Celebrate Handmade Holidays at your Local Bead Store!

Whether you are a seed-bead worker, a stringer, a wire-and-bead artist, an embellisher, a jewelry-maker, or a combination of any of these, at one point or another your Local Bead Store was there to guide you and provide for your needs.

This site is an alliance of more than 50 independently owned bead stores across North America. All content on the site is posted by member store owners. We hope you enjoy this site. Please use the store locater to find a store near you. Our membership is growing quickly, so if you don’t find a store near you please check back with us soon.

Latest Posts from Members

Natural Ways to Patina and Clean Metals

Do you like the look of antiqued or patinaed metals? Do you have metal findings that are looking dark and aged when you’d like them bright and shiny? Here are some ways to change the surface finish of sterling, copper and brass using materials you have in your kitchen.

Blackening Sterling Silver Without Chemicals

Do you want your sterling silver chain, wire or findings to have a blackened or antique look? This look can be created in just a day with  the boiled egg method. This method is safe to use on finished jewelry with pearls or stones.

Before you attempt to patina the silver you will want to prepare it by completely cleaning all oils from the metal surface. I prefer a strong dish soap like Dawn or Joy. Rinse completely and then rinse again. Use pliers or tweezers to handle the metal as the oils from your hands will leave a residue that will affect the patina. Dry with paper towels or a cloth towel washed without fabric softener.

You will need one chicken egg, in the shell. Hard boil the egg for at least 7 minutes. When the egg is boiled and still hot, cut it in half and place it in the bottom of a glass container (I use a large glass Mason jar.) You’ do not have to peel it. Suspend your jewelry or wire from the top of the container and attach the lid firmly. If you went to the trouble of peeling the egg and want to eat it, put the container in the fridge. If you don’t want to eat the egg, you can let the container sit on the counter. Allow the silver to ‘soak’ in the egg sulfur for 24 hours. If the patina is not dark enough, repeat with a fresh egg.

To create ‘highlights’ on a textured metal surface or on chain you can rub the patina-ed metal baking soda. The edges will clean up and the recessed areas will stay dark. Repeat this until you have just the amount of bright and dark surfaces you wish.

Natural Cleaning Methods for Copper

To clean copper you can try a fresh cut lemon (bottled lemon juice doesn’t work) and salt. Make a slurry of the salt and lemon juice and soak the copper in it. The copper will brighten considerably. You may need to repeat a few times if the copper is especially dark. If you can scrub at the copper with a toothbrush dipped in the lemon/salt mixture it will help, especially for ‘green’ areas.

Creating a natural green patina on copper or brass

Here are several different methods of patina-ing copper or brass. The methods below are non-hazardous but vary somewhat in their ‘icky’ factor.

Before you attempt to patina the metal you will want to prepare it by completely cleaning all oils from the metal surface. I prefer a strong dish soap like Dawn or Joy. Rinse completely and then rinse again. Use pliers or tweezers to handle the metal as the oils from your hands will leave a residue that will affect the patina. Dry with paper towels or a cloth towel washed without fabric softener if you want a more even

Copper and brass take on patina (darkening to brown and eventually producing green scale) in response to ammonia in the air. Try burying your copper in used cat litter for a nice green scale. Or submerge in a glass container of urine for a deeper color. You can also hang the metal in your shower for a few weeks to get a patina.

Copper and brass will also change color in response to heat. While you can use a torch to heat patina your metal the flame from a gas stove top is also enough to darken brass and darken or blacken copper. Hold the metal with kitchen tongs over the heat and be careful to place it on a wooden cutting board or other nonflamable surface to cool.

Natiural Sealants for Metal Surfaces

To seal the patina on any metal you can use beeswax, furniture wax or a clear acrylic spray paint. I have to confess I prefer the spray paint for the even finish and ease of application. Traditional beeswax gives a lovely finish when rubbed on in very small amounts. Furniture wax is slightly more durable than beeswax but may not be safe for contact with skin; consult the package labels. If you use clear acrylic latex paint in a spray can do not paint the back of the metal to keep the paint away from the wearer’s skin. Use several thin coats, allowing it to dry completely for two hours between coats.


How many beads do I need?

Sometimes when you’re looking in your bead box, or gazing at rows of beautiful beads at your local store you have to solve that age old debate: How much do I need? One, two, three strands? But what if you have  6mm and 8mm in this project and aunt Nancy says she wants matinee length? How long is that?

