Few things are as symbolic of Christmas in American culture as Santa traveling across the dark winter sky in his sleigh pulled by reindeers. He supposedly travels from the North Pole and delivers packages all over the world, although his home base varies depending on where you live: in Denmark, everybody knows he lives on Greenland, in Finland, he calls the mountain Korvatunturi home, and a few years ago, a Swedish company determined that Kyrgyzstan would be the ideal location for him, based on the rotation of the earth and where the majority of people are located.
Although in Sweden, he doesn’t arrive by sleigh at all; he walks, knocks on the door and comes in and hands out gifts in person. And in Holland, Sinterklaas arrives by boat from Spain. Regardless of what you believe, the image of Santa and his sleigh is a compelling one, and for today’s post, I have selected some of my favorite sleigh charms:
Everyone is releasing new items and holiday collections this time of year, and Pandora is no exception.
Their new holiday collection is all about glitz and glam, and I really like it. New beads include five new Pave beads – round beads pave set with glittering cubic zirconias in different colors (clear, blue, black, brown and pink), and a sterling silver Christmas stocking bead. (more…)
If the old adage “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” is true, then Pandora should feel very flattered. If you have ever shopped for Pandora charms online, you know that there are literally millions of sites out there offering “authentic Pandora charms”. But are they? How can you be sure that what you’re buying is indeed an authentic Pandora bracelet or charm? I have received a LOT of questions regarding this, so I thought I would dedicate an entire post to the subject, in question and answer format:
How Can You Tell Authentic Pandora Beads From “Pandora Style” Beads And Charms?
All Pandora beads are made from sterling silver, 14 or 18k gold, so anything else is not authentic. In addition, everything is stamped with:
A Maker’s mark (ALE, which stands for Pandora’s founder’s Dad, Algot Enevoldsen)
A Quality mark (S for silver, G for gold). Note: this is a more recent addition so if your older beads, like mine to the right here, do not have it, that doesn’t mean they’re fakes
A Purity code (925 for sterling silver, 585 for 14k gold and 750 for 18k gold)
Unfortunately, many of the fake Pandora beads and charms on the market also have these markings, so to be absolutely sure that you are buying an authentic piece, shop at a Pandora store or one of their authorized online sellers.
Can You Find Authentic Pandora Charms And Bracelets On Sale? How About Other Pandora Specials?
Pandora charms do not go on sale. But authorized retailers often have Trunk Shows and other special events where you get a free something with purchase (like a free bracelet with the purchase of x number of beads or x dollars spent).
How About Retired Pandora Charms And Beads? Do They Go On Sale?
No, retired charms and beads are sold at their regular prices, no less, and not any more either. If you see Pandora beads advertised as retired and the seller is asking a higher price because they are “collectibles”, be careful.
Can We (The General Public) Buy Authentic Pandora Beads Wholesale?
There are quite a few sites that supposedly offer this, but no, we can not (only authorized retailers can).
Is It Possible To Find New Authentic Pandora Charms On eBay?
Yes, if they are pre-owned. Pandora does not authorize any of their retailers to sell on eBay (or other auction sites). People can of course sell beads and charms from their own collections, and these can obviously be authentic Pandora charms. If you find yourself in a situation where you want to buy a pre-owned bead, the best thing to do is to contact the seller, strike up a conversation, ask lots of questions, ask to see photos of the bead taken from all angles, and trust your gut instinct. If it’s a charm that is still being sold, compare the photos you get from the eBay seller to the ones on Pandora’s site and check for any discrepancies. Remember that pre-owned beads are not covered by any warranties.
Should I Buy Pandora Charms Online At All?
Yes, but make sure the seller is an authorized Pandora retailer.
Telltale Signs Of “Pandora Style Beads And Bracelets”
It’s easy enough when the seller openly advertises that what they sell is “Pandora style” but there are many out there who try to pass fakes off as genuine Pandora charms and bracelets. Price is an indication, but what else?
I did a quick Google search for “authentic Pandora charms cheap” and ended up with close to 250,000 results. Some were honest about the fact that they sell fakes, but many were not. Granted, the quality of some of these sites would be indication alone that what they’re selling is not the real thing (one site I looked at had even misspelled Pandora!), but there are also some pretty slick sites where customers could easily be fooled. The bracelets are photographed in a Pandora box where you clearly see the logo, and their charms even have the correct Pandora hallmarks. Sometimes it becomes clear that they are fakes if you read the fine print on the page, but not always. My advice? Read the small print everywhere on the site, look at the quality, compare what you see with what’s listed on Pandora’s own website, and again, trust your instincts. If you think the site is selling fakes, don’t shop there. In fact, you should report them to Pandora.
