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!

karma versus essence

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’.

thomas sabo wheel of karma

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.

Image by COMPANY Magazine
Image by COMPANY Magazine

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:

thomas sabo 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!

thomas sabo karma rose gold hearts
Karma Rose Gold Hearts bead

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!

thomas sabo karma 2

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.

thomas sabo karma 1

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.

thomas sabo bracelet
The Karma bracelet retails for £49

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:

thomas sabo 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.

Safety Chain

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.

karma safety chain

*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:

thomas sabo safety chain pandora essence b

Verdict: Thomas Sabo. Pandora need to get on this!

Campaign Image

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.

thomas sabo 3

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.

The first image of the PANDORA Essence Collection
The first image of the PANDORA Essence Collection

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! :)

51 Comments on Battle of the Brands: Thomas Sabo Karma Beads Versus Pandora Essence

  1. What a great comparison of the lines. Thank you for this. I have never seen the Thomas Sabo Karma collection in person. While I really like their safety chain, I don’t care for their plating. I wonder if the Karma safety chain fits an Essence bracelet?

    • Thank you, I’m so glad it was useful! :D I wasn’t overly impressed with the look and feel of the Karma collection in person, although I think that they have some really very pretty designs.
      That’s a very good point regarding the Thomas Sabo safety chain… it is silicone-lined like an Essence charm. Maybe something for further investigation! ;)

  2. The Thomas sabo range looks nice, but never seen it in person… I quite like some of the essence collection but I wad a bit naffed off they created a whole new bracelet for them. I would have definitely bought one if they fitted my moments bracelet.

    • I’ve heard so many people say the same as you, and I think the incompatibility between the lines has been met with some scepticism. My OH’s mother was also keen until she realised that she couldn’t put them on her existing bracelet – it comes across as a bit of a marketing ploy. I’m still on the fence myself… it’s pretty, but not enough to make me invest in a new bracelet system, I think!

  3. Pandora’s Essence bracelets are actually very pretty. They look nice without any charms next to a two tone watch. I’ve never had mine unclasp itself and fall off. That’s never happened with my traditional Pandora bracelets either. They don’t go flying off. In fact, the barrel clasps are often a bit tough to undo. I still buy safety chains though because they add to the look.

    • The Essence bracelet is very pretty, but my budget always ends up going on the traditional Pandora range! ;) I’ve never had a problem with the traditional bracelets either but, like you, I use the safety chains because I like the way they look and I suppose they do add that extra security. However, the amount of feedback I’ve read from people saying that their Essence bracelet has fallen off seems concerning. It obviously won’t happen to everyone but it seems to be more frequent with the Essence line than the Moments range.

  4. I hear you. I purchased my Essence bracelet with four charms and stopped. I haven’t added to it. I don’t wear it often enough either. I’m going to wear it every day for a week or so and let you know if I have any clasp problems. Thanks, Ellie

  5. I bought I Pandora essence bracelet in the charm courage and I was wondering if you knew if it would still maintain its spiritual properties since it is synthetic.

    • Hi, I believe these stones, natural or synthetic, only represent the values you personally invest in them – I have no knowledge as to any spiritual properties the stones may have. So, I’m not sure that I can answer your question effectively – sorry about that. :)

  6. Has anyone yet tested the Sabo safety chain on an Essence bracelet?
    I need to know as my wife’s Essence bracelet has fallen off a few times now and she no longer feels confident wearing it. Which kinda defeats the whole point!

    • Hi Dave, I’m sorry to hear that. I’m afraid that I don’t have any more info on that – I also haven’t heard anyone else mention it. :/
      The problems with the Essence clasp are pretty common, but not everyone has an issue. Perhaps you could try taking it back to the store and seeing if it could be exchanged for one with a sturdier clasp?

      • Thanks Ellie,
        We have already gone back to the store and this is our second Essence bracelet. We had no problem getting the exchange, but we’ve lost confidence (which ironically is one of the beads).
        I think there’s a Sabo store in Vancouver. Next time we’re over there we’ll check it out.
        Thanks again,

        • No problem! That’s worrying to hear that your second bracelet was also defective – I wonder how widespread the Essence clasp issues actually are. Good point on the Confidence bead, too! ;)
          If you do find out about the Sabo safety chain, it would be great if you could let us know. Hope you get it sorted.

