Pandora - a simple buying guide

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Pandora Bracelets and Charms - a simple buying guide !
When I first came across Pandora bracelets I didn't understand what was what and would have loved a simple guide to help me along the way.  My guide is not intended to turn you into an expert but hopefully will answer some of the questions I had when I first became fascinated by Pandora bracelets and charms!

Bracelets
The most popular snap-clasp bracelets are available in silver, silver with a gold clasp and solid gold. They are available in a variety of sizes and it is important to ensure you get the correct size for yourself. Measure your wrist using a soft sewing tape measure and add on between 2 and 3 cms – this will allow enough room for your charms!
Leather bracelets – Pandora recommend you only add up to 5 charms to the single ones and 7 to the double ones so you will only need to add 1 – 2 cms

(the size of the bracelet is the length from end to end in cms, including the clasp)

Charms
All lovingly hand-made by craftsmen.  Animals, patterns, objects, birth signs, silver / silver with gold / solid gold are available. Some have various gem stones or enamel decoration. Most charms are threaded and screw onto your bracelet, however, spacers and some gold charms aren’t. In addition, I am sure there is something to celebrate every occasion, including birthstones, zodiac signs, Christmas and Easter items, Angels and Buddhas!

Murano Glass Beads - Beautiful glass beads in an array of colours and designs! 

A word of warning when trying to match up to existing beads - a retailer once said to me about buying Muranos from different places/at different times "It is like buying wallpaper without a batch number".  They do vary in size, colour tone and pattern shape - everything is hand-made - that is part of the beauty! 

I have had experiences where customers buy a particular bead and expect it to match to their own beads in every detail - whether it be the size/shape of the stripes to the position of the petals on the floral ones - this is an unrealistic expectation and if you are wanting such a close match it is better to buy the set in the shop which will be from the same batch.
Clips
These open up and clip onto your bracelet in two special smooth areas. They hold your charms in place and stop them moving around as much. They can be used to segment your bracelet so you can, if you prefer, only use one segment for charms.
Spacers
These are usually smaller than charms – and are decorative – for in-between your charms if you like them. These are not usually threaded as they are so small. These are purely decorative and you do not have to have them - unless you are addicted like me LOL.
Safety Chains
A bit obvious this one but these are to avoid you losing your bracelet in the event that it comes undone, perish the thought - however in my experience I only ever have difficulty in openning the clasps!!  They are like two charms joined with a chain, available in various lengths, which sits at either end of your bracelet next to the clasp.
Necklaces
Similar to bracelets these are available in silver, silver with a gold clasp and solid gold.
Cleaning
Avoid harsh solution – this can damage gems and strip off oxidation (darkened parts). Use soft polishing cloths specially made for silver / gold.

How do I know it’s Pandora? Avoiding fakes and copies
Used and new charms are available across the internet. I advise you to look closely at photos, don’t buy unless you can clearly see good detail. Then look at the Pandora catalogue number and Google it on images and compare the detail.  Don’t buy unless you are able to get a catalogue number until you have more experience.

Making sure it is a design produced by Pandora is only your first port of call. Pandora's web site shows all current and retired. People sometimes use the word Pandora without realising it is a brand - a bit like calling a vacuum cleaner a Hoover.

Then, ensure the item is clearly stamped - Silver have the S 925 ALE stamp (or 925ALE), as do silver with gold, but solid gold have 585 ALE. ALE being the founder of the company’s initials, the numbers relate to the purity of the metal.  Only buy one with no stamps - see next paragraph - if you are sure of the design and trust the seller.

I am seeing an increasing amount of silver counterfeit items, these are produced mostly in China AND THEY DO HAVE THE (S)925 ALE STAMP!! They appear almost too shiny - are slightly different in shape and are often smaller and weigh less due to the manufacturing process - the old addage fits 'If it seems too good to be true then it probably is!' Look carefully at the shape - there will be subtle differences - also if they are silver with 14c gold the gold is too deep a gold (and will quickly rub off!).
Pandora have slightly changed the marking very recently – the 925 will now have S in front of it, this is to comply with European silver marking. The markings are yet another conundrum to solve! They can wear off on the silver / silver with gold charms - particularly if they are in a position where rubbing on adjacent charms occurs as silver is a fairly soft metal.  Also – Pandora have altered where they stamp on particular charms over time.  I have some very very early ones which were not stamped at all – the quality is astounding though!!
Pandora appear to “hide” the stamps on some items! Whereas on others it can be very prominent. On the clips you will find them generally inside, and on the silver ones the inside darkens with age making it difficult to see.  On some of the smaller gold items eg spacers, it is inside the hole!  On the bracelets it is found inside the clasp – again darkening through age on the silver ones. I have never seen either a silver bracelet with the inside of the clasp being shiny - or the inside of a silver clip – even when brand new they tend to be grey.
Bracelets clasps have changed over time.  The 925ALE stamp on some of the older ones can appear in a small raised box, more recently it is just stamped inside the clasp.  Check my listings for variations on this as I always try to show a photo of the inside of the clasp.  On the outside of the clasp the word PANDORA appears - always in capitals.  The Crown appearing above to O only on models made after late 2008 on silver ones, later on gold ones.  A new and genuine bracelet will be stiff - the smaller the size the stiffer they are 19cm and smaller are almost bangle like when fastened - if you have bought a snap-clasp bracelet and it is floppy eg it can be coiled up into the size of a 10p piece then it either isn't new or it isn't real :-(
And now for the core - are Pandora cores on the Muranos dull or bright? The core is the inside threaded part. Well, whilst most fakes are bright, not all genuine Pandora cores are dull (you didn't expect a simple answer did you?). Pandora used to make them bright, now they appear to be making them dull (new ones). Check out Pandora's Facebook page where you will see this aspect discussed.
My mantra with Murano glass ones is 'if in doubt, chuck it out'. Hence I don't sell too many - I only sell them if I am absolutely sure they are ok. It's a shame really because the cheap copies are made to look like the newer designs and can command a much higher price than my genuine ones but anyone who has fallen prey to these sellers will realise within a short time (they look great at first but very quickly deteriorate).