Here is a basic conversion of round or bicone beads to the inch:

4mm =  6.25 beads per inch
6mm =  4.20 beads per inch
8mm =  3.125 beads per inch
10mm =  2.5 beads per inch

If you are using seed beads:

Japanese Seed beads- approx
size 11 = 16 beads per inch
size 8  = 12 beads per inch
size 6  =   8 beads per inch

And to answer your question about matinee length, here are some common measurements:

Common Sizes
7″  –  Bracelet
9″  –  Anklet
16″ – Choker or Collar
18″ –  Princess
24″ – Matinee
28-32″  – Opera
48″  – Rope or Lariat

You can find more conversions and charts at http://www.giniasbeads.com


Behind the Mask: Artist’s Opening Reception at The Beadin’ Path in Freeport, Maine

The Beadin’ Path in Freeport issued a challenge to beadwork and fiber artists from all over the world: to accept, be inspired by and submit a mask for a show entitled ‘Behind the Mask’. Over 50 artists answered the call and joined in this challenge, creating beaded masks using varying techniques such as bead weaving, stitching and embroidery, sculpture, mixed media, clay and more.  An opening reception will be held at The Beadin’ Path in Freeport, Maine on Friday, June 27th from 5-8pm.  It is open to the public and is a great opportunity to meet with many of the artists and discuss their process and statement behind their mask.

Behind the Mask is The Beadin’ Path’s 2nd large scale ‘Bead Challenge’ featuring a call for submissions.  In 2007, beaded dolls were submitted with the common theme entitled ‘Beyond Make-Believe’. In both challenges, calls for submission were put out in the Freeport store and online at http://www.BeadinPath.com and various beading Yahoo Group sites, yielding bead and fiber art talent from within the US and 7 other countries.  Debra Ward, a local fiber and bead artist of Green Maine, organizes the annual Bead Challenges for The Beadin’ Path.

Participating fiber artist, Aryd’ell Hotelling of Bryson City, North Carolina says of the process, “The Mask started out first as just something to reflect Beauty, as many of my beaded art dolls do.  Then it took a slightly different direction, wanting to reflect and enhance understanding of how the face reveals (one’s) emotions, through bead(s)…”.  Many of the artists collaborated and bounced ideas off of each other, including technique and inspiration, using a Yahoo online forum specifically for challenge participants.

The Beadin’ Path is a bead company based in Freeport, Maine with a website at http://www.BeadinPath.com.  Offering an open studio and lots of inspiration to jewelry designers and bead artists alike, The Beadin’ Path offers a full class schedule, free demos in the shop, as well as various in-store events and activities.  Importers, collectors, and over all hoarders, The Beadin’ Path is an industry leader in vintage beads including vintage Lucite, old and rare Swarovski crystals, vintage glass beads, and other scarce and collectible beads.

‘Behind the Mask’ will be on display and open to the public from June 27th – July 27th, 2008 during store hours which are 9:30-7pm daily.  You can also view images of the exhibition once the show closes, after July 27th at http://www.BeadinPath.com.

Not near Freeport, Maine?  Visit your local bead store to see what kind of inspiration they have to offer!


Party in a tube bead kits

Many of you have enjoyed our “Party in a tube” kits and we’ve finally have been able to replenish our stock of “Party in a Tube” kits with Various colors combinations are available as well as styles. You can now choose the two bracelet (anklet) version or the necklace/bracelet set.

The summer is a great time to take advantage of these great kits. Going on a trip to the grandparents or the kids visiting you? These are perfect for a day at the beach, pool or a slumber party activity. Don’t miss the opportunity to fill up the goodie bags for parties or mitzvahs.

Made of various sized of Miyuki seed beads, these kits will inspire the imagination and creativity for old and young alike. Each kit contains all the parts you’ll need, memory wire, some have handmade lampwork beads and nickel headpins to add to your creativity.

Once completed, the tubes can be used for more beads or storage of anyone of your favorite items.

These kits can be created with your charity or store name and colors of your choice!

These kits are available exclusivly at Adelia’s Closet, 9227 Waukegan Road, Morton Grove, IL 847-966-2323.

