Just to keep things short and sweet for now, I’d like to share with you some pics of the Pandora Black Friday 2013 Limited Edition ‘Snowflake’ charm side by side with a gorgeous Murano glass charm from Evolve New Zealand, the ‘Diamond Ice’ charm:

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I was so glad I managed to grab the Pandora Black Friday 2013 limited edition charm (thanks to my BFF, Z, in NY!). The design is so delicate and sparkly without being too overwhelming…so I can’t totally blame the “limited edition” angle for that purchase decision haha!

The colour of the ‘Diamond Ice’ Murano charm is so subtle, it only shows up in certain angles. And when it does, it mesmerizes…

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I love how it reminds me of the glacier in Chamonix (which I just realised I never managed to write about, other than eating some gelato in the freezing weather there).

Here’s how I styled my Pandora bracelet using these two fabulous charms and the other charms that I already have on hand:

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It’s a beautiful melange of original Pandora, Soufeel, Lovelinks, and Evolve charms. So yeah, I guess you could say my charm bracelet truly is one-of-a-kind 😉

Despite my initial disappointment with Soufeel’s delivery time the first time I ordered from them, I was determined to buy another set of charms to complete my current Pandora bracelet. And whaddya know? This time around, I received my order in just a little over a week! This time, the package came from Hong Kong.

For starters, I took a leap of faith and bought Soufeel’s pink pave charm. I already have one pink pave Pandora charm and wanted one more to have a matching pair but, as all Pandora owners know, pave charms cost quite a bit more than the normal silver charms. So yeah, despite not knowing what to expect from Soufeel, I went ahead and bought their version of the pink pave charm. The size and pattern looks so much like Pandora’s, as you can see from the pic below:

However, if you look really closely, the stones used by Soufeel (on the right) are a shade or two darker than Pandora’s. It’s not that obvious at quick glance, unless you’re borderline OCD like me who’s got hawk-like eyes that can pick out such a tiny detail. To solve the problem, do NOT, I repeat — do NOT — put the two pave charms too close together just like in the pic below, so that people won’t notice the shade difference. Just in case they’re borderline OCD like me and notice that the right pave charm is just a little bit darker than the one on the left 😛

I also bought another white Spot & Swirl charm to match the one I bought last time, as well as a pair of blue spacers to use with my Pandora Fascinating Teal glass bead. (The Spot & Swirl charms are the ones right beside the Fascinating Teal glass bead.)

As you can see, the colour is not as light as it is in Soufeel’s website, but it looks good enough for my intended use even though the Pandora Fascinating Teal is, sadly, more towards the green colour spectrum rather than blue.

And for having purchased a little over $50 worth of charms, not only did I get the silver vine ‘Thank You’ charm like last time, I also got this dainty little white enamel flower charm for free!

The box that came with this order was different from the first one but still charming and elegant, all the same.

This was the invoice for my second order from Soufeel:

Thank You Wild Vine CharmFG-FJ10631$0.00
March Blue Spacers Birthstone Charm 925 Sterling Silver Pandora CompatibleXS1064C2$27.90
White Spot And Swirl Charm 925 Sterling Silver Pandora CompatibleLW156D1$16.95
November Daily Deal Pink Round Crystal Charm 925 Sterling Silver Pandora CompatibleNVD-LW170A1$12.95
White Four Leaf Clover Lucky Charm

Overall, I was very pleased with my second purchase but will not be buying any charms for a while due to budgetary constraints.

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).

This is Soufeel’s ‘G-Pattern Clip’…

…which resembles very eerily Pandora’s ‘Elemental Flow’ clip.

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.

I have somehow managed to evade the Pandora bracelet fad for quite a while, despite seeing it ALL the time in KLM’s in-flight shopping offering. In case you haven’t heard of it yet, Pandora is a jewelry line that originated from Denmark which is now available in more than 50 countries around the world. They sell charm bracelets, stackable rings, customisable earrings, and necklaces.

It’s the charm bracelets that I’ve been avoiding for far too long. You see, I’ve always secretly dreamed of having one ever since I was a young girl. I just never bought one because I didn’t like the standard charms that came with the charm bracelets found in most gold shops in Malaysia.

Then two weeks ago, I made the mistake of browsing through the Holland Herald while waiting for our KLM flight to take off. It took all of my self-restraint to not jump off my seat when I saw THE most irresistible trio of charms ever: the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty, and Big Ben!