Checklist - Things to look at include:

Is the catalogue number quoted? Google it and check this is the correct number - people make them up!
Is the shape (silver and silver/gold) EXACTLY the same as on Pandora's web site?
Is the weight correct?
Is the quality good? – use a magnifying glass – I use a loupe.
Is it threaded? Beware - not everything is, so it’s not that simple! Pandora are adding more and more to their range which do not have a threaded core - all the openwork / filigree and Pave range to name but a few!!
Muranos are widely copied - I have some for reference and with certain designs I can sometimes tell just by seeing the photo that they are not genuine  - deviation from design, colour etc.,  notibly, the centre of the flowers on the 'Flowers for you' sticks out far too much, but remember that they are handmade so they do vary - as outlined above.   Watch out for the flowers being painted crudely onto glass beads.   Also the PANDORA lettering seems to have a strange blackish appearance. The biggest givaway is that most seem to have a missing or an ill defined inner ring (a ring running parallel with the inner core about .5mm in) but don't confuse this with a worn murano. Sometimes the ring is absent and in its place is just a small lip or ridge, again don't confuse this with a used one as silver wears away after time (it's quite a soft metal) and so the separate inner ring doesn't look so defined.
If it is an eBay seller and they have the item set to 'private' ask yourself why? Open and honest sellers don't generally do this unless they are selling, well, a sensitive item! It's so buyers find it harder to communicate with each other to ask if their item was ok!

Watch out for "Genuine 925 ALE Murano bead in Pandora box" or "Genuine Silver Murano bead with free Pandora box" There are web sites offering the above - they look like Pandora but they may not be authentic!  Some sellers will even add Pandora's number to the items!!

I have had a couple of times when a buyer of mine has taken a bead of mine into a Pandora retailer and have been told it is fake (if you say you bought it on eBay the shop staff tend to assume it's fake!   I KNOW my goods inside out and was lucky I could guarantee them as I had bought them from an authorised retailer out of the UK - so beware if you do visit a retailer - choose your words carefully - they want you to buy from shops, obviously).
***Stop pres - Jan 13 - Contact from customer who had got a bead stuck on a bracelet - taken it to Pandora Store who had readily informed my customer that it was fake - and further - it wasn't even a bead Pandora had ever made! OK, expert Pandora store... retired DNA charms, cat. no 790129 is a (discontinued) Pandora bead, it was bought from an authorised retailer in the EU and I had the receipts to prove it - an interesting phone call with the store ensued! Whilst on the one hand I would advise if you have bought a charm you are unsure about I would say go have it checked out, on the other hand you would be well advised not to mention eBay.  On an earlier occasion I had sold a Faith Hope & Charity bead - 925ALE markings on the edges had worn away. I checked the size, the weight, the quality - and am as certain as I could be that it was genuine - given it was a used bead and I wasn't in attendance when it was made - I was still absolutely certain. Buyer went to a Pandora Store - upon mentioning eBay the "expert" told him it wasn't genuine and that the 925ALE markings do not wear away, now, if I worked in a Pandora store I would know full well that silver is a soft metal and rubbing against other charms eventually wears the markings away - the 925ALE isn't the be all and end all of authenticity.  
Swarovski Beads
Pandora do not make, nor have they ever made Swarovski beads. Check out Pandora’s Facebook pages as this question has been answered by Pandora operatives.
It doesn’t come in a box – is it real ? (Or should this paragraph be headed 'It comes in a box, is it counterfeit?!!)
There is no straightforward answer to this – people acquire boxes and sell any type of charms in them, so on the one hand it can be a cause for concern. However, people selling off their beads can have had them put straight onto their bracelets or may have thrown away the packaging.
About me
Firstly – I treat all my customers as I would like to be treated myself and hope my feedback confirms this. I have many, very friendly, repeat customers and am very proud of this!    I became addicted to Pandora a couple of years ago and have been “in treatment” ever since.  Initially I bought for myself, and then I sold the ones I no longer required so I could buy others.   Over time I have found myself responding to queries people have about items they have bought elsewhere - I enjoy doing this too!
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