      • Great news, I can confirm that the Karma safety chains KS0003-585-12 and KS0004-585-12 both fit the Essence bracelet. My honey went with KS0003-585-12. It looks great and she can now where her Essence bracelet without the fear of losing it. I have a photo if anyone wants to see.

        • That’s brilliant – thanks so much for taking the time to let us know. I know a lot of people were wondering. I’d love to see the photo, if you’ve got a chance to post it!

        • I’m not exactly sure how to get a photo in here, but I’ll give it a try.

          This is my honey’s Pandora Essence bracelet with the Thomas Sabo Karma safety chain.

        • Ah, sorry, I should have explained. You can’t post a picture directly to the blog via comments – what you can do is link to a picture hosted elsewhere, such as at Photobucket, or Facebook.
          Don’t worry if you can’t manage it, though. Thanks again for taking the time to update us!

        • No problem at all.

          Feel free to re-use the image.

          And thanks for a great Blog.

  7. Hi, I’m a big fan off Thomas Sabo as they are more to my taste, I like the uniqueness and edginess of the beads. I like the idea that you can (which I will) use your karma beads on a Thomas Sabo necklace or earrings so if I fancy I can swap my beads around to change my look and never get bored! My Karma beads bracelet goes really nicely with my other more traditional Thomas Sabo bracelet, ring and earrings as they are from the same collection. I really like Thomas Sabo it speaks for who I am, a bit of a rock chic, I wear my jewellery all the time and always look at it with admiration xx

    • I second that as well! Yay to Thomas Sabo!! I just took the chance of the free bead promotion for the karma bracelet! LOL xoxo

    • Hi Emma, I do admire the TS Karma beads for being a lot more edgy and, dare I say it, creative in scope than the Essence range. That said, I’m reluctant to take the plunge, as I just don’t like the look and feel of them as much as my other Pandora pieces. I’m glad to hear that you love yours, though – charm jewellery is the best for expressing your individual taste!

  8. I know this is old, but I just splurged last night on a karma bracelet and 3 beads , plus the free bead promo!!! I don’t love the look of Pandora Essence, but fell in love with all the Thomas Sabo lines . I think I heard their beads are lighter which I like. I also do not mind the gold plating as it is nice for once to be able to have a gold bead mixed with silver since I also wear a lot of gold. I will never be able to splurge on a real gold bead, unless I receive as a gift.

    • Oh lovely! I have become an Essence convert since writing this post but I do love the more contemporary look of Sabo. The Sabo beads are a lot lighter than the Essence, which I have always been undecided as to where I liked but I imagine that they are lovely and easy to wear!
      I could never afford real gold either and I’m not sure I would want to ever start a genuine gold bracelet. It would be too much of an investment even for me, haha!
      Enjoy your new pieces :D

  9. Received in one day , like I said above. Unreal! Love it! The charms are very lightweight, not like Pandora. But I really like that about them. perfect for everyday. Though of course some charms are much dressier then others. I was impressed at the pretty boxes they sent for each charm,and the bracelet. I will definitely be purchasing more soon!!! The gold bead I purchased was beautiful! You can not even tell its not solid gold.

    • Yay, that was quick! :D Glad to hear that you love them, I imagine that they are great for something light and easy to wear every day. And they are so pretty! I haven’t seen the Karma boxes but I do have a weakness for fancy packaging too haha. It always makes a purchase seem that much more special! <3

  10. Hi, funny enough I work with Thomas Sabo and own a Pandora bracelet :) the first thing I want to say is BRAVO!! What an awesome review! The only thig I would add is if you were comparing only the charms rnge or the whole range:) because TS does a huge range of rings ans pendants and by far strickes out with force and detail. I did’t fancy much for the karma range, however in Sept 2015 they are bringing out a whole new range of beautifully detailed large animal pieces which are amazing! Saying thins npw I own both, but cnt see myself giving up my pandora one just because it doesn carry meaningful things to me, and because they do use 14ct gold details. It gets pricy from there however. :) both are awesome brands, but if you can afford Gold, go Pandora, if you love intricate detailing and unsurpassed workmanship then go TS :) New realeases are out soon for TS! Hint* google TS wings season from 2011, and compare with new pandora wings charms, you will find what I mean by difference in workmanship.

