Just as DSLR camera owners tend to succumb to a lens acquisition frenzy, Pandora charm bracelet owners also have a similar propensity in acquiring new charms with which to fill up their bracelets. But Pandora charms are not that cheap, especially in Malaysia, where prices are get as much as twice the prices in the US or UK. So some experimentation with cheaper options may be inevitable at some point.
Enter Soufeel, which promises Pandora-compatible charms at a fraction of Pandora’s price. My mantra in life has always been “If it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t,” so I approached Soufeel with a lot of caution. I mean, when I mentioned how their prices are at a fraction of Pandora’s, I meant, like, only about a third of what Pandora charms cost. As in, I can buy three (3!) Soufeel charms for the same price I’d pay for a single Pandora charm.
Secondly, I’ve been browsing the internet for reviews but have not been able to find anything detailed or critical enough. But the good quality pictures, the professional-looking website, the cheaper-than-Pandora prices, and the promise of 925 sterling silver and free shipping (for purchases above $50) eventually drew me in. After all, Soufeel does have a 365-day return guarantee so I thought to myself, “Why not? I can always return it if I’m not satisfied.”
So I made my online purchase and got my first surprise: the credit card charge is to a Hong Kong-based company.
Then the waiting began. I waited. And waited. And waited. Twice, I chatted with Soufeel’s customer service personnel to inquire about my order. The first chat did not go too well — the customer service rep named Stella did not seem to know English that well. She wasn’t much help — she just kept saying that my order is on the way and that the delay is probably caused by the Christmas rush…which really did not make sense because I made my purchase in early November. Warning bells started going off in my head but I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt and wait for just a few more days.
Exactly a month after my online purchase, I attempted another online chat and had a better experience with this girl named Claire. Claire managed to bring up the tracking status of my order and I saw that my parcel was, at long last, already in KLIA Customs. It took another 2 days for my order to finally reach me. That was the second surprise. Free shipping, which Soufeel’s website claims takes “10-20 business days”, really takes at least 20 business days…or about an entire month from the day I placed my order to the day when I finally had the package in my hands.
The third surprise? The package definitely came from China. (But then again, even iPhones are made in China, even if they’re designed in Cupertino. Just sayin’…)
So how do I find the charms? Surprisingly, the charms look quite good to the naked eye and do not disappoint appearance-wise.
This is the white ‘Spot and Swirl’ charm.
It looks very similar to Pandora’s….(gasp!)…. ‘Spot and Swirl’ charm (although I’ve seen other sites that refer to it as ‘Primrose Path’ so I’m not sure which one is which).
The clip was a bit tight initially. By tight, I mean, it would not seem to close over the thread part of my Pandora bracelet. And it was ‘stuck’ at the position where I clipped it on my bracelet. But after a few days use, it loosened up a bit and I could use it just like any of my Pandora clips.
Soufeel threw in this free ‘Thank You’ charm, probably because I bought it sometime around Thanksgiving. Anyway, if you look closely, you can see it stamped with ’925′, as in, you know, 925 silver, which is supposed to be the highest quality silver, also known as sterling silver.
Can you spot the Soufeel charms with my genuine Pandora bracelet and genuine Pandora charms?
The charms came in a black cardboard box with a black paper sleeve. The cardboard box looks reasonably acceptable and does not look cheap. But, of course, it is not as posh as Pandora’s faux leather boxes IF you are lucky enough to get one with your purchase. (In Malaysia, Pandora shops would give a box but in the US, online purchase of Pandora charms from Bloomingdale’s do not come with any boxes.)
The box also came with a black ‘velvet’ cushion and a black sponge as buffer. They also threw in a small polishing cloth — very similar to those small pieces of cloth that the optical shop gives you when you buy eyeglasses — which somehow seemed to make the silver charms gleam after a few quick rubs (not shown in photo).
I was supposed to receive a pair of crystal earrings as a free gift with my purchases but, instead, they (mistakenly? purposely?) threw in this Murano glass charm.
It looks pretty decent but, unfortunately, it does not match the theme of my Pandora bracelets. I do have Murano charms but only the big faceted ones (i.e. ‘Fascinating Pink’, ‘Fascinating Teal’, ‘Fascinating White’). So if my sister-in-law doesn’t mind accepting this from me as a gift, she will become its new rightful owner because, despite Soufeel’s 365-return policy, I feel that it would be too much of a hassle to have this one tiny item sent back and replaced.
The charms were packed inside separate plastic bags inside the same box.
And for the curious ones, this is how the package looked like as it was sent through Chinese post. (Told ya the thing came from China!)
So far, I am quite satisfied with the quality of the charms. In fact, I already placed a second order so that I can have a second ‘Spot and Swirl’ charm for some symmetry in my bracelet. And since I already know what to expect this time regarding the actual delivery time, I would not be fretting as much as I did with the first order.
Would I recommend Soufeel? If you don’t care about the brand, yes, I would. I find the quality and workmanship of my selected charms to be quite good (to date — knock on wood!) and the prices to be very reasonable. But if you are the type of person who would not feel right to use charms other than from Pandora, then just stick to what makes you feel comfortable. But just so you know, Pandora Malaysia stores offer free polishing for the entire lifetime of your bracelet and they do not really care if you have non-Pandora charms in your bracelet. Besides, from the sheer number of charms that Pandora has churned from its inception until present day, I doubt if the normal Pandora employee would be able to remember all the original designs.
P.S. In the past, I’ve also tried Lovelinks charms from Australia — the pearl dangling charm inside the red box in the pic below — and I’m pleased to report that the charms are still in excellent condition to this day.