Pandora Jewellery - Is it authentic Pandora?

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Important points

~ Fake Pandora can be hallmarked too! ~

~Point 1~
A common (miss)belief is that if a bead is hallmarked, then it is authentic Pandora.
However, having a hallmark does NOT make the item authentic. 

Look at the photo below.  Is the hallmarked bead in the photo below authentic Pandora, or not?

 

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The bead looks like a perfectly authentic Pandora, doesn't it? 
Yes, it is hallmarked Pandora on this side and ALE 925 on the other side.
HOWEVER, it is a high quality imitation. :-(
If the manufactures are clever enough to make a beautiful (imitation) bead like this,
then they are definitely clever enough to imitate a simple hallmark.
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~ Does it have a reference number? ~

~Point 2~ 
Is the bead in the Pandora Booklet or on the Pandora Australia website? Authentic beads, chains, rings, earrings, etc. ALL have reference numbers. If I don't recognise the bead by sight, then I look for it in the booklet or on the website. If I can't find the reference number, then I ask the seller for the reference number and check it out. If the seller doesn't give me a reference number, then I don't buy any bead from this seller.   
Note - if the seller can't give me the reference number, then they may try to feed me some story about how they're not a fan of Pandora personally - They're just selling it for friend or family or as a business etc.  eBay does have a policy saying that if the seller cannot guarantee authenticity, then they shouldn't be selling it.

Retired beads ~
Occasionally the seller may tell me that the bead has been discontinued or "Retired" in Australia.
In this case I go searching on the net. I use the search term "Retired Pandora". If the bead is listed, then great. If the bead is not listed, then I do more searching. If I can't find any mention of the bead, then I don't buy it.

Not released in Australia ~
The seller may tell me that the bead has never been released here. And there are a few of those. For example there were some beautiful Murano beads with opaque hearts on transparent glass that were originally released in the US but not in Aus. (These beads have now been released here) If you don't recognise the bead, then go searching on-line. With beads that have not been released in Aus., I try official Pandora websites in other countries. Their official addresses are the same as the official address in Australia, but with a different "dot country suffix" eg. delete the ".au" and replace it with ".uk" or ".us". 
#NOTE - Sorry to be so coy, but eBay has strict rules about including web addresses in guides.
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~ Pandora with Swarovski Crystals ~

~Point 3~   
Pandora has now released some beads with crystals
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~ Stamped "Pandora ALE" ~

~ Point 4 ~
(See Point 1 ~ It is very easy to imitate a simple hallmark)
Beads which are listed as Stamped Pandora ALE probably really are stamped "Pandora ALE". However, they probably weren't stamped/hallmarked by Pandora of Denmark. Some of the ones I have seen don't even try to imitate Pandora's font type or oxidisation. Though some of them do. As I said in point one, it is very easy to imitate a simple hallmark.
So, be very wary of items listed as Stamped Pandora ALE or as Pandora ALE Hallmark.
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~ Look at the bead ~

~Point 5 ~ 
Take time to really look at the bead.
Is the hallmarking crisp?
Are the details of silver beads clear? e.g. the eyes of the dog.
Are the details of the hallmarking on the Murano beads clear?
e.g. Is the little triangle in the centre of the "A" in PANDORA crisp?
Check the beads size. Is it the same size as an authentic one?
- Though there does seem to be a bit of variety in sizes.
- And Pandora now has their BIG beads.
Does it thread smoothly over the screws on your bracelet?
Wear the bead for at least a few hours each day over a week. Is it still shiny and lovely looking?
Compare your bead to an authentic one of the same style.

Most importantly ~
If you are at all uncertain, take it into an authentic Pandora shop and ask them.
Although the people who work there will not get it right every single time, they have handled a lot of beads and their gut reaction is probably better than yours.
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~ Leaving Feedback ~

~Point 6 ~ 
Do give well-considered feedback
To make life easier for both yourself and others, don't leave feedback for at least one week.
Wait until you have checked out the bead. Wear it for a few days.  Perhaps get a friend to look at it too. And possibly take it to a shop if you want to. This way, when you give feedback, it will be a well-considered, thought-out feedback, rather than enthusiastic and excited "I have my new bead!!!" feedback. (Which is what I used to do when I had just received a gorgeous new bead for a fabulous price).

Don't be afraid to leave neutral or negative feedback
This gives other buyers knowledge and it is good to share knowledge. Yes, eBay does ask you to reconsider your decision. And do reconsider it; if you are still unhappy, then do leave negative or neutral feedback.

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~ Who owns the photo ~

~Point 7 ~
Is the photo their own? Or is it from the Pandora website? If it is from the Pandora website, then there is greater chance that the bead is a reproduction.  Ask the seller to put up one of their own photos, even if they say that their camera isn't very good.

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Disclaimer
I do not work for Pandora Denmark, nor do I represent them in any way.
What I have written above is simply a list of the things I have learnt since becoming addicted to Pandora. (Champagne tastes on a beer budget...)

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~Question~

I have seen lots of high quality reproduction silver Pandora beads .
However, I'm not sure if I have seen any high quality reproduction Pandora gold beads or rings etc.
Has anyone out there seen these?
Unfortunately I have now seen high quality reproduction Pandora gold beads; some with stones, some without.  
I also buy non-Pandora solid gold beads to wear with my Pandora silver and these prices are heaps cheaper.

Thanks,
Bronwyn
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Spelling
I'm having problems with spell check - sorry for any errors remaining

To be continued...
2012.01.29

Points to be covered later
- What do I mean by "authentic Pandora" vs. "imitation Pandora" vs. "Pandora style" vs. "Reproduction Pandora"
- what is the difference between hallmarking and stamping? In the mold versus branding iron??? 
- eBay US still has heaps of fake Pandora and lots of "Pandora style" on their site.  Whereas the Australian site has been cleaned up in the last 3 years. 
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