    • Hi Ariel – thank you so much for your lovely and detailed comment! I missed it first time around, but caught it just now in a batch of historic unread comments. My apologies!
      Glad you enjoyed the review! I completely agree that the new Autumn/Winter 2015 Karma releases look fabulous. I particularly love that adorable little Hedgehog charm, the Owl and the Fox. I’d love to see a PAndora equivalent of the Fox! I am very tempted to do the same as you and get started with both brands, but I am always hesitant about buying from brands other than Pandora as I spent enough on jewellery as it is and am worried that it might open the floodgates ;)
      I couldn’t find the TS wings design that you mention, but I agree that TS often takes a risk and goes for something a little edgier while Pandora is often the one to stay with the tried and tested – flowers, hearts, family motifs etc. I’d love to see them change it up a bit :D

    • well just don’t show up to work with it. Work for TS aswell in the GTA . Pandora does have nice pieces but I am a true believer in Thomas Sabo and find whats nice about a TS Karma bracelet vs the Pandora is having more choice at your disposal to express yourself through your jewelry. ” courage” should be more than words engraved on a bead.

      • I do agree that Karma offers a far greater variety of styles and characters than the Essence range. And that the whole concept of the Essence values doesn’t particularly appeal to me. At the same time, words alone can be very powerful.

  11. Ha! I am looking at Thomas Sabo Karma bead too, 18th Sept to 4th Oct spend Can $125 get a free $75 Karma bracelet. I have to go to the concept store to see the bead in person. I don’t have Essence line yet because they start to use synthetic stone. Thomas Sabo Karma semi precious bead at $25.50 each. I always want a semi precious bead bracelet if the price is reasonable.

    • You could always just pick the Essence charms that don’t have synthetic stones? And Karma use some synthetic stones and plated metals as well, I think? Of course, the Karma beads are priced more reasonably though. :)

    • From what I understand and have read online, the Pandora Essence beads aren’t compatible with the Karma bracelet, but the Karma beads can be worn on the Essence bracelet. I don’t have a TS bracelet to test this though :)

  12. I got my 1st Thomas Karma FREE oxidized Karma bracelet with Amethyst, Heliotrope, Dumortierite, Hematin ( all faceted cut sparking ) 2 stopper for Can $134 + tax. There is a new concept store opening with free jewelry roll up. I always want a semi precious bead bracelet reasonable price.

  13. disagree about the karma beads’ appearance! they are beautifully intricate and looks very expensive and classy. its simply cos some of the pieces has the oxidized blackened silver effect so it feels like it doesn’t look very glittery. however when you put it on it looks totally different!… everything just matches very well with anything and the creativity on some of the designs is simply amazing!!… definitely thomas sabo for me. the quality of their silver is top notch too!

    • I agree! I prefer Thomas Sabo karma beads. The details are finer in my opinion, and more elegant. Although, both collections are beautiful, I prefer the finer details and the sort of mystical designs of Thomas Sabo. My mother has both, and it really all depends on what your preference is.

  14. I haven’t seen the Karma line but do own the Pandora Essence bracelet. I used to sell Pandora so I have quite a collection of bracelets, necklaces, earrings and rings. I love the simple and lightweight Essence bracelet. It goes well when stacking a couple of plain Pandora bangles with it too. Glad to see they have just come out with an Essence bangle bracelet. I will be getting it soon so I can add other Essence beads I have wanted as I don’t like bead overload on a bracelet. I only recently had my Essence bracelet fall off but I’m not sure it wasn’t my own fault for not securing it properly. That being said I will be looking into the Sabo line and possibly get a safety chain. Love the Karma charm pictured but need to see it in person before I buy it.

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