Pandora Compatible Beads
NOT fakes. It is openly advertised in the name that they are Pandora compatible beads – charms that fit Pandora bracelets, but not Pandora brand charms. They are not fakes, just other brands (it could be Chamilia, Trollbeads, or no-name charms, etc.”) that work with the Pandora charm bracelets, and they can be of just as high quality as the brand name charms.
So, in conclusion: you can take your chances with non-authorized sellers or save a bit of money (usually) by going with Pandora compatible beads, but if you want to be 100% sure that you’re buying an authentic Pandora charm, your best bet is to go with an authorized seller, either online or in a shop.
The new Pandora spring/summer collection for 2012 was just released with a bunch of new beads and rings, as well as a few earrings and pendants. The recurring themes in all of them are flowers and hearts. And the possibility to mix and match – clip beads can be used as pendants, the rings can be stacked, etc.
The new bead collection consists of lots of sterling silver charms (the camera bead is a favorite), several with dangles (love those!), some with cubic zirconias or enamel, and a few mixed metal.
There are three new gold charms (my favorite is this clip with a dogwood flower set with a black diamond) and several very pretty Murano glass beads in “happy colors” and two different designs – the subtle “looking glass”, and the retro-feeling “Stepping stones” beads.
There are 7 new pendants, 6 in silver with various stones (spinel, rhodolite, Quartzite, etc.), one mixed metal, and one in 14k gold with a white opal. They are all gorgeous and I’d be hard pressed to choose a favorite, but if I had to pick just one, it would have to be the the mixed metal – it’s sterling silver and 14k gold with a pretty, feminine and understated flower-carved mother of pearl.
The new earrings collection (four in sterling silver with stones and two mixed metal) features three new stud designs (which match some of the pendants), three earring charms (also matching) and one pair of silver and 14k gold ear wires with a pretty little flower and loops to hang charms from.
The new ring collection is so pretty! It consists of 12 sterling silver rings set with birthstones, 5 sterling silver and 5 mixed metal rings that match the pendants (yes, there is one that matches that adorable flower mother of pearl) and two gold. Most of the rings can be stacked.
There are also some new watches, but to be perfectly honest, I never wear a watch, so I’m not really interested in those.
In conclusion, it’s a very pretty collection, spring-inspired both in colors and designs, and price-wise, there is something for every budget, from (the surprisingly affordable) $20 spacers and $25 sterling silver beads to the $720 gold dogwood flower clip above.
Amethyst is a member of the Quartz family. Quartz is a mineral, the most abundant on earth, and not only does it make up around 12% of the earth’s crust, it is everywhere. Even those of us who are not living under a rock have quartz all around, perhaps without realizing it. Your TV, computer, watch, cell phone and granite kitchen counter top all contain quartz.
Quartz is commonly divided in two groups – Macrocrystalline (which has visible individual crystals) and Cryptocrystalline (which has crystals you need a microscope to see, sometimes also called Microcrystalline). Amethyst is the purple variety of quartz, and it is part of the Macrocrystalline group.
Amethyst is the birthstone for February (except for in the Mystical tradition, where it is Bloodstone. We will cover Bloodstone in the March birthstone post, because it is the birthstone for March in several other traditions), the astrological birthstone for Aquarius, Pisces, and Sagittarius and the 4th, 6th and 17th wedding anniversary gemstone. It has been known and used “forever”, and it was one of the stones in the breastplate of Aaron. It is mainly found in Brazil; other locations include the US (Arizona), Canada, Mexico, Bolivia, Uruguay, Germany, India, Sri Lanka, Madagascar, Namibia, Zambia and Russia.
Amethysts range in color from pale pinkish purple to deep violet and they are the most popular of the quartzes. In spite of that, they are very affordable (the darker the stone, the more expensive it is, generally), and if you’re shopping for the high end variety, you want to look for nice, clear transparent stones without inclusions (i.e. things like bubbles, crystals, graininess, cracks etc. inside the stone). In jewelry, you most often find them faceted or cabochon cut.
Amethysts are sometimes heat treated to alter the color slightly, and when lighter varieties are exposed to heat, they “turn into” citrine (so most citrine on the market is amethyst that has been heat treated).
The ancient Greeks thought amethyst could prevent intoxication and instill a sober mind. The name comes from the Greek “amethustos”, which means “not drunk”. In traditional dramatic Greek fashion, there is the story of Bacchus (a.k.a. Dionysus) and the young maiden Amethyst. A mortal had insulted Bacchus, who as revenge decided to let tigers go after the next human who happened to come along. It turned out the be Amethyst on her way to worship the Goddess Diana. Diana knew of Bacchus’ plan and to spare Amethyst turned her into a quartz pillar, which made Bacchus so remorseful that he wept tears of wine, which turned the now quartz pillar Amethyst purple.
