The History of Fire Mountain Gems and Beads
"We are always asked how we came up with the Fire Mountain Gems and Beads name. Well, here's the story…"
- Stuart Freedman
One evening, as Stuart was brainstorming possible company names with friends, the topic of volcanic eruptions came up. They were discussing the heat and pressure process through which all gemstones were formed during volcanic eruptions eons ago and Stuart wondered, "What might a Native American call one of those volcanoes?" He answered his own question, and "Fire Mountain" instantly resounded throughout the room. Fire Mountain Gems was born!
"Who would have guessed that a passion for turquoise and a desire to share knowledge of beading would turn into an international direct marketing company offering over 91,000 different jewelry-making supplies to designer-artists across the globe?"
- Stuart and Chris Freedman
Fire Mountain Gems and Beads started at home in Stuart's garage back in the early 1970s. His passion for Southwestern turquoise and lapidary work quickly grew into a bead shop in Studio City, California.
But it was a special partnership--the one with his wife, Chris--that really got the fire started…
Working together, Chris and Stuart soon discovered how little information was available about beading. Since the art of beading was mostly related to pearl stringing and knotting and had been such a well-kept secret, they decided to commission a writer to research the topic. The result was the Beadmakers' Handbook, which also served as the first Fire Mountain Gems and Beads catalog. The first half of the book featured instructions for bead stringing; the second half featured jewelry-making supplies. View the Beadmakers' Handbook and download a FREE PDF version online.
From the very beginning, Chris and Stuart have been passionate about friendly customer service. "We have always depended on feedback from our customers and their input plays a role in every decision we make," says Chris.
In 1986, after 13 years of business in their North Hollywood location, Chris and Stuart decided to relocate to rural Cave Junction, Oregon. "The natural beauty of the Southern Oregon area goes without saying," says Chris. Knowing the local population couldn't support their bead business, they decided to start a mail-order jewelry-supply company. Launching a mail-order business in a small, rural town definitely came with its fair share of challenges: business isolation, lack of a trained work force, transportation woes, communication difficulties and many logistical issues. But Chris and Stuart recognized the real gems in this area - the people - innately friendly, honest and sincere.
By 2000, the Fire Mountain Gems and Beads family had outgrown their building space in Cave Junction and moved 40 miles to Grants Pass, Oregon. At that point, Fire Mountain Gems and Beads had grown into a well-known direct marketing company, providing jewelry-making supplies to designer-artists around the world. The handful of employees that started at Fire Mountain Gems and Beads in Cave Junction quickly turned into hundreds of employees and continues to grow still!
"We estimate we help employ about 20,000 people around the world by importing jewelry-making supplies from countries such as Peru, Argentina, China, the Czech Republic, Pakistan, India and the Philippines," says Stuart.
"We believe that world peace can be achieved through commerce. Trading partners don't go to war with one another. When looking back on it all we have to laugh - who would ever believe you can do this one bead at a time?" - Chris and Stuart
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