Pandora jewelry is like the iPhone – hack your bracelet!

I make jewelry as a hobby, some bead stringing, a bit of knotting, some wire work.
On an internet forum I’m on, we talked about Pandora Jewelry. Pandora is known for their bracelets. The most popular bracelets have a sterling silver base, a fat chain. You buy glass beads, metal beads, enamel beads and charms to add to the bracelet. There are a multitude of charms designed to commemorate moments in your life, getting a degree, getting married, learning a sport – that sort of thing.

The product is nicely designed and good quality. The glass beads have an art glass appeal; they look like Murano glass beads. Everything in the product line fits, both from a design and a construction perspective. And you can buy the bracelets everywhere, in Pandora specialty shops and department stores (in the US), online. I am not going to link to the product as I’m not interested in Pandora jewelry links coming from my site. The links are easy to find, if you are not sure what Pandora bracelets look like.

I like the product, somewhat – but there is something about the product that makes me uncomfortable. When I look at Pandora jewelry I think – damn, what an amazing business plan, marketing plan, their pricing. The supply chain works beautifully. And there is something about the pieces that make you want to stay in Pandora’s world. What is going on?

Pandora jewelry is designed to keep you in the Pandora world. You are never done. You can start small, a bracelet, a bead or two, a charm, and add to it. New beads and charms come out, periodically, that you can buy to celebrate the events in your life. Marking your life moments with a charm (in my opinion, a too obvious charm) is appealing. People like to commemorate events in their lives. You can take beads and charms off and add new ones (I think you can, I don’t have any Pandora jewelry). Your friends and family can give you a new bead or charm – you can buy them everywhere. The design is such that everything goes with everything. The design is recognizable. You can look at a Pandora bracelet from across the room, and you can recognize the Pandora of it – brand is big with them. From a design perspective, I don’t like the metal on the glass beads, but this is another opportunity for branding; the word Pandora is on the metal surrounding the bead hole.

What it feels like to me, more than anything – an Apple consumer product – iPhone, iPod, iPad, iTunes. Everything Apple is deliberately designed, and designed to work together. Life is good for you if you never stray from the Apple space. And you are never done with Apple – you can upgrade your device (not exactly like Pandora) and get something else on iTunes. Your friends and family can give you an ITunes thing. This is not a perfect comparison because so many of ITunes things are thought to be cheap enough that you buy them yourself. People are also not sentimental about an electronic thing the exact same way they are about jewelry.

Pandora is like that. It even has something of a proprietary aspect to it, just like Apple! Their beads have an unusually wide hole, to accommodate the fat Pandora chain, so your standard Murano glass beads are not going to fit. This is an imperfect analogy, but you get the idea – though by now, there are bead shops that sell beads that will fit on a Pandora bracelet chain.

Pandora jewelry has a sameness to it. This works well from an “everything goes with everything” perspective, but the look borders on sterile, safe. Where are the square glass beads, the oblong beads, the knobby beads? Where are the beads that aren’t all shiny and new? And I don’t think you get much, for what you pay for – but one can say that’s the same for all jewelry, for all consumer products – perhaps for all material goods. You always pay for the brand. If you ever go to a bead show, you realize how much the markup is on jewelry, and I don’t even have a wholesaler’s license.

In my ideal world, Pandora bracelets would be the gateway drug for getting people to experience more in the world of jewelry. Go to that craft fair, go to a bead show, haunt the internet for wonderful things. See what else you can put on your bracelet. Hack your bracelet!

Until I buy a Pandora bracelet chain to hack – here is a simple bracelet I made, using glass beads I bought from a vendor at the Palo Alto Clay and Glass Festival – recent link – Palo Alto Clay & Glass Festival 2014. I’m not sure of the year, late 1990s to 2000s, maybe. The rust colored sparkly beads are goldstone. The bracelet is strung on sturdy stretchy elastic – designed for jewelry making. I’m also showing some earrings I made, using glass beads from the same vendor.

Bracelet and earrings I made.  Photo, July 2014

Bracelet and earrings I made. Photo, July 2014

Hack your bracelet.

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