Amethyst Healing Properties
Amethyst is one of the most important stones in crystal healing, believed to get rid of negativity and promote a more positive view on life, protect its wearer, aid in meditation, help when going through major life changes, heal a broken heart and make the wearer able to trust others and fall in love again.
It also helps with addictions, stress, nightmares, insomnia, anger, grief, and feelings of being victimized. On a physical level, it alleviates arthritis and balances the thyroid, helps with headaches and strengthens the skeleton.
And it might be worth it to invest in some amethyst jewelry even if it’s not your birthstone. Crystal Energy Therapist Karen Ryan says “If you could choose only one crystal to wear for healing, Amethyst is the one – it heals all things at all levels”.
Luckily, there are tons of gorgeous pieces to choose from. Here are some of my recent favorite amethyst charm and pendant finds:
With Valentine’s Day around the corner, I thought a post about heart shaped jewelry would be in order.
The Heart – An Ancient Symbol
The heart as a symbol was used as far back as 10,000 BC, although scientists are not exactly sure what it symbolized at that time. In more recent civilizations, it was long believed that thoughts, reasoning and the soul were housed in the heart, and in ancient Egypt, the heart was not only the center of life, but morality and character as well, and your heart was judged to determined your future in the afterlife. The Egyptian Book of the Dead illustrates how after death, a person’s heart is taken to the judgment area and put on a scale opposite the feather of Maat. If the heart was lighter than the feather, the person was all set to enjoy whatever came after, but if it was heavy with sin, the heart would be eaten by the demon Ammit and the person would cease to exist. (so dramatic!)
But why is the heart symbol shaped the way it is? It doesn’t look anything like an actual human heart. And why do we associate that shape with love?
There are many (possible) explanations: Some say it’s because it resembles several different female body parts (use your own imagination here); some claim it is because of a vision Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque had in the 1600s (although that one doesn’t really hold up, because there are stained glass windows with heart symbols that way predates that – maybe she was just commenting on the decor!); it has also been suggested that it’s the heart in the Book of the Dead that inspired it (although I personally think that looks more like an urn or sometimes an actual anatomical heart, but…).
Then there is the theory of the Silphium plant. The seeds from this now extinct variety of wild fennel are shaped just like the heart symbol we use today, and they were widely used as a natural contraceptive. The plant grew in Cyrene (an ancient Greek colony where Libya is today), and was a great source of income for the area. It was extensively commercially traded and the seed pods were even depicted on their coins. It also had a slew of other health benefits (Pliny the Elder wrote that it could be used as an antidote for poison, re-grow hair, cure leprosy, sore throats, etc.), and unfortunately, demand was larger than supply, and it was picked to extinction.
And why it’s associated with love – well, we all know what the heart feels like when you’re in love (or going through a breakup). No mystery there.
Time for the visual part of the post – my selection of some favorite heart charms and pendants:
Collage by Charms Guide
1. Sterling silver filigree heart charm by Rembrandt
3. 10k rose gold charm with set with a red stone (they label it garnet, then say it’s labradorite in the text. Red labradorite has been much debated and a source of both great controversy and lawsuits in the professional gem world. I just wanted to mention that so you can make an informed decision about the piece. Regardless of the quality of the stone, I like it, and I think it’s pretty, so I included it). From Sundance.
Trees have held a special meaning for people since ancient times, and bringing evergreens indoors during winter is something that has long been practiced in many cultures. In some countries, they were thought to keep evil spirits, illness and ghosts at bay; in some they were symbols of deities, and in others, they were simply a reminder that summer – and another growing season – would return.
The Christmas tree as we know it is thought to have begun in the southern parts of 15th century Germany, where people brought fir trees indoors and decorated them with apples. The trees were an important part of the Winter Solstice celebration, and they were believed to keep evil spirits away (who were supposed to be particularly active on Christmas eve). Apples later turned into ornaments, and Martin Luther (the Protestant reformer) is credited with contributing the tradition of adding lights. The custom spread through Europe, but did not reach the US until the early 1800s, and even then, many here regarded them as pagan symbols. It wasn’t until the early 1850s, when a slightly doctored print of of Queen Victoria and her family (in order to “Americanize” them, Prince Albert’s mustache and the Queen’s tiara were removed) with their decorated Christmas tree was published in the US that the Christmas tree became popular.