Be sure to stop by or visit them on the web at http://adeliascloset.com/gpage1.html


Vintage Glass Pendants

Recently Dara, our West Coast Sales Rep, had a Summer series of vintage bead trunk shows across California. We send Dara the best of our vintage finds for these shows. What is great is that we can send her items that have very much or very little quantity available & her customers enjoy the process of digging for a treasure. Our store is like this too where we can put out items that are special and one of a kind, or items that have sold down to levels where there are only a few scarce pieces left. Online, this is more difficult because we have to weigh out whether it is worthwhile to put an item on our website that we will likely run out of faster. It’s frustrating for the customer for an item to sell out before they get any and before we have time to remove the item. And it’s a lot of work for our staff to be putting items online to only remove them the next day or two.

So Dara wound up her Summer bead show blitz and we recently have been combing through what bead stock was sent back to us from her bead show kit. We’ve been finding loads of lovely vintage pendants including some vintage glass lovelies that we haven’t had online in a while because we had thought we sold out, and some we’ve never had online. It made me think about how many unique styles are out there for vintage pendants, particulary vintage pendants made with glass.

Intaglio Pressed Glass
Intaglio refers to a piece in which there is a design impressed or cut into a shape. Many times a collector or dealer might refer to this technique as ‘carved’ which is actually inaccurate. The motif may look like it was carved, but this style is manufactured using a press-mold technique and not a carving or removing of the product. We have a great example of an Intaglio Pendant in our store. You can find these often in circulated vintage jewelry. The trend in the 60’s and 70’s was to simply hang them from a plated chain.

Reverse Painted Glass
This technique goes hand in hand with Intaglio pieces. Only the process is taken a step further by coloring the concave motif either by hand or machine. This process was used not only in jewelry components, but you’ll find that there was a trend in the 1940’s – 1970’s where reverse painting was also used in home décor items such as paper weights and ornaments. This technique was especially popular in Chinese and oriental collectibles from past eras. Here is an example of a darling reverse painted piece made in West Germany ca. 1940’s. I can’t believe we still have any of these left.

Givre’ Glass
This style of glass is not specific to pendants, however it makes for some of the most alluring color combinations in pendants and beads. Givre’ refers to the style of glass where one color is inside or encased by another. Generally it is a color that is encased in clear, however that isn’t always the case. Swarovski made some truly rare givre’ crystals many years ago (but that is another blog topic) and glass is still produced in many gorgeous givre’ colors. This is a fantastic vintage West German pink and clear givre’ pendant.

Foil Backed Glass
Many beads, pendants, sew-ons and stones are enhanced by coating one surface with a metallic foil. Sometimes this is a layer of actual silver or 24k gold. It caused the front surface to have a glowing quality. The only draw-back is that many times vintage foil-backed pendants will show their age with slight scratches or chips to the foil finish. Sometimes they can be re-coated to restore the pendant and other times the scratches do not detract from the piece’s quality. Here is a beautiful foil-backed shell pendant to show you an example of a foil-backed glass pendant. Sometimes just a spot of foil is added to highlight the glass, like in this pendant.

Leaded Glass Pendants
Crystal is also many times, referred to as ‘leaded glass’. Technically, glass doesn’t achieve ‘crystal’ status unless it contains 30% lead. However there are many beautiful pieces containing a lower lead content that are referred to as leaded glass and then they are machine cut achieving the look and feel of a crystal piece. This leaded glass pendant is an excellent example of such a piece that was made in Czechoslovakia ca. 1940’s.

“Carved” Glass Pendants
Again, this term is generally used in error in referring to press-molded glass pieces. However, it has come to be such a common term in glass that it is widely accepted to describe any bead or pendant that has a relief motif. One of my personal favorites is this vintage Japanese glass pendant in “Jade.” The Japanese glass houses of the 1940s’ often strived to replicate authentic gemstones that were considered high-end jewelry at the time in glass such as Jade, Carnelian, Lapis & Malachite. Here is a great example of a “carved” glass pendant.

Be sure to keep an eye out in your travels for these styles as you can often find them in vintage jewelry. Or take advantage of the opportunity to add to your vintage bead collection by snapping up uncirculated glass pieces such as those in our offerings. Either way, you’re sure to look back at your stash a few years later and find that what was readily available at the time, has become more and more scarce on the vintage bead & jewelry market as time goes by.


