. She just had her charm bracelet, and then we got to be friendly, and unfortunately I was just forced to go to all the antique shows. I just had to. To the Pier and this one and that one, the Armory.

"So she came with me. She was a fashion designer, so she's very talented; she has a great eye. And she started making these beautiful charm bracelets. She's the one that has the cover of the book, a side cover, and it's all the evil eyes, and we had about ten of those. I love them. And I just wear them all the time, so what's really wonderful about this book is that I met amazing people too."

"What makes a charm a charm?"

"Oh gosh, I was told when I'd go into this whole thing, I sounded like the girl -- who's, like, crazy, from The Glass Menagerie. Because I would talk about, 'See this charm; it's like they're little people, and they have this history.' It's crazy. They're definitely three-dimensional; they have a life. They're like little characters. And they have roots. You know, it's incredible, some of them are older than I am. Generations and generations, they have been passed on and still have all this spirit and they all have stories.

"When I started this book, there were not that many charms being worn. You know, it was like, 'Okay, people had their charm bracelets.' Like my mother, she gave me my charm bracelet back. But now, since I was doing the book, this past two years, it's exploded everywhere. As you know, it's on the bags, on the jackets. Even my dog has charms.

"Charms are everywhere. I have volume two and three sitting here because we had to cut so much out. But the Duke and Duchess of Windsor -- you know, going way back to them -- they had charms, and the Duke really believed in charms. Christie's auctioned off a teddy bear charm that he always kept in his pocket.

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