I’m a man, a fairly typical one at that, and as such present buying has never been my strong point. So after buying my other-half a pair of wellies for Christmas last year, I soon learned my lesson that this wasn’t going to be an acceptable option this year, and so had to do some research ahead of Christmas 2010…..
Now, to make it easier for me after the Wellington debacle, she had taken to dropping me a number of hints throughout the year that she would like a charm bracelet. All well and good, but as any of you who have ever Googled charm bracelets or tried to brave the local jewellery shop fronted by pushy camp sales assistants will know, it’s a minefield. So I thought I would offer everyone out there the benefit of my extensive research and (until recently) fairly limited but growing experience in the area.
So first, you have to negotiate all the different options out there, and there are a lot! Chamilia, Nomination, Truth, Pandora, the list is seemingly endless. By far the safest option, and one of the most popular by all accounts, is Pandora. They are Danish designers who only retail their products through their own shops or through selected top-end jewellers. Their ranges seem more extensive than some of the other brands, the quality seems great, and the lifespan and longevity of their products is what really swung it for me… a charm bracelet is after all supposed to be build upon over a period of time, so you need to know that you will be able to add to it for some time to come, and I felt more assured of that with the Pandora range than I did with any of the others.
Another benefit is the range of prices of the charms you can buy…. yes there are gold and diamond charms that whilst stunning, will set you back hundreds, but when something is all about sentiment rather than just material value as these things seem to be, it’s nice that friends, kids and just about everyone can contribute; with charms starting from just £25 each.
But what do you need? Well going back to my aforementioned fear of jewellery shops, I have to say I originally went to one of the dedicated Pandora shops and was assisted very informally by a delightful assistant who wasn’t at all pushy, and led me through the process with no intimidation and a good deal of humor. It was the Pandora shop in Windermere, Cumbria, and the assistant ably advised me that what you actually need to start with was the bracelet. Now there are some gorgeous leather and limited edition options which I believe start from just £30, all the way through to gold options for a little over a thousand pounds. The silver or the silver with a gold clasp are apparently the most popular, but here’s a word of advice…. if at all possible, have your lady with you for the sizing of it. My lass has slender wrists so the temptation was to get the smallest bracelet but by the time it has charms on it this wouldn’t have been big enough. That said, the shops are great with this, and if the size had been wrong, they would have been happy to change it after the event.
So once you have your bracelet, what else do you need? Well it seems there are something called “clips” of which it’s useful (though not imperative) to have two. These clips sit equidistantly spaced opposite the clasp and allow any charms in the early days to sit neatly between them at the top of the bracelet. Pandora also recommend this as a means of evenly distributing the weight of the bracelet and I have to say this does make sense. They are priced from £25 upwards depending on your choice of material, and I think they’re a must. Additionally, as these charm bracelet things can be carrying a lot of value (both in money and sentimental terms) very quickly, I’d also suggest a safety chain. Again whilst they aren’t completely necessary they do look very pretty, and you know that in the unlikely event of the clasp coming loose, you have the backup of the chain. These start from £70 depending on how elaborate you want to be.
Then of course come the charms, and I must admit I’ve developed quite an addiction to buying these, visiting a further two jewellers after making my original purchase, both of whom were similarly delightful and helpful and not scary at all; AJ Parkes in Northwich, Cheshire and Silvertree in Lancaster, Lancashire. You can literally get almost anything in any material, with any stone, carrying any sentiment. You can also buy them online but I would recommend that you check out the Pandora site first for recommended stockists to ensure you get the genuine article as I have heard a few horror stories about copy goods.
Another term you might hear is “spacers” – now that my girlfriend has a number of charms on there, you sometimes find that there is a small space left which is too small for a charm, but would neatly accommodate one of the spacers in the range – not as elaboarate or extensive in terms of selection as the charms but small and pretty and with prices starting from around £20 are nice little stocking fillers in themselves.
The cherry on the cake is that the stockists always offer a gift wrapping service, and all the items come in authentic Pandora packaging (box and gift bag wrapped with ribbon) and look like you have put an awful lot of time and effort into the purchase of it, even if you haven’t!
In a rare romantic twist, I hid the items all around the house so that each time the other half visited the airing cupboard, the crockery cupboard etc, she would be greeted by a pretty little bag with a bow containing yet another lovely charm…. a little touch that took no effort at all but kept a smile on her face for the whole day. I think I have now redeemed myself for the boot disaster next year and can rest easy in the knowledge that Pandora has given ME a great gift too…. it’s a complete dream for guys like me who are effectively being offered the ease of being able to give thoughtful, romantic, appropriate gifts at Christmas, Birthdays, Valentines, Anniversaries for years to come…. brownie points galore!
So I’d recommend charm bracelets, and in particular, Pandora to any guys out there looking for presents for the Mrs / Mother / women in their lives. And with a complementary range of other products (necklaces, rings, earrings etc) the possibilities and point scoring opportunities are endless…. it’s a shame the bank account isn’t!