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How We Shop For The Bead Gallery

Some of the questions we’re gotten over the past years are, “why are you so expensive compared to other stores?” or “why do your gems cost more than other places?” and I thought it’d be a great time to explain the process of bead buying! 90% of our gems are curated in person by Jason and me! We travel to different shows and pick them in person, carefully going thru strands of beads to find gemstones that reflect the highest quality and workmanship. Every bead on a strand is NOT alike and definitely no two strands on a hank (bundle of strands) is alike! Over the past 20 years, we’ve cherry-picked our way through hundreds of thousands of bead strands and I’d like to share with you our buying rationale, and techniques!


Beads Are NOT Created Equal

Beads are not cut, drilled, pressed or made by a single kind of person! This means that there are many levels of expertise and experience behind a bead. You may be buying something made by a master craftsman, or their beginning apprentice. It may be faceted by someone who doesn’t give a damn and just wants to go home, or by someone who loves minerals and imagines it going to a great home! This care and attitude will reflect many aspects of the bead.  The roundness of the bead, the straightness of the hole, whether the bead holes are rough and unfinished, or polished and beveled. It shows in the “angel wings,” “leaves”, and patterns you see in the bead when it’s been deliberately cut to highlight the natural designs.

Looking Through Strands of Beads

Every strand on a hank is different. Imagine a huge bowl of beads, and that you are about to string it. If you aren’t attentive or interested, you’ll just randomly pick beads and string it until you hit 16”. NOW, imagine you love harmony, uniformity and balance. You’ll be attracted to beads of the same color shade, size and want to pick evenly, center drilled beads. You’ll pick ALL of those first and then as you move through the bowl, it gets harder. The beads don’t match as well and you work with the leftovers as best you can, and the consecutive strands aren’t as beautiful as the first. The point of this story? THERE IS USUALLY ONLY ONE BEST STRAND in a hank.  We go through hundreds to find that small percentage for the store.  Whew. 

Quality > Quantity

In shopping, it’s almost always the case that things are cheaper when you buy in bulk. Think Costco! But when buying beads in quantity, this also means that we’d end up with ONE super amazing strand, a few pretty nice strands, and a bunch of junk. Since we started in 1997, Jason and I preferred NOT to buy in large quantities just to get a cheaper price, because that junk will eventually end up in someone’s hands and we never felt that was a good practice in life or business. Especially when we love our customers!

Is this bead too good to be true?

Recently, there has been a surge in color-treated, dyed and fake stuff in the market.  They come with trade names that falsely imply that they're real stones. It’s getting harder to buy without being bamboozled, and you have to trust your vendors. I ask a TON of questions, generous return policy if the color “washes” out, and I always know that if the price is “too good to be true” then something is wrong. For example, our customer brought in $4 “Tahitian pearls” and wanted us to drill it.  When Jason did, the plastic inside the pearl exploded! Hmmmm.. Or the “turquoise” that another customer bought in Chinatown that stained her skin blue… Or the “malachite” that another customer bought online that melted when it got wet. I use “air quotes” not to be sarcastic, but to bring attention to that fact that we get what we pay for. A good rule of thumb: If you pay the same as a frappucino for awesome beads, then you can expect it to last as long as that frappucino!
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