The Beadmakers' Handbook
If it wasn't for a wrong assumption on our part, this catalog would never have existed. Customers were coming in our store requesting information about bead stringing. We're delighted to share what we know, but as our customers became more advanced, the questions got harder.
"Why don't we research all the tricks of beadstringing and write a little booklet for our customers," we said. Our wrong assumption was that we thought this job might take all day; as it turned out, it took almost six months.
We wrote to a large number of bead manufacturers and bead societies requesting information. What we got back could have been independently figured out in about three hours by your average Girl Scout. Where was this advanced information?
We hired a professional researcher who we've known for years and who was interested in beads. "Go find out all this beadmaking stuff and come back next week when you're finished." She came back three months later looking three years older. She said the literature on beadstringing is skimpy to nonexistent. Most of what she learned came from professionals who tended to guard their secrets with their lives.
When we saw the results of her research we realized that beadstringing is not at all difficult. In fact, it is one of the easiest of the jewelry arts to learn. The problem was an information blackout which prevented thousands of interested craftspeople from getting started in this lucrative profession.
This handbook/catalog is the result of our attempt to share the techniques of dozens of professional beadstringers on the most popular beading designs. The results of what can happen are best illustrated by this unusual set of occurrences which happened in our bead showroom.
One of our regular customers came in on her lunch hour and brought her friend Linda. Our saleswoman asked Linda if she had made that lovely necklace she was wearing. "Oh, no," Linda replied, "My husband bought it for me on our cruise of the Virgin Islands in a duty-free shop."
"The reason I asked," our saleslady told her, "was that we sell all those beads. I thought that you had made the necklace from our beads." Linda became intrigued and asked what it would cost to duplicate the necklace from our beads. It came to just over $28.00. She said she had paid over $300.00 for the necklace in the Islands.
"Would you show me how to make this necklace?" she asked. About 15 minutes later she had made the duplicate right there on the showcase. Linda was thrilled. She had a friend at work who she knew would pay her $100.00 for a Necklace like hers.
The next day she was back by herself. Other girls at work wanted Linda to make necklaces for them. Linda had lots of questions. Then she bought lots of components.
Within three months Linda's life had changed drastically. She had quit her job. She was making necklaces full time and using $1000 - $2000 worth of components per week, and she was so enthusiastic she looked as if she were walking on air.
Her customers were mostly boutiques in the area and she would give her good customers necklaces on consignment and rotate their stock every few weeks.
Her business is still expanding and Linda is looking for a second assistant to help her string.
We asked Linda to share the keys to her remarkable success. She said, "There are a number of things that are important. First, develop a personal sense of style; be observant, look at the designs you see around you and remember the ones you like; if you use the best materials in your designs and keep your prices fair, you will have confidence in your product and this will give you credibility. Be a sincere and honest business person and your customers will be back again and again."
Linda adds, "I wish I'd discovered this business years ago--I feel free and independent for the first time in my life."
Now Linda is unusual. Very few people have ever developed a new business as quickly as she has. But her success is certainly not unique. We have hundreds of customers who make their livings doing nothing but stringing beads. Their methods of marketing are as diverse as the designs they make. Some sell at swapmeets, bazaars, crafts shows and gem shows. Others sell to retailers. Good retailers include any businesses that get lots of walk-in traffic, including hairdressers, dry cleaners, and small markets. Most either supply jewelry stores or have set up their own shops specializing in bead designs and restringing. One boutique owner makes custom designs for his customers to match the dresses they purchase.
There is still plenty of room for innovation. New bead designs are being developed daily and new ways of profitably selling these designs are limitless. It seems the total potential for this market hasn't been scratched. Best of all, beads are not a jewelry fad; people have been wearing them for six thousand years and they're not going to stop now.
We at Fire Mountain Gems have based our business on helping others become successful in jewelry making. We will continue to work to keep you in touch with the latest information plus the best components at extremely competitive prices. Please let us know how we can be of service to you.
We wish to acknowledge the help of the many people who have assisted us in the development of the handbook/catalog including Shirley Hooper of Kuna, ID, who did much of the research; Maura Hyde of Alexandria, VA, who did much of the stringing; Mary Dawson of Woodland Hills, CA, who designed many of the necklaces pictured here; Judy Heron of Woodland Hills, CA, who contributed design and marketing tips; and the Gemological Institute of America who contributed technical assistance.
Stuart Freedman, President