I looooove New York, Paris, and London (who doesn’t?!) and hold fond memories of my trips to those three places — New York with DH (where we met up with my best friend since first grade), Paris and London with my mother. Those three charms are way better than any souvenirs that I can possibly think of. They’re the quintessential emblems of those three famous cities. Thus, to say that I was smitten with those charms is an understatement.

So did I buy the trio of charms in that flight? No, not just yet. That’s the kind of person I am when it comes to buying non-necessities: I always force myself to wait a while to re-evaluate if it’s mere infatuation or true love. But the moment I stepped off the plane, I felt a deep sinking feeling that only got worse each day. That’s when I knew I had to have them. I was hopelessly, utterly, madly, and deeply in love.

Two agonising weeks later, I flew again with KLM and finally managed to buy the trio of travel destination charms. My hands trembled as I opened the boxes and examined the charms. The workmanship and detailing — despite their miniscule size — are absolutely exquisite and make them worth every cent.

Of course, it doesn’t make sense to have the charms only without buying the bracelet on which to attach them. I bought the Pandora starter bracelet set which KLM conveniently also had on board. It consists of a silver bracelet, two beveled clips, and the silver Sparkling Heart charm which they sold as a package at a price lower than what they would cost if bought separately.

The starter bracelet looked something like this:

Except that it came with this Sparkling Heart charm instead of the pink one in the photo above:-

But does the story end there? Noooo. As fate would have it, on my return flight, KLM was giving away €10 discount cards (for purchases €75 and above, in commemoration of King Willem-Alexander’s inauguration). So I plunged in even deeper and bought the Fascinating Pink glass bead (US retail price: $45) and Pink Pavé Lights Charm (US retail price: $65) which KLM was selling for €80 for the pair, net pricing being €70 (~$90, saving me some $20), thanks to the €10 discount card.

The good/bad thing about Pandora in Malaysia? They’re EVERYWHERE! So it’s so easy to find a Pandora outlet in many major shopping malls and get lost in its world of charms. So one Friday (when Malaysians get 2-hour lunch breaks), I made the mistake of walking into one of their outlets…which ended up with my going home with two more charms — a heart-shaped Mum charm (which is who I am!) which matches the Sparkling Heart charm in terms of size and shape, and an open work Heart charm (erm…to balance out the round Pink Pavé Lights charm heh).

Et alors…voila! I am now the giddy-as-a-schoolgirl-owner of this Pandora bracelet:

The thing about Pandora is how versatile it is as a piece of jewelry. Not only does it go with most any outfit, you can also add and remove charms to match your changing moods and styles. The resulting combination can be as simple as this elegant pearl bracelet design which I found online:

Or it can be as elegant and bling-y as this design from Pandora’s website:

I’m head over heels in love with this design, can you tell? *sigh*

Another good thing about being a Pandora owner? It simplifies the gift-giving process for husbands and friends 😉 On my wish list right now:

– A second Fascinating Pink glass bead
– A pair of Love Of My Life charm clips in white or pink
– A pair of Leading Lady charms in white and another pair in pink
– A Cool Breeze dangling charm, because blue topaz is the birthstone for November
– A Camera charm because, obviously, I love taking pics
– A Life Saver charm because of my fascination with the medical field (I eat, sleep, breathe books, TV series, and movies related to doctors and hospitals!)…plus the strange coincidence that my best friend since 1st grade and many other friends are medical doctors
– A Pink Ribbon charm in honour of my mother, who is a breast cancer survivor – A Family Forever charm to symbolize my family

A word of caution though — the charm bracelet can get pretty heavy once your charm collection starts to expand. Most of the charms are made of sterling silver; some are made of gold but they cost an arm and a leg. Alternatively, you can opt for a simpler look with only 1 or 3 specially selected charms and can even use a braided leather bracelet (which comes in various colours), if silver’s not your cup of tea, just like this Breast Cancer Awareness bracelet set:-

Update 16-May-2013:

I found a jewelry shop in KLIA (I forgot the name but it’s near the trains, right next to Habib Jewels) and they are selling Lovelinks charms, which turn out to be compatible with Pandora. Prices are slightly lower than Pandora charms and they have waaaay too many choices available! As you can guess, I bought a charm — a sterling silver piece with a dangling freshwater pearl –  to commemorate my little Peanut’s first birthday. He was traveling with me to Jakarta that day, exactly one day after his first birthday.