Well hello there, its been a while hasn’t it?
If you hadn’t already seen on my Instagram account, last week I went on a beautiful trip to Thailand with Pandora. As UK ambassadors, the team wanted to show us around the Pandora factory so we could learn the process of creating the jewellery as well as exploring the beautiful city of Chiang Mai.
So because of the amazing trip and amount of content that I managed to get, I thought I’d end my hiatus with a few posts to
brag share everything. Beginning with a tour and chat about the Pandora factory..
Pandora has two factories in Thailand based in Bangkok and Chiang Mai, with the latter only opening a couple of years ago. The factory is shaped like one of the infamous charm bracelets with over 3,000 employees and the most beautiful grounds. Its exactly what you’d expect from Pandora and incredibly eco friendly with the lake water being used throughout the factory and 80% of its power coming from solar panels.
The site is pretty big with plenty to do outside of working hours. There is a library to rent books, DJ booth for the afternoons, prayer rooms for different religions, cash machines and even a mini PANDORA store so the workers can visualise the finished products. I honestly don’t know what I really expected from the factory, but it was so modern and fresh. The environment was genuinely so relaxing and the workers all looked happy to be there (which is always a positive sign).
PANDORA has over 3,000 employees in the Chiang Mai factory right now, but by the end of the year there will be around 5,000 – making it the forth biggest employer in the area. The ‘norm’ in Thailand is to work six days a week, while PANDORA only require Monday to Friday and wages are higher than normal. One workers wage is enough to support their family, but often a husband and wife work in the factory together. Pregnant workers are given lower targets and an extra break to rest, as well as being provided with more comfortable, practical uniforms which make everyone else aware of their pregnancy.
I also loved the concept of their working lunches. As they clock in each day, money is loaded onto their staff card which allows them to buy lunch from the canteen. Six local restaurants can have stands inside the canteen at one time, and PANDORA allows the workers to vote for their favourites as well as noting which businesses take the most money. Its such a great incentive for the restaurants to provide amazing food, and gives the workers a chance to enjoy something different each day rather than it always being the same. Any leftover money on the staff card can be spent in the mini-market on food, paying bills or rent as well as various other necessities like toothpaste and bras.
But anyway, you probably want to know about the jewellery process, right?
We weren’t allowed to take pictures or video inside the factory so I’ll do my best to explain the process. I think all of us were mesmerised at the way jewellery is made. I didn’t know what to expect but seeing the process happening has given me a new appreciation for each piece that I own. Its crazy to think that around 30 people work on different aspects of each piece! The jewellery is handmade from start to finish, with the occasional robot to help things along. PANDORA specifically designed a few of their robots too, which is pretty cool! I’ll try and run you through the process with what I can remember, but I was so in awe that I ended up just admiring the craftsmanship and hard work for most of the tour.
Each piece starts life as a wax version of the final product, all gemstones are added into the initial wax version which shocked me as I always thought of it as being a final step. PANDORA uses manmade Cubic Zirconia and its estimated that over 30,000 gems are set every hour, per employee. Meaning the monthly total is well over 9 million. Could you imagine setting that many gems into jewellery every hour!?
Once the jewellery is bedazzled (or not, depending on the piece), it is attached to a little wax ‘tree’ by product. The pieces are moulded to the tree in a specific way so they are set for the next step and always kept with identical pieces (so the crown rings are all made on the same trees, the bee pendant is all made with on the same trees, etc).
The tree is then put inside a metal cylinder and filled with gypsum. Once its set, the wax is melted out and the gypsum becomes an empty mould for the liquid metal which is the final jewellery ‘core’. Then the gypsum is removed and the tree goes along to the next room ready for each piece to be trimmed off and polished. This is done manually or by machine depending on the piece, and its then sent over to the finishing room for any special touches. PANDORA is forever changing its collections so the finishing rooms tend to work on different styles of finish on an hourly/daily basis.
And then in the final room, all jewellery is weighed and packed ready to be shipped off to its final destination for sale.. start to finish in the same factory. We didn’t see any of the pieces being finished so I’m not entirely sure on the process of enamel or glass beading but what I did see was pretty epic!
I’m honestly so humbled to have been allowed to go and experience life inside of a PANDORA factory as its given me such a new appreciation for the pieces, and for PANDORA as a company. Its crazy to think that each of the rings, bracelets, necklaces and earrings that I wear have started life in either the Chiang Mai, or Bangkok factories. So people in these buildings have probably touched every piece of jewellery that I love.
Full vlog from the trip is on my YouTube channel now, CLICK HERE.
a twenty-something exploring the world with a double espresso and a camera.