Store tour – The Garuda and I (Friday Harbor, Washington)

Click below to see the store tour of member site The Garuda and I , (Friday Harbor, Washington State)



Crimping Tip

I had a necklace come apart at the crimp and it taught me a lesson.  While the crimp looked perfectly secure, it wasn’t.  Now, when using crimping pliers, I add a step.  After squeezing the crimp in the top groove of the pliers (the second step), I use the tiny flat section of the jaws on the crimping pliers to give the crimp a final squeeze to make sure the crimp is good and tight.  I always give the wire a good pull to test the tightness of the crimp.

Contributed by Susan Howard, Plumb Alley Beads, Abingdon, VA


Why does a necklace break?

Why does a bracelet or necklace break and sling beads across the countryside? Because “Life Happens”.

Whether the crimping was done perfectly or sloppy, the bottom line is that usually, either the crimp or the stringing wire was the weakest link in the piece. So, we got heavier gauge jump rings, used split rings, used larger diameter stringing wire, and bigger (or double) crimps. That solved the problem, right? Nope. Life still happens. Bracelets and necklaces still break open and you hear beads skittering across the floor, much to your cat’s amusement.

The answer is not necessarily to make everything bigger and stronger, but to assemble your jewelry smarter. Over the years, we (my wife & I) have developed/learned a few techniques that have really paid off. Here are a few:

Stranded Pieces:

  1. Always use a 2mm crimp tube. It gives you more holding area. Also, most crimping pliers are 2mm wide, which works out nicely when aligning the crimp tube in the pliers.
  2. Before you fold the crimp tube (first step in crimping), make sure that the 2 wire segments are not crossed inside of the tube. When you have completed the first step, you should have a wire on each side of the “V”. The easiest way to accomplish this is to put a bead between the crimp and the ring.
  3. Crimp to a closed jump ring on both ends of the piece. To connect the clasp (or extension chain), use a medium to light weight open oval jump ring. We never use round open jump rings (except for maille work).

Oval Jump Rings (open): The problem with round, open jump rings is that the opening will always tend to hang-up on whatever it is attached to and slip open. Then you have to repair the piece (usually restringing). With an oval open jump ring, the opening is on the long axis of the oval. No matter how you try, the opening cannot hang-up on the attached piece.

Closed Jump Rings: Should a customer snag a bracelet or necklace (and everyone has at one time or another); the medium to light weight open oval jump ring should be what pops open. By crimping to a closed jump ring, the stranded beads stay intact and you don’t have beads scattered on the floor. The repair is to simply replace the open oval jump ring, instead of having to restring the piece.

Cindale Beads
Smithfield, NC


Confessions of a Plastic Snob – Lucite & Plastic Beads Defined

Confessions of a Plastic Snob: Lucite and Plastic Beads Defined
by Heather DeSimone of The Beadin’ Path

I was a plastic snob. When we first opened a bead store, I would have customers walk in and say “So why shouldn’t I just go down to the local craft mall and purchase my beads?” “Because…” I would start, “All they offer is (nose crinkling up) plastic!” Ick. And then my eyes were opened to all of the varying materials that fell under that term ‘plastic’ when we were offered to come and take a look at the contents of a warehouse that were for sale back in 2004.

It seems that the names for all things plastic are hard to differentiate these days. Lucite is such a pretty word that it’s easy to want to label all things plastic as such. However each plastic recipe has varying qualities that give tell-tale signs as to how to accurately label a plastic bead. Below are some of the definitions to let you know what type of plastic beads you might have in your own collection.

In the various terminology below you will see name-brand plastics referred to as thermoplastics or thermo-setting plastics. What in the heck does that mean?

thermoplastic is a plastic that melts to a liquid when heated and freezes to a brittle, very glassy state when cooled sufficiently. Thermoplastic polymers differ from thermosetting polymers (Bakelite; vulcanized rubber) as they can, unlike thermosetting polymers, be remelted and remoulded.

thermosetting plastic cannot be welded or remolded when heated, and will simply burning instead. However, once a thermosetting plastic is cured, it tends to be stronger than a thermoplastic.

Bakelite (or AG-4 phenolic resin) is a brand name for a material based on the thermosetting phenol formaldehyde resin,polyoxybenzylmethylenglycolanhydride (aren’t you happier to call it Bakelite?) developed in 1907–1909 by Belgian-American Dr. Leo Baekeland. Bakelite beads & jewelry components are molded, carved or extruded. Sometimes the color is inlaid into another to make interesting designs, such as the common polka dot design. Bakelite plastic is made from formaldehyde and carbolic acid.

