Courtesy of Handmade Business

The success of an international crafts supply company began with the creation of a clever name. "We are always asked how we came up with the Fire Mountain Gems and Beads name. Well, here's the story," says 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!

A Passion for Turquoise

Fire Mountain Gems and Beads started at home in Stuart's garage back in the early 1970s. Stuart's 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. Because 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.

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.

The Move to Oregon

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, who are innately friendly, honest, and sincere.

By 2000, the Fire Mountain Gems and Beads family had outgrown its 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 who started at Fire Mountain Gems and Beads in Cave Junction quickly turned into hundreds of employees, and the business continues to grow still!

Uniting the World One Bead at a Time

"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.

Chris and Stuart explain, "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?"