Pandora is a Danish jewelry brand known internationally for their unique customizable line of beaded bracelets and necklaces. Founded in 1982 as a jewelry retailer, the company later expanded and focused on manufacturing their own lines, which include rings, earrings and watches. In 2000, they introduced their own version of charm bracelets, which were an instant hit in Denmark and soon became popular internationally as well. Today, their products can be found in over 50 countries, and there are more than 450 Pandora brand stores worldwide.
Pandora bracelets come in sterling silver, gold and leather in different lengths to fit a variety of wrist sizes. They all work with their patented bead threading system - each bead has an inside thread that allows it to be twisted on to the snake chain and stay in place, even when the bracelet only has a few charms. The chains are divided into three separate sections, with a little "stopper" in between each. The charms can be twisted over the stoppers so that they stay in a particular section of the bracelet.
A fun (and less expensive) alternative to the more common silver and gold are leather Pandora bracelets. They come in multiple styles and colors: the interwoven design is available in single and double strand designs (with a sterling silver or 14k gold classic Pandora-style clasp) in pink, beige, brown, black, red and grey, and the plain (non-woven) design comes in black with a sterling silver lobster clasp. You can wear them as is, or add beads - they look great either way.
You screw the beads on, just like with the metal snake chains, but there are no "built-in" stoppers on the leather. There are special clips you can buy that work as stoppers, but some people have problems with them coming undone and falling off. A really easy way to get the beads to stay in place is to take a regular rubber band for hair (the kind with fabric over the rubber), cut it, tie it around the bracelet (make double knots to make sure it stays in place), cut off the excess and cover it with a bead. The bead should stay in place, and if it doesn't, try a thicker rubber band.
There is also another, super versatile leather design (this one is my favorite); a thinner 38” black leather string with silver or gold ends and an adjustable knot (for fitting it on your wrist). They can be worn as wrap around wrist bands, and you can slide beads over the cords to make charm bracelets. They also work as necklaces, with or without charms. The cords can be twisted, braided, folded, etc. so you can create just about any style you want.
The Pandora bracelet craze continues - people are quite passionate about their bracelets, but be careful when shopping; there are many fakes out there. While it is true that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, you don't want to unintentionally end up with a lesser quality copycat version. How do you know that what you're buying is the real thing? All new Pandora pieces are marked with ALE and 925 (silver) or 585 (gold), however, so are many of the fakes. The safest way is to shop from an authorized retailer, or in a brand name Pandora store. If you're shopping online, look up the product in question on Pandora's website and see if it is an exact match.
The Pandora Jewelry company continues to grow, and it seems even the downturn in the economy has not been slowing them down. The company went public in 2010, and their sales grew by 40% in the first quarter of 2011. They have built 2 additional (with a third planned) production facilities in the past year, and currently employ over 5,000 people worldwide. Not bad for what started as a small retail operation a few decades ago!