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Star Spangled Sparklers

July 4th has been celebrated in the U.S. for 231 years (although our country is older than that, the first official July 4 celebration as we know it didn't happen until 1781.) That's more than two centuries of sparklers, fireworks, barbeques, and coordinated outfits to commemorate the red, white, and blue. Patriotism runs high this time of year, when American women don sparkling jewelry pieces in honor of the country they think outshines the rest. For some, a simple rendition of the stars and stripes doesn't do enough for our country. Through the history of July 4, the colors of our flag have proudly displayed on everything from bangles to brooches.

During the Victorian era, charm bracelets came to represent the woman wearing them, so what better way to express her love of country than a chain filled with representations of America? Star-spangled glass and ivory beads, lapis lazuli from the Middle East, and heart-shaped lockets populated silver and brass bracelets that clanged together like celebratory noisemakers, mixed with traditional Christian crosses representing the founding religion of the nation. In the 1960s, images of America like the Statue of Liberty and the Liberty Bell started to appear on the bracelets, as the demand for charms and their mass production liberated the jewelry industry.

In the post-World War II era, costume brooches of enamel and goldtone weren't just for the mature generation. It was an age of conserving resources, so even plastic cabochon beads worn against simple fabrics were a splurge for some. Patriotic rhinestones were laid in elaborate Victorian-style settings. Names like Sarah Coventry and Avon set the standards for these styles. Flag-colored flowers done in painted metal and reminiscent of pinwheels sprung up on young girls and older women alike. Siam Silver was starting to gain popularity, and their fan-shaped brooches in red, silver, and blue are a testament to the American attraction to all things unique and diverse.

Liberty ladies today have much history to draw from, as well as more variety for pieces to make the individual stand out - the American way. Charms for bracelets don't have to be specially commissioned like they did in the late 19th century, and pins can be worn on hats and bags as well blouses. Though the times have changed, the spirit of this day remains the same. Independence Day is about our freedom to express ourselves and to live life the way we want. What new American tradition will you debut this July 4?