Last week I was super fortunate to be taken to the beautiful Chiang Mai in Thailand with one of my favourite brands PANDORA. I wrote the other day about my experience as an ambassador for PANDORA and then I shared my outfit diaries from the trip so now I want to talk to you about the reason we went to Chiang Mai, the PANDORA factory.
We weren’t able to take a ton of imagery inside the factory but what I learnt was so so interesting and I was absolutely blown away by the factory that I just had to share this information with you guys, so here’s my little PANDORA factory tour!
Inside The PANDORA Factory | PANDORA Factory Tour
From the moment you arrive at the factory and see the lake, the trees, the convenience store, it’s clear that this isn’t just a cheap factory that’s built to churn out as much product as possible. It didn’t even feel like a factory.
From the design of the site to the logistics of creating the jewellery to the incredible facilities and staff treatment, I wanted to take you on a PANDORA factory tour so I can make sure I don’t leave out any details and you can learn to love the brand and have a new level of appreciation for how this jewellery is made and the values of this company, in the same way as I have.
PANDORA Factory Tour
This is the second factory in Thailand, the first being in Bangkok, and for this factory they wanted to design something that not only represented the brand and made sense for productivity, but was also as green and eco friendly as possible. The first thing they considered was the shape. If you were to look at the factory from above, you’d see a perfect circle with rectangles, something a bit like a PANDORA charm bracelet, yes they even made their factory look like a PANDORA charm bracelet, are you really surprised though?
So aside from the shape, the factory is designed to be an enjoyable place to work. There is a halo over the circle of the bracelet, the path, to provide shade from the heat or shelter from the rain allowing the employees to enjoy the outside area in any weather. They also have a beautiful lake surrounded by trees and grass which just makes it a lovely place to go and sit.
The final part of the concept of the PANDORA factory that is by far the most impressive is their efforts to make the factory green and eco friendly.
The lake I just mentioned is actually there to collect rain water, which is the water they use when needed for jewellery making. After they use the water, they don’t just pour it away, they then re use it again and again and again, until it can no longer be re used.
80% of the electricity they use at the factory, is generated by their own solar panels covering the majority of the factory’s roof. And if all of this wasn’t good enough they also use mostly recycled gold & silver in all processes and not one bit of product goes to waste. Any clippings are re used including the wax that is used in the creation process.
You can see why all of this combined has lead to the factory being classes as a gold standard when it comes to being green!
You might be surprised to find out that each and every charm, clip, end of a bracelet, stopper, etc, is hand made in a process that see’s it passed through no less than thirty pairs of hands. Watching this process made me truly treasure the pieces I own and gave me a whole new appreciation of the skill involved.
I’m going to try and talk you through it now but the jet lag and lack of knowledge on the subject means I’m probably not doing it justice!
The first step is to take a master piece for whichever charm you’re creating and create a rubber mould. The mould created will be re used several times until it is no longer possible.
Next the wax is poured into the rubber mould to create a wax charm like those in the images below. If the charm has stones on it then this is when they will be added to the wax charms. Another interesting fact about this process is that the PANDORA factory does not use diamonds in any products. This is because it’s not possible to 100% verify that a diamond is not a blood diamond, therefore they opt for manmade Cubic Zirconia. The funny sticks are then all attached to a sort of wax pole to create a “tree” of charms. Remember this is all done by hand!
The charm tree will then be put into a cylinder that is filled with gypsum which hardens around the tree. Next the cylinder is heated to melt the wax tree inside which creates a mould of the tree inside the gypsum. The gypsum holds the stones in place so that when the silver is added they set into the final charm.
Next stop is the cleaners, the gypsum in the cylinder is cleaned thoroughly to remove any remaining wax and the silver is added. Then you have a silver tree! I don’y know about you but I wish I had silver trees in my garden!
And so begins the next part of the process! The trees are chopped down so again the silver charms have sticks like the wax charms below. Someone else then cuts them down completely and passes them on to someone else to be sanded down and shined up.
Finally the charms with enamel will then have enamel hand painted into the sections like the images further below show. Of course I’m sure I’ve missed out lots of the little important steps but I wanted to give you an overview of how incredible the process is! If you saw my Thailand VLOG you’ll have also seen the stones in the first image being set by hand for a pair of earrings.
Ok this is going to be a long section because honestly I was overwhelmed with all of the facilities the staff have at their hands and the incredible treatment, it’s better than some of the places I’ve worked in my past for sure!
The factory currently employs 3,300 people aiming to reach 5,000 by the end of this year, which makes it one of the top four empoyers in Chiang Mai. Each employee is trained in at least one process but they aim to train them across multiple skill sections to benefit not only the factory but the employees themselves. The staff are also offered optional courses on leadership allowing them to progess in the company, alongside life skill courses on things like how to do your taxes.
Though in Thailand they work a 6 day week, staff at the PANDORA factory only work a 5 day week and each member of staff is paid a wage that is large enough to support an entire family in Chiang Mai. When they swipe in each morning, the employees staff cards are loaded with credit for the canteen which FYI is the best canteen I’ve ever seen.
With several food stands provided by local companies (there they go again supporting the local area!) it resembles more of a food court which means that not only is pricing competitive but so is the taste! Basically if you’re too expensive or your food isn’t good then no one will come to your stand! Each month they do a survey and if one of the stands is charging too much or the food isn’t good, they will be switched out. Any money left over at the end of the month the employees can then head over the mini mart located on site which pretty much sells anything you could want and allows the staff members to pay their household bills or do their post, basically anything they might need to take care of in their lunch break.
Other facilities include a library, ATM’s onsite, prayer rooms for all islamic employees, a showroom so staff members can see the final result of their hard work and my personal favourite, a dj booth from which they play music through the factory each afternoon. They not only take requests from employees but they also have a recording studio where staff can go in their lunch breaks and record messages to be played on air!
One of the things about the staff that impressed me the most was PANDORA’s treatment of pregnant women. Each pregnant lady is provided with a special uniform that is not only more comfortable to wear but also allows other people to recognise that they are pregnant more easily. Their targets are lowered, they get two lunch breaks and two meals and they are also provided with pregnancy classes. I think some UK companies could take a leaf out of PANDORA’s book!
Finally, every year PANDORA picks a school in the area to renovate and provide with new books, computers and facilities which staff go out and complete themselves. The school is chosen from nominations put forward by staff members so if someone has a child that is at a terrible school with little facilities they are able to make a change through PANDORA and see their children’s futures improve.
So tell me, what do you think of your PANDORA charm bracelet now!? I have to say when I went into the factory I expected to see a tray of moulds that would have silver poured in, the attention to detail and process each piece goes through is incredible and shows exactly why PANDORA are a leader in the jewellery industry. Having their own factory allows them to have complete control over the process, the treatment of staff and the working conditions which are pretty amazing!
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