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Buying Beads and Bead Supplies for Jewelry Making
Deciding that you want to make your own jewelry is the first step in a great hobby and possibly a great side job or small business. However, knowing where to buy beads and other supplies is often hard for those just starting out. There are lots of options with lots of things to consider from each location.
Defining What You Want and Need
You should take a few minutes (at least) to sit down and figure out what types of things you need. Think about the projects that you want to make and about what types of tools, materials, and beads you will need to complete these projects. Also consider the quality that you want from your beads. Each location will have a different quality, often to go with a different price tag.
Anyone who is interested in getting started with beading should make a trip to the craft section at Walmart. Here they can find a wide range of glass, acrylic (plastic), metal, wood, shell, and semiprecious gemstone beads at reasonable prices. There are also a variety of inexpensive findings, clasps, and stringing materials. While you won't find everything you need and these items are often of less quality then other locations they make great fashion jewelry and are perfect for beginners (though I still like shopping here). You can make wonderful items with these inexpensive options as well.
Another great place to find beads and other jewelry making supplies is at Hobby Lobby. This store has a nice sized selection of various products. You will also find beads, findings, and clasps that simply aren't available at Walmart including different types of ear wires, memory wire, crystals, and Czech glass (just a few examples). These products will cost more then you would pay at Walmart, but are usually of a higher value as well.
Michael's Craft Supply Store
Michael's is another location where you can get a wide vareity of supplies. They have a lot of crystals and gemstones as well as a variety of kits. One thing you can often find there that you won't find at many other stores is sterling silver and gold plated beads, findings, and clasps. Their prices are comparable to Hobby Lobby, but they rarely have great sales.
Local Bead Shops
Many towns and cities have a local bead shop. These are great places to learn new things, talk to other beaders, and even to take classes. They often have interesting supplies, but you are likely to pay for them, sometimes you will even pay a lot for them. They are worth shopping when you need the hands on experience, but aren't good for all your shopping.
Fire Mountain Gems and Beads
The Internet has a lot to offer online shoppers. One of them is Fire Mountain Gems and Beads. While I have heard (from at least one person) that their quality isn't high enough to be worth shopping with, I have always had great quality and even better prices. They also give you discounts with the more items you buy (mix and match). This can let you save a lot of money if you can make large purchases. They have a huge selection and great name brands.
This auction site has a lot of beads and supplies for sale. You can get great deals on great products. Often the deals and products vary in quality and you have to be careful. Read discriptions carefully, check feedback, and make sure you are careful not to get excited about bidding and over pay. You will also want to keep track of sellers whose products you like and those whose products you didn't like.
Amazon is becoming a huge market of all sorts of merchants. With these changes they offer a huge variety of supplies and beads at good prices and good quality. Shopping around can also be fun and if you buy from the right places you can even get free shipping!
Etsy is really a huge market place for handcrafted items. However, they also allow people to sell supplies there. You can find a wide vareity of great quality items at small prices.
While the only places I have shopped online and liked are listed above, this is by no means an exhaustive list. You can search the Internet and find lots of places to buy beads and supplies. In many cases there may even be better supplies at cheaper prices. Don't leave these sources out if you have the time to hunt through them or if you are looking for something very specific.
Second Hand Jewelry
There is a lot of ugly jewelry out there that can be found at garage sales, thrift stores, and flea markets. They are often sold for inexpensive prices, some are even vintage or antique. You can take these ugly pieces apart and use their beads, findings, and clasps to make beautiful new jewelry.
In a similar manner to ugly second hand jewelry you can often find ugly new jewerly on sales racks. Many of these pieces have unusual and beautiful elements, but they just need a little help. You can buy these for small prices and take them apart as well.
Bead and Jewerly Shows
Not everyone can get to a bead show, but this is a great place to buy unique beads and supplies, to buy in bulk, and to find new items that you have never seen before. It is especially good if you can spend a lot of money while you are there!
There is a huge variety of options when it comes to where you can buy your beads. Have fun trying them out and see what stores become your favorite. After all, each store has its own advantage and disadvantage!