Catalin is a brand name for a thermosetting plastic popular in the 1930s. Chemically, it’s a phenol formaldehyde resin. Catalin is a cast bakelite product, with a different manufacturing process (two-stage process) than other types of bakelite resins (without using fillers such as sawdust or carbon black). Catalin is transparent, near colorless, rather than opaque, brown, so unlike other bakelite phenolics it can be dyed bright colors or even marbled. This has made Catalin more popular than other types of bakelite. In the 1930-50’s it quickly replaced most plastic consumer goods. Catalin is a trademark of the American Catalin Corporation. Catalin cast bakelite is perhaps the most worldwide recognized plastic used in fashion accessories and fine, expensive jewelry.

Celluloid is the name of a class of compounds created from nitrocellulose and camphor, plus dyes and other agents. Generally regarded to be the first thermoplastic, it was first created as Parkesine in 1856 and as Xylonite in 1869 before being registered as Celluloid in 1870. Celluloid is easily molded and shaped, and it was first widely used as an ivory replacement. Celluloid is highly flammable and also easily decomposes, and is no longer widely used.

Lucite is one of the many name brands used to describe Poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA) or poly(methyl 2-methylpropenoate) the synthetic polymer of methyl methacrylate. Lucite methyl methacrylate polymer was among the first plastics derived from petrochemicals. DuPont chemists discovered Lucite® in 1931 while exploring the high-pressure technology developed for ammonia production. The polymer’s crystal-clear appearance and its strength were far superior to nitrocellulose-based plastics. Lucite was in heavy demand during World War II for use in windshields, nose cones, and gunner turrets for bombers and fighter planes. After the war, DuPont marketed it for use in a variety of decorative and functional uses, such as lamps, hairbrushes and jewelry.

Plastic is the general term for a wide range of synthetic or semi-synthetic polymerization products. They are composed of organic condensation or addition polymers and may contain other substances to improve performance or reduce costs. There are many natural polymers generally considered to be “plastics”. Plastics can be formed into objects or films or fibers.

A common question we get at The Beadin’ Path about many of our plastic beads surrounds the age and origin. The majority of the plastic beads we carry are Lucite and they were produced by Best Plastics right here in the US. In fact, when we purchased the warehouse contents we were fortunate enough to get to know the head of the company, who had worked for the company and manufactured Lucite beads and jewelry components since he was 16 years old. He was able to give us loads of invaluable. By our definition (and the definition of most vintage and antique dealers), these beads are ‘vintage’ in that they must be 25-30 years old or more. These beads were produced right in Rhode Island between the 1960’s and the very early 1980’s.

We also stumbled upon some lovely vintage Lucite flowers, years ago, that were produced in Western Germany. Most of these shapes were pressed and came in a matte crystal color. Once we experimented and learned that we could dye this material using RIT dye, the possibilities were endless. However, after these flowers became available in a full palette of colors, their popularity became unmatched. Eventually most of the vintage Lucite flowers sold out. However, the company where we had found them has been in the jewelry business for 94 years! Luckily they still had contact with the original manufacturer of these great pieces that had been made in the 1960’s and 1970’s and are able to reproduce them today using the original molds. The plastic is still the Lucite crystal matte recipe that has been used for generations. This is why you’ll see that some of our flowers are labeled ‘vintage German Lucite’ and others are marked ‘contemporary German Lucite’ and that they might even be similar in style to one another.

We also carry a contemporary line of plastics at The Beadin’ Path that are not made using the same chemical recipe as the Lucite beads. We refer to these as either vintage or contemporary plastics or acrylics. Many times, while fun to use in your beadwork, these beads won’t have the weighty, higher-end feel of the Lucite, and the price tag is generally lower as well.

Hopefully this gives you some insight into the world of plastic beads and that if you too are a ‘plastic snob’, maybe this article can make it just your ‘plastic-snob phase’ like the one that I went through back in 1993-2003. There is so much out there to be discovered in the bead market today and much of it has the beauty and nostalgia of glass or any other material. However in the end, buy what you love regardless of what someone is labeling it. You’ll never go wrong with that rule of thumb.


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