Pandora Beginner’s Guide

With everyone getting presents for the holidays there may be some beginners that are just getting in to the Pandora charm bracelet line.  I know it can be overwhelming — there are hundreds of charms to choose from of various types, along with a ton of accessories that you can get as well.  For any newcomers to the hobby, here’s a quick rundown on some of the terms you will hear online and in the store, and some tips on what to do when you’re starting out.  I also made a quick video to go along with this post that illustrates some of these points:

1.) Clips

Pandora bracelets operate on a “threading” system like screwing a nut on a screw.  There are 4 threads on the bracelet, one at each end and two towards the center.  This is so it divides the bracelet into thirds.  The clips help space out the charms and hold them in their own section for symmetry.  But they’re not just for looks, the clips help keep your bracelet from stretching as it evens out the weight of the charms; they also keep your charms from getting caught on the threads and bending the bracelet.  The clips should close on the threads in the middle with a “snap” and should not move.  The threading on the ends of the bracelet are not meant for clips and are actually thicker than the ones in the center, that’s why you cannot put clips on them.  With the Fall 2011 collection, Pandora introduced two bracelets and some necklaces for use exclusively with the new clips to showcase the clips.  The bracelets are a multi-strand  silver bracelet with a single clip, and a single strand bracelet with space for 5 clips.  There was a promotion in November 2011, offering a free multi-strand or five clip bracelet with a $200 purchase.  I got the multi-strand single clip bracelet, with the new two-tone, onyx flower dangle.  It’s so pretty and it makes a nice tinkling sound. 🙂

2.) Spacers

Each section of the bracelet can hold on average at least 5 charms.  However, some of the charms come in various thicknesses, especially if you get a dangle, you can probably put more than 5 in each section.  The spacers are usually used to fill in empty space on your bracelet where there is not enough room to put a full sized charm, that way you won’t have any awkward gaps.  It can also help to keep charms rubbing against one another.  There are two kinds of spacers – most of the spacers are 1/3 the width of a normal charm so do not have the threads in them, so you can just slide those on; the second kind is thicker, about half the width of a normal charm so they will have the threading.  Here’s a comparison of the two:

3.) Safety chains

I am a huge proponent of the safety chains.  These chains attach to the ends of the bracelet, and they help hold your bracelet on when you take it off your wrist so it doesn’t fall on the floor.  If you have Murano beads or expensive charms you definitely don’t want them to hit the floor and shatter, chip, or scratch.  Another thing the safety chain helps with is that it helps keep your charms from getting caught on the threading on either end of the bracelet.  I found this incredibly annoying when I first got my Pandora bracelet because I would always find one of my charms caught on the ends when I just wanted them to float in the middle.  The safety chain solves this problem!  There are two kinds of chains:  one type are the ones that you twist on to the bracelet threads, and the other type is the clip-on chain.  Both provide the same protection but my preference is for the ones that you thread on because the other type cannot be clipped onto the actual threads of the bracelet; you have to clip them on to the main chain itself which takes up precious charm real estate!  Why do that when you can have the safety chain threaded onto the ends AND two extra charms on your bracelet?

Pandora bracelet with safety chain

4.) Dangle charms

Pandora offers a variety of dangling charms; there are ones with gemstones, two-tone ones with silver threader and gold dangle, ones with pearls, ones with cameos, etc.  My favorite dangle is the two-piece “Friends Forever” butterflies, you can give one to your best friend or family member, or you can separate them on your bracelet, or my preference – keep them together on your bracelet.  They make a great tinkling sound and are just so pretty!  For my dangles that has one side up, I like to have it facing me, because really you’re the one staring at it all day not someone facing you.  Of course you can also not have any dangles if you like a stream-lined look.  If you’re typing all day at a computer, they can get in the way and of course there’s always the possibility that they’re fall off or get caught on something.

5.) Murano beads

Murano charms are Italian made glass beads that come in a variety of colors and designs.  Pandora is constantly coming up with new ones and retiring old ones.  If you’re looking to do a color-themed bracelet, the Muranos are the best place to start.  Currently, I’ve got a lime-green bracelet and a teal bracelet.  The one thing you have to be conscious of when deciding to wear Muranos is that you should get a bracelet that’s one size up because if you end up having more than 3 Muranos, it really starts to make your bracelet tight as the Muranos holds the bracelets further out on your wrist (while you can’t really see the difference, you can definitely feel the difference).  I ended up having to get a bigger bracelet because all the Muranos I put on my first bracelet made it almost too tight to put on.

6.) Clasp types

Pandora offers two types of bracelets, ones with a “barrel” clasp (which I believe they were the first jewelers to invent this) and the “lobster” clasp.  I much much much prefer the barrel clasp because you can actually put it on by yourself and with one hand!  This is almost impossible to do with a lobster clasp bracelet.  The barrel clasp bracelets come in sterling silver, oxidized silver (dark grey color), two-tone with gold barrel clasp and sterling silver bracelet, and a 14K gold bracelet.  I have all but the gold bracelet (the prices for gold charms is hard to stomach).

7.) Retired charms

Pandora does a very good job of cycling out their collection and making exclusive charms.  They have been around for almost 30 years so of course they have made a lot of different designs.  To make room for new charms, they retire some of the current charms.  Since Pandora is a designer line, they do not sell anything directly.  The concept stores operate as franchises, and in regular jewelry stores they just carry the Pandora jewelry as a designer line.  For some stores, their corporate headquarters will order them to return all the retired charms, and other times they’ll let them keep their inventory until they’ve sold them all.  This makes it unpredictable as to whether you’ll be able to find the charm you want if it has been recently retired. So if there’s a charm you like, and the salesperson tells you it’s retired, snap it up!

8.) Country exclusive charms

It seems like Pandora charms are much more popular in the European countries than in the US so there been some pretty cool charms that were only available in certain countries.  From my research, the most exclusive of these charms (in order) are the Family Ties charm (UK only), Blue Primrose Path (Germany only), Royal Wedding Charm (UK and Australia) and the Christ charm (only 1,000 were commissioned for Christ Jewellers in Germany for their 100 year Anniversary).   The one we have in the US is the Midnight Hearts charm, which I have.  Here is a more complete list of country specific charms and rare charms.