IN THE MID-1800S, Queen Victoria, one of the most fashionable figures in history, began wearing small charms on a bracelet. Each charm was a token of affection or an icon representing members of her family. Soon every woman wanted one. Charm bracelets remained popular throughout the Victorian era into the 1900s. It was common for soldiers coming home from World War II to bring back handmade charms for their sisters, moms and sweethearts.
By the 1950s, charm bracelets had come a long way from their early origins. The first charm bracelets held individualized symbols of luck, love and faith, but mid-century bracelets were not as personal. Women could choose from icons such as frogs, acorns and cowboy hats, which were cute, but didn’t tell a woman’s story the way previous incarnations had.
In 2002 Pandora, a jewelry store in Denmark, reinvented the charm bracelet. Pandora’s modern design is sleek and quiet. Instead of dangling, charms slide on a lightweight, heirloom-quality bracelet. This wasn’t just a fashion move for Pandora; it was a reclamation of the charm bracelet’s original intent as a storyteller.
Today, Pandora has become world-renowned for its iconic, streamlined, contemporary charm bracelet. The brand’s nearly infinite collection of unique charms allows women to tell their personal stories. This purpose is so ingrained that last year the company rewrote its brand statement to declare that its aim is to “give voice to people’s loves, passions, people and places.”
Let’s say you have an above-average fondness for Harry Potter—you can get a Golden Snitch for your bracelet. Are you a proud dog mom? There’s a bead to represent your beloved fur kid, (and your human kids too.) Love traveling? There’s a bead to remind you of your favorite places or commemorate your travels. There’s even an exclusive Charleston collection with charms engraved with a palmetto, pineapple, sweetgrass basket, the Ravenel Bridge, Mount Pleasant, Isle of Palms, and Folly Beach, all of which are only available locally.
Pandora came to the United States in 2003 and now has 7,400 points of sale, including 2,700 concept stores worldwide. The local concept store in downtown Charleston is located inside the Belmond Charleston Place Hotel. It celebrated its 10-year anniversary last year, while the Mount Pleasant Towne Centre location is celebrating 10 years this year. After more than a decade, owner Jennifer Boling is still enthusiastic about Pandora’s mission and purpose.
Born and raised in the jewelry business, Boling saw an opportunity for Pandora in the South. With her father’s help, she opened the downtown store just a few months after graduating from the College of Charleston. Boling says she loves the storytelling aspect of the Pandora bracelet. “Women start talking to each other about what charms they have, and it brings their stories to life,” she says. “Everyone’s stories are different and unique, which means no two bracelets are alike.”
Pandora has expanded its jewelry line to include necklaces, earrings, rings and more bracelet styles. Stackable rings can be combined in combinations of four or five to create a signature look, and prices start at $30. Like Pandora’s charms, stackable rings are a great gift, and it’s fun to build a personalized collection. Boling says their stackable rings are popular with the Gen Z crowd, who favor them as promise rings; prices start at $55 and go up to $180.
Pandora refers to its wide selection as a “universe of styles,” and affordability is part of its mission statement. The combination is particularly appealing in a time of financial uncertainty; most of us are being careful about what we spend right now. However, people we love are still having birthdays and anniversaries, and are experiencing essential mile-stones that we want to celebrate and commemorate. Pandora’s vast selection means you can give an affordable gift that’s also unique and thoughtful.
Pandora concept stores in Mount Pleasant and downtown in the Belmond Charleston Place Hotel are open for business and observing all of the CDC recommendations for safe shopping.*
Robin Howard is a free-lance writer in Charleston. See more of her work at robinhowardwrites.com.