Until about 15 years ago, the words charm bracelet were used to suggest a simple, silver link chain with little figures (rabbits, fairies, hearts, stars, that sort of thing) dangling off it. The modern charm bracelet, on the other hand, is more akin to a silver rope upon which expensive beads are threaded. Perhaps someone has bought you one with a single "charm" as a present, the idea being that you will fill the chain bead by bead until you own a unique piece full of memories, gifts and special moments.

Before we go any further, I should confess here that I own a Trollbead charm bracelet. It currently holds 12 beads – from a simple pink-glass number to a detailed silver polar bear – meaning it is less than half full. In spite of this, I wear it every day and I love it.

While Trollbead does what it can to compete with brands such as Chamilia and LoveLinks for the female jewellery-lover's attention, the market leader in the UK is undoubtedly Pandora, the Danish company founded in 1982 which is now available through 10,000 points of sale in 65 countries. Last year, Pandora posted total revenues of €893m.

Hang on… that's £700m. How has this market, based on beads that are so small, become quite so big? Well, for starters, the charms are an easy present idea. There is also, it must be noted, the question of fashion. Pandora bracelets have a certain cachet and the company spends a large amount of money each year to ensure that this remains the case.

For me, though, it's not the trendiness of the bracelet which matters. It's about the memories. Often, I find myself playing with the charms, reminiscing on the things I associate with each bead.

But I'm baffled that my half-empty bracelet effectively already has £300 dangling off it – friends and relatives buying me beads on special occasions over the years mean this small, simple arm ornament is now worth more than anything else I've ever owned.

Although, if anyone who knows me is reading this, the Pandora gold and diamond crown (above, £565) would nicely fill another gap…