There is also an interesting variation on the story on how the Christmas tree came to be: the story of St. Boniface. St Boniface was Christian missionary in Germany in the 600-700s, everyone agrees to that, but the thoughts on his impact on the Christmas tree tradition varies. Some say he cut down fir trees in the woods of Thüringen and used their triangular shape to demonstrate the trinity, and the people in the area started bringing the trees indoors, although they hung them upside down from the ceiling. Some claim that when St. Boniface returned to Germany after an absence, he found that the locals had revered to their pagan winter celebrations, which included the sacrifice of a young man under Odin’s oak tree. Enraged, he cut down the oak with a single blow of an axe, which impressed and scared the people. As the oak fell, it had narrowly missed a small fir tree, and when the frightened people asked St. Boniface how they should celebrate, he pointed to the fir and told them to bring such a tree, which symbolized immortality and peace, into their homes.
Today, a Christmas tree is an essential part of the holiday in many countries across the world, even some that are not mainly Christian. They certainly add an unmatched coziness to the celebrations, and every time I walk into a home with a decorated and lit Christmas tree, I feel like a child again – that happy excitement and expectation you always had for weeks (or even months) leading up to the big event.
Now that we’re properly educated on the subject , here are some recent favorite Christmas tree charm finds:
Chocolate Cupcake Charm Necklace from A Fine Distraction
I don’t think the cupcake craze of the last decade has escaped anybody’s attention. Magnolia Bakery in New York City is usually credited with starting it in the mid 90s, and their creations really rose to fame after being featured in Sex and the City. They are still as popular as ever, and have even gone worldwide: last year, they openend a bakery/store in the Dubai Mall. Tourists from all over the world still flock to the original NYC store as well – I went a few years ago with a friend who was visiting from overseas and had to see it (and eat a cupcake). It’s tiny! But the cupcakes are good.
These days, cupcakes are everywhere: now, there are many bakeries and stores solely devoted to making cupcakes, cupcake caterers, cupcake blogs, cupcake food trucks, cupcake books, wedding cakes, apparel, holiday ornaments, home decor, there is “Cupcake Wars” (an entire show about cupcakes) on Food Network; and what might just take the prize as the trippiest take on the sweet treats ever: cupcake cars from Nieman Marcus. These $25,000 customized motor-driven vehicles – which come with matching hats for the drivers – are surprisingly intended for adults!
There is of course also cupcake jewelry in many forms. Naturally, we are focusing on charms here, and I have put together a collection of some recent favorite finds:
Despite the disappointing earnings reported earlier this summer, Pandora keeps on going, and many jewelers are still standing by them and their products. Others theorize that the whole concept is a fad that has run its natural course. I guess time will tell…
In the meantime, let’s focus on something more positive. Pandora recently released their fall lineup of charms and beads and it includes a few new bracelets too.
New charms and beads include lots of dangles: a collection of Chinese zodiac signs, gold and silver beads with dangly pearls, an adorable silver clip with a filigree flower dangle, and a totally darling silver bead with a blue cameo butterfly dangle.
There are 5 new Murano glass beads named “Exotic” in bright colors with dots (so in this season!), 6 Murano “Ladybugs” beads in fall colors, and 6 Murano “Stars” beads in both bold and subtle colors.
The new “regular” precious metal charms consists mostly of sterling silver beads, a few gold ones, and several that are a bit edgier than what we are used to seeing from Pandora. In this collection, I especially like the “Stella”, “Nostalgic Romance” and “Perfect Poises” beads
On the bracelet front, I think the most exciting new arrivals are the single and multiple silver chain designs. It’s a whole new look, and they are accompanied by a new collection of clips (the multi-strand can hold one, and the single chain up to five).
The clips come in all styles: some are named “rock star” and as you would guess, are a bit on the“tougher” looking side (angular, a few are black rhodium plated), some have cubic zirconias, some are on the cutesy side (silver with a braided gold heart; a sleeping cat; a royal carriage; a purse)
There are also a few new braided leather bracelets (in the same style we’ve seen before) in new fall colors: two pink and two purple (single and double).
Overall, I think it is a really nice collection that includes a few welcome unexpected twists. I like it!
After a significant drop in sales in the second quarter of 2011, Pandora’s CEO, Mikkel Vendelin Olesen, is being let go from the company.
Earlier this year, Pandora estimated that earnings would be up 30% from 2010, but are now saying that sales will be on par with 2010. The drop is blamed in large part on the hefty price increases we have seen across the line of Pandora’s products, especially here in the US where retail prices have gone up around 40% (!!) since the beginning of last year.
When the company went public last fall, people could not get enough of the shares, and this demand increased their value by 75%. At one point, the shares were selling for around $70, but after the news today, they are going for roughly $9.70.
Allan Leighton, chairman of Pandora, said they need to go back to their “mass-market, affordable luxury positioning”. He continued “The situation can be remedied – but over time”. The company has already lowered the prices on “key products” and will not be increasing prices on anything any time soon. They are also planning to be more aggressive in their marketing, and 190 new concept stores are in the works.