You may or may not be aware, but jewellery brand Thomas Sabo have just launched a new range of modular charm jewellery – entitled Karma Beads. The concept struck me as more similar to the new Pandora Essence collection, which made its debut last November, than to the traditional Pandora Moments range. Consequently, I thought it might be fun to compare the two brands and see which came out on top!
This post is something of an experiment for me, as I don’t normally feature other brands on the blog. However, I don’t own a Pandora Essence bracelet, so I’m not particularly biased in that way. ^^ I’m going to compare the two brands in a number of categories and decide the winner in each category – the brand with the most categories will be the winner!
Both, while being fashion items, have a core spiritual/emotional concept underpinning their ranges. Thomas Sabo describe the Karma collection as a celebration of the ‘beautiful things in life’, representing a positive attitude towards all that life throws at us. Their focal bead, for example, is called The Wheel of Karma and represents ‘personal, inner balance’.
On the other hand, Pandora suggest that Essence charms should represent the most intimate and important values that represent you as a person – whether that be joy, wellness, strength or confidence, etc. It’s about ‘personal expression and emotional connection’, according to the company’s description of the Essence collection.
I have to say that I’ve never been overly keen on Pandora’s Essence marketing, especially as it extends to the very look of the charms, which have the value they represent inscribed on them. (However, I’ll admit that I find that their advertising in general is just a bit over the top, and I’d love to see them tone down some of the sugary sweetness.) Overall, I find that the Karma range is a bit less saccharine in its ideology. Furthermore, I still have concerns as to the longevity of the Essence concept – how many values can they represent, ultimately?
Verdict: Thomas Sabo.
Pandora Essence offer a number of abstract designs, focusing on using colour and texture to represent the value each charm is supposed to represent. Unlike the Moments range, they do not offer traditional ‘charm’ designs; the charms represent a colour, a sense, an idea.
On the other hand, looking over the Thomas Sabo range, there is a great spectrum of designs, ranging from sweet floral pieces to more Gothic skull designs. There are a couple of pieces from the Karma range that I think are incredible – especially this Brit Bead:
However, while I admire the aesthetic of the Pandora Essence collection more overall, there are no ‘wow’ pieces. There is no statement piece, no charm that makes me feel that I have to own it. Thomas Sabo’s designs, on the whole, are a bit edgier, as can be seen for example in their skull range. (Although I have to say that I absolutely loathe all skull designs; I have never really warmed to the concept of using a symbol of human mortality as a fashion icon!) I have my doubts as to whether we’ll ever see the day that Pandora releases a new skull range for their upcoming Mother’s Day collection. ;)
Karma also has 72 pieces, compared to Essence’s 24 charms; at the moment, at least, Karma offers a greater variety of designs to choose from.
Verdict: Thomas Sabo.
Materials & Quality
One big plus for Karma is their use of gold in the collection – it certainly adds more variety and colour to the collection overall. I’d love Pandora to start offering some pieces with rose gold accents – I should have added that to my post about potential charm designs! However, the Thomas Sabo gold and rose gold pieces are only plated – they are not solid gold. The Pandora Essence collection, on the other hand, does not offer any gold pieces. In this respect, I don’t really like plated pieces, as they are less durable than the genuine article – even though I could never afford a genuine gold piece right now!
Pandora take a hit in terms of their use of synthetic stones. The general trend with Pandora lately has been increased use of synthetic gemstones and a complete absence of natural gemstones. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as it keeps the jewellery affordable, but there are no options for fans of traditional Pandora jewellery ranges, which always used genuine stones. The Faith bead, for example, is made from synthetic amethyst:
Despite this, the concluding factor in this category relates to when I was last in town. I went and took a look at the Thomas Sabo store. In their window, they had a big Karma display – and I was disappointed at how the real thing compared with the stock images. The charms looked a bit flimsy and cheaper in person, IMO. I’m not sure how much you can tell from my pictures, as it was hard to get up close!
It’s a shame, as I really liked many of the designs from their stock images. In person, however, the look of the materials let them down.
Verdict: Pandora. Whether the Essence range is to your taste or not, I think the charms look better-made in person than the Karma beads.
Thomas Sabo are known for being an expensive brand, although that isn’t to say that Pandora is exactly cheap! However, the Karma range does seem to offer a number of more moderately-priced pieces – perhaps more so than Pandora’s Essence collection. Charms start from £16.95, and there are a good many options around that price point. On the other hand, Essence beads start from £25, but there are only three charms at that price. Most of the beads hover around the £35 mark. However, referring back to my previous point about quality, I do feel that you are paying for a higher degree of craftsmanship from Pandora.
As for the bracelets themselves, the Karma bracelet is £55 in the UK, the same price as the traditional Pandora barrel clasp charm bracelet. The Essence bracelet slightly undercuts it at £49, but there’s not much difference there.
However, the Karma gold pieces, while much cheaper than Pandora’s solid gold offerings in the Moments range, are still quite expensive for what is a plated piece of jewellery. It’s £89, for example, for this gold-plated pavé bead:
Verdict: Pandora. While Thomas Sabo’s prices may start lower than Pandora’s, I feel that value for money is more with Pandora than not.
After several reports of faulty Essence bracelets dropping off people’s wrists, a safety chain has been much requested from Pandora Essence fans. Safety chains are an integral part of modern charm bracelets, with the vast majority of contemporary brands offering one. As charm bracelets get more expensive (a completed Pandora bracelet can be worth £500 to £1,000 or more!), consumers are more anxious to protect their precious collection by any means possible. That Pandora Essence does not offer one is perhaps a strike against it. Furthermore, according to Pandora, there are no current plans to produce one, either.
However, the Karma range already comes with a couple of safety chains. These are silicone-lined, much like the Pandora Essence charms. They are not badly priced, either, at £21.95 or $31 USD.
*UPDATE* If you’re keen for a safety chain to protect your Essence bracelet, the Thomas Sabo Karma safety chains are compatible, as demonstrated by this picture kindly provided by a reader, Dave:
Verdict: Thomas Sabo. Pandora need to get on this!
The Thomas Sabo Karma campaign, starring Georgia May Jagger, has undoubtedly got noticed. It’s been picked up by a number of major fashion magazines, and is certainly getting some attention.
However, I’m not such a fan of the ultra-pouty look that Georgia May Jagger and her ilk do so well. Moreover, while I’ve said before that I do not particularly like Pandora’s campaigns for Essence in terms of being overly sentimental, I do admire and support the concept of portraying or reflecting real women. Pandora make a point of having female ‘ambassadors’ for the brand who reflect the everyday woman, everywhere. They also emphasise the idea of sharing, of connecting; these are common values that connect women around the globe.
Verdict: While Thomas Sabo may be more on trend, Pandora’s appeal to the everyday woman wins for me.
Unhelpfully, both Karma and Essence took three categories each. I swear I didn’t plan it that way! ;) However, I still feel obliged to make a decision between the two – it’s not much of a battle if both sides just call it quits.
Now, don’t throw rocks at me, but Thomas Sabo come out on top for me, at least in terms in concept. The range, overall, seems to have a little more originality; Pandora Essence is pretty, but not as innovative. I still think that there is plenty of scope for Essence to improve, however, and it certainly looks like a much higher quality brand in person.
Do you own a Karma or Essence bracelet? Which range do you prefer? Let me know! :)