by Barbara van Look, Content Development Group, Exclusively for Fire Mountain Gems and BeadsĀ®

Fire Mountain Gems and Beads started as a hobby in Stuart's garage. Forty years later, it's a business with international roots, over 400 direct employees, the source for about 20,000 bead-making jobs around the world--and the instigator for a revolution in beading and jewelry-making.

How to Start a Revolution in DIY Jewelry-Making (Without Really Trying)
Fire Mountain didn't start as rebels and revolutionaries. Chris and Stuart just wanted to help customers use the beads and cabochons they sold. Back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, beading and jewelry-making were closely guarded secrets. There was no internet; there were no DIY television shows; there were no how-to books. So Chris and Stuart hired a researcher to find out how the experts put jewelry together. She went out and talked to those in the know, looking over their shoulders as they showed her their handiwork and learning all the tips and tricks for jewelry-making. Then she brought it all back.

Our first storefront in Studio City

Chris and Stuart realized that beading and jewelry-making techniques were not difficult--it was the information blackout that made it intimidating, preventing thousands of interested artists and designers from getting started. So they compiled all the research into the ''Beadmakers' Handbook''. It was the first mass-distributed book on beading and jewelry-making. It made them rebels in the business of beading and jewelry-making supplies--not just selling beads and jewelry-making supplies, but sharing the know-how for using it all.

It's all about passing on knowledge and teaching the techniques and skills that have been taught to us. Poet and scholar Antonia Darder says that, "teaching is an act of love." All of us at Fire Mountain Gems and Beads agree.

Friendly Service That's "Packed with Love"

"I always shed a tear when I receive my "Packed with Love" heart sticker. It makes my day." - Patricia S.
Why does every order say "Packed with Love"? Because each one is.

The "Packed with Love" sticker is the heart of Fire Mountain Gems and Beads. It's the signpost that tells you how much time and care went into getting your order to you. Teal is our company color. Each sticker is printed on gold because we set a gold standard for our work. The heart is to let you know we care. You can see it every time you open a package from us. It's our gift to you, delivered as quickly and accurately as human hands can.

"Packed with Love" is what powers over 16,000 inspirations in the Gallery of Designs, hundreds of jewelry-making projects and dozens of step-by-step instructions, how-to videos and product animations. "Packed with Love" means it's not just beads in a box--it's part of an entire network of information, inspiration and instruction. We'd put the stickers on the screen, too, but our computer techs hate trying to peel them off afterwards!

"Packed with Love" is part of our world-class Friendly Service. Whether you call, write, fax, email, "pin," "tweet" or "like," you're treated the same: professionally, helpfully and, most of all, friendly. We know you see our faces in the catalogs and on the website. We remember you telling us how nice we look when we model the inspirational jewelry designs. We want you to feel like you're part of our small town: the Fire Mountain Gems and Beads community.

Chris and Stuart believe that customer service is a philosophy--not a department--so people throughout the company are focused on making sure our customers get the products, the information and the inspiration they want and need. We give it every effort to give the best customer service possible, every time, all the time.

Bootstraps and the Boys and Girls Club
Fire Mountain's strong customer service philosophy and shared sense of community extends beyond the company walls. Chris and Stuart generously support local, national and international charitable organizations through the donation of time, products and jewelry-making efforts.

Fire Mountain Gems and Beads runs an internship program (formerly called "Bootstraps") that offers paid internships to local high school students who want to increase their business and life skills. They have an opportunity to experience different departments within the company, entering a new group every six months, and learn business systems and software applications.

While they are a part of the internship program, they learn to take critique, pick up new skills, get paid and must maintain a C or better in all their schoolwork. After they graduate, most of our interns have moved on to colleges and universities, both local and out of state.

Others--like Rosanna, Sam and Alicia--have stayed local and worked their way through college with us. Rosanna is part of the Accounting Group and Sam works with Fire Mountain's photographers, while Alicia leads the group who create web pages in our Gallery of Designs, EncycloBEADia and other parts of our website. Rosanna says that Fire Mountain Gems made it easy to be a college student and an employee:

"Because of the flexibility with my hours, I've been able to work while I went to RCC [Rogue Community College] and SOU [Southern Oregon University]. And Fire Mountain helped pay for whatever classes I took that applied to my job--all of my business classes and accounting classes were covered."

Deliveries at our Cave Junction location

Chris and Stuart are also personally involved with the Rogue Valley Boys and Girls Club. They share Fire Mountain's resources, facilities and expertise for Boys and Girls Club fundraiser events like Girlfriends Great Escape and Taste of the Rogue. Chris and Stuart are also active members of Rotary International.

They've encouraged community involvement among their employees, too. Every year, Fire Mountain employees fill barrel after barrel for the Josephine County Food Bank. Some employees are also members of the Boys and Girls Club, while others are involved in veterans' assistance programs, educational non-profits and service clubs such as the Lions, Kiwanis or Elks.

Helping Jewelry Makers Succeed
Our customers come from all levels of expertise. Some are just starting out in the field. Others, like Tammy Honaman and our in-house jewelry-making staff, have years of experience.

Our customers include retail suppliers, beading stores, Broadway production companies and other high-output businesses. They include artisan beaders and jewelry makers such as Gulten Dye, Sherry Serafini, Tatiana van Iten and Christi Friesen. They also include designer artists who create for very personal reasons, like Donna G.:

"I have been ill for a long time and beading helps me stay sane. With each order I receive, it is like Christmas--getting the best gift ever! If it weren't for Fire Mountain Gems, I would be awash in sadness and pain."

Some of you write to tell us about the store you've opened, the commission you received or the fundraising you're accomplishing. You share your work with breast cancer research, autism awareness and children's charities in the Giving Back to our Communities area of our website. You share your tips on making jewelry-making a full-time career in the Jewelry Artists Success Stories section. Designer-artists such as Alaia Leighland, Michela Verani, Wanaree Tanner and so many others are full-time beaders and jewelry makers, creating jobs for themselves and creating beauty for the world to enjoy.

We know that jewelry makers are succeeding on a variety of levels. Not only do we see you ordering larger and larger amounts of product as you sell your finished designs, we also get phone calls, emails and letters like Judy's:
I got very sick about 5 years ago. When I first ordered from you and told you my story, a few weeks later I received this beautiful card from you guys and there were so many signatures of encouragement. It gave me a lot of will power to live--because I surely didn't want to.

Making jewelry helps me cope with life. It's very VERY good therapy--especially when I wanted to take my life. I won't ever think that anymore, because I really make really nice jewelry and I make really good money selling it. If I wasn't able to buy beads over the internet from you, I honestly would have done something very, very foolish and left my three kids without a mother.

I know they understand how much pain I am in, but sometimes, the pain pills just don't do enough. I have told my doctor how I felt and he has me on an anti-depressant pill, too. But the best pill EVER is beading. When I have my days of getting way down, what do I do to get my spirit back up? I read that card you all sent me, and then, I go bead!!

I just wanted you to know how much Fire Mountain really makes my life much better and much easier to cope with, because I can go get my ugly thoughts of dying out on making beautiful jewelry! I really love you guys. Hugs go to all of you.
That's one of the reasons for All Assortable Pricing. We want to offer low prices to all our customers and help out the ones who are creating jobs for others, too. That's why the more you buy, the more you save. If you order only a few items, you get our standard low prices. If you need more products, you get a great discount. Creating a new jewelry line or gearing up for a show? You save even more. And if you're creating mass amounts of jewelry for retail stores or stocking your shop, you get our deepest discounts on your purchase. So everybody saves and everybody wins--which means everybody has a chance to succeed.

Hard to believe it's been 40 years since Stuart started cutting turquoise in his garage, isn't it? Our goals remain the same, though: keeping you in touch with the latest information about color, design, techniques and new products, quality jewelry-making components and supplies at competitive prices--and the best customer service in the business.

Thank you for letting us help you succeed for 40 years (and counting)!

Our warehouse, the "